Artful Day Trip Memphis
by Julie Novarese,
Associate Curator, Dixon Gallery and Gardens
Just a quick, three-hour car ride down I-40 from Nashville, Memphis offers more to visitors than just blues and barbecue. In recent years, the Bluff City has moved way beyond its once-seedy reputation to become one of the South’s major cultural centers, where history, music, cuisine, theater, dance, entertainment, and the visual arts all converge, and in just a short stay, you can easily enjoy a sampling of what the city has to offer. To make it official, in 2011, Memphis was named one of the top ten cities in the world for young artists by Flavorpill, an international culture magazine. Here are artsy things to do and places to go.
Heading into town on Poplar, stop by David Lusk Gallery Memphis’premier commercial gallery, where you will find works by regional as well as national artists. In June, David Lusk will be featuring an exhibition of work by Memphis artist Pinkney Herbert.
While you’re in the area, also stop by East Memphis staples L. Ross Gallery, where long-time gallerist Linda Ross presents everything from local and regional standbys like Anton Weiss to edgy up-and-comers like Ian Lemmonds, and Harrington Brown Gallery, a relatively new gallery with an eclectic mix of regional painters, photographers, and sculptors. Also on Poplar, check out Fountain Art Gallery.
Keep driving down Poplar and visit the Memphis Brooks Museum
of Art. Opening June 8, the Brooks will be presenting The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South, a major exhibition celebrating the work of nationally renowned Arkansas artist Carroll Cloar (1913–1993). Be sure also to visit the Brooks’ encyclopedic permanent collection while you’re there, and take time to walk through the adjacent Overton Park. There are also many galleries in the Midtown Memphis area, including Gallery 56 and David Perry Smith Gallery on Central Avenue, and Material and N.J. Woods Gallery in the Broad Avenue arts district.
If you’re staying in historic Downtown Memphis, there are plenty of art experiences to be had when you need a break from basketball and the blues. The Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art offers a quiet escape, and the South Main Arts District features a smattering of carefully curated shops, galleries, and artist spaces that are sure to pique your interest. Long-time Memphis gallerist Jay Etkin’s space on Union Avenue also presents works by both local and national artists.
The Memphis Botanic Garden boasts 96 acres of specialty gardens, where visitors of all ages can interact with and learn about nature and plant life in the South. The Botanic Garden is a must-see attraction for visitors with children, as their My Big Backyard family garden provides a creative and fun space for children to enjoy the outdoors. Inside their main entrance, the MBG also features exhibitions of works by local artists.
After leaving the Botanic Garden, drive or walk across the street to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens an intimate museum and public garden with a focus on French Impressionism and the decorative arts. Don’t miss the Dixon’s major exhibition on view through July 14, Bijoux parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris, a dazzling look at French jewelry from the 1600s through the 1940s. The exhibition marks the second partnership between the Dixon and Paris’ famous Petit Palais.
Germantown is another great destination for art just outside of Memphis. Artreach Gallery represents Dawn Whitelaw from Nashville, Scott Harris from Boone, North Carolina, and Anda Styler from Connecticut. Become acquainted with work by local Memphis artists, including Paul Edelstein, Janet Smith, Terri Panitz, Glenda Brown, Sandee Sander, and Sheryl Hibbs. The gallery also offers workshops and openings each month.
Know more places to go in Memphis to see great art? Let us know!