Architects break ground on new Downtown Brooks Museum

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:08 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new chapter in Memphis’ cultural history begins Thursday, as ground was broken on the site of the city’s new art museum.

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will soon fill a full city block at the corner of Front Street between Monroe and Union Avenues.

The new 122,000-square-foot building was designed by top-of-the-line architects and will feature 50% more gallery space, which will be used to exhibit Memphis’ growing permanent art collection,  as well as new spaces for education and art-making for all ages.

The executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art says this day was long overdue.

”The art museum is the home of the Memphis art collection,” said Zoe Kahr. “The city has a spectacular collection of works of art.”

She says this marks a transformative moment, not only for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, but for all of Memphis.

It’s a project that is expected to redefine the visual arts scene in the Mid-South for generations.

”This isn’t just an art museum and just a space for looking at art,” Kahr said. “It’s also an incredible new civic space for our city.”

The heart of the museum is the community courtyard, which at 10,000 square feet is the size of two full NBA courts.

The rooftop provides visitors with another green space, an art park in the sky, complete with an event pavilion overlooking the Mississippi River.

Both the courtyard and the rooftop will be open to the public without museum admission.

“We’re hoping that if you don’t think of yourself as an art lover, we’ll have some really beautiful right in that gallery and you suddenly realize, ‘Oh, maybe I do like art. Maybe I do need to find out more,’” Kahr said.

More than 75% of the $180 million project goal has been raised.

“This is the missing piece puzzle, right? Memphis always been known for its BBQ, its music, the Grizzlies, but there’s this really vibrant community of artists here making incredible, beautiful art,” Kahr said. “And that hasn’t necessarily been known outside of Memphis.”

During the transition, the museum will remain open in Overton Park until the new building is open in late 2025 to early 2026.

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