New Tribal And Visionary Art museum eyes Brooks space in Overton Park

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the Brooks Museum prepares for a possible move downtown, a new museum has its eyes set on moving into its old location in Overton Park.

It's called Memphis Museum of Tribal and Visionary Art, and its backers hope it can find a new home in the Brooks Museum's old building.

"This new museum is going to have a stronger focus on African art and Latin American art. These are two very powerful communities in our city," said Jay Etkin, an art gallery owner who's part of the group that's been planning the new museum.

Etkin thinks moving Memphis forward has a lot to do with embracing the cultures that make up the city.

"We have to learn from each other ... How did we get to where we are?"

It takes a team of dedicated people to pull this off, Etkin said.

He has an entire team advising him: Leaders from Latino Memphis, professors and even former National Civil Rights Museum administrators Beverly Robertson and Barbara Anderson are all working together to shape the museum geared towards the reflection of Memphians.

Etkin says Africa is the seed of all art forms and pieces from the Ivory Coast, the Benin tribe and Guatemalan and Peruvian art represent the journey and evolution of creativity.

"Africa came to the States not through the normal, healthy channels but it has a legacy, and art is a big part of that legacy," Etkin said. "Before slavery and chains, sculptors were molding in Africa. Before ancestors came over bound by chains and in bondage, sculptors were shaping the foundation of art forms.

"Contemporary art as we know it does not exist without African art. It is the precursor. It impacted artists like Picasso."

No word on when or if the move will become official, but the new museum is already preparing.

It is partnering with neighborhoods like Orange Mound to establish cultural centers. Those centers will serve as "mini locations" with art as well, Etkin said.