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A peaceful pandemic moment at Brooks - 'just me and the art' | Opinion

Elizabeth Rouse, Guest Columnist 
Published February 23, 2021 | The Daily Memphian

On a recent cold, dreary weekend afternoon, I arrived at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art for the first time since the pandemic began.

My role with ArtsMemphis had regularly brought me to the exquisite site for events, speakers and series, but this time, there was no agenda. It was just me and the art.

My visit was one of raw, unexpected emotion and stands as one of my most enjoyable, unforgettable pandemic experiences.

When walking through the Brooks’ permanent collection, I felt like I got lost in the galleries. There was no urgency, no rush; simply space to wander and enjoy pieces and details I had never before noticed. I said hello to a long-time gallery attendant I’ve been acquainted with over the years. I was so comforted to see her in her usual spot.

While visiting the Brooks’ main exhibit, “Memphis Artists in Real Time,” I chatted with the security guard about how interesting it is to experience such relevant, timely art in a museum — a place traditionally known to house historic artifacts. The gallery resonated deeply with what we’re experiencing right now, outside the walls, in real time.

The guard recounted her visit earlier in the day with a mother and child who are the subject of one of Andrea Morales’ photographs on display. She then encouraged me to visit the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards student work downstairs. There, I witnessed a very proud student showing her parents her work on display at her city’s museum.

These exhibits proved that students and artists did not stop in 2020; they truly responded and rechanneled their energy into works we can now all enjoy.

My experience was peaceful, meditative and hopeful. The Brooks reminded me once again that art is how our stories are told. Art is how this pandemic will be woven through history.

I hope you’ll make the time to visit a museum sometime soon. I waited too long, and I cannot wait to return.

Elizabeth Rouse is President & CEO of ArtsMemphis.

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