Brooks Museum temporarily furloughs 29 staff positions

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 08, 2020 6:39 PM CT | Published: April 08, 2020 1:03 PM CT

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art put 29 positions on temporary furlough starting Monday, April 6, because of the effects of COVID-19.

All who remain in the 104-year-old Overton Park institution are seven administrators and a security staff to protect the most important art collection within 250 miles of Memphis.

Meanwhile, the City of Memphis has yet to furlough any employees, a city spokesman said.

The art museum is housed in city property, but is a nonprofit organization that operates the facility in a public-private partnership.

“We are devastated,” executive director Emily Ballew Neff said Wednesday, April 8.

“Our highest priority now is to bring our staff back. But the Brooks takes very seriously the leadership of the City of Memphis,” she said. “We were the first museum to close in the city.”

The museum has been closed to the public since 5 p.m., March 15.

“And we’re doing our part in everything we do to help the flattening of the proverbial curve,” Neff said, referring to slowing the COVID-19 infection rate so that hospitals are not overwhelmed.

“We are in a global pandemic, after all, and people are dying,” she said.

The 29 positions comprise full-time equivalent positions, salaried personnel and part-time workers. Furloughed employees continue to receive medical benefits.

Furloughs are happening in art museums across the nation, she said.

“I hope my colleagues in nonprofit and other arts organizations are not faced with what we are, but I suspect they may be,” Neff said.

The museum remains “committed as ever” to its $110 million project to build a new museum Downtown, she said.

Esteemed Swiss firm to design Brooks Museum

A grand-reveal event for the design concept created by the prestigious Swiss architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron, was to have occurred several weeks ago. But that event was delayed and museum officials are working on a new tentative schedule, Neff said.

“What is important,” she said, “is these are temporary furloughs. I am actively, as we speak, working on getting the staff back as soon as we can so we can continue to serve the public.”


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art COVID-19
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.


Reading comments and joining the conversation are some of the many benefits of subscribing. Join the conversation by clicking the View Comments button below. Not a subscriber? Click here. 

Our commenting policy can be viewed here

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and evening editions, plus breaking news.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions