Christopher Blank

News Director

It started with ghost stories, of a sort. The wood floors creaking at night, dad assured me, confirmed the presence of spirits in our home. Years of night terrors followed. Then years of transference. Thank you for attending my slumber party. Let me tell you about the noises, friends... 

Eventually, the joy a child finds in manipulating other children's emotions matures into a high school theater career. In that regard, my teen years were of the traditional, unpopular variety.

One day, a few years after college, an editor at the St. Petersburg Times pulled me aside from my part-time job sorting mail and delivering faxes. "Why is your hair orange?" she asked. "And did I see you unicycling in front of that theater across the street?" Few things a person does in the services of "Art" translate into being taken seriously as a human being. To my surprise -- to my eternal, immeasurable surprise --  this was the start of a career as an arts reporter and critic, first at the Times, then at the Memphis Commercial Appeal and for many magazines, journals and newspapers in between. 

In some ways, radio journalism is a back-to-basics medium; people tell stories, share insights, opinions, beliefs and experiences of the verbal kind. And for all the Tweets and Facebook posts and clickbait headlines that parade so stridently upon our psyches day-to-day, the surest way to convince someone that their house is haunted is simply to turn off the lights and let their ears confirm it.

 

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Brooks Museum of Art

It's one of the Brooks Museum's most popular paintings: "At the Foot of the Cliff," by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. As curator Stanton Thomas points out in this week's Culture Desk, the artist's dreamy and creamy brush strokes have beguiled art lovers for more than a century. But his contemporaries -- particularly the Impressionists -- weren't entirely uncritical of Bouguereau's smooth moves.


Brooks Museum of Art

The Brooks Museum of Art turned 100 this year, and some of its earliest art works on display were those donated by its founders and supporters. That's true of this painting by the American artist Cecelia Beaux. The subject of the portrait is Mrs. Samuel Hamilton Brooks (nee Bessie Vance), whose financial gift to the museum included the family name. Museum director Emily Ballew Neff tells more.


Brooks Museum of Art

William Edmondson came to sculpting later in life. With no prior training, he picked up a hammer, a railroad spike and some discarded limestone and got to work making what God told him to make: a tombstone. Fortunately, it wasn't his own. On this week's Culture Desk, curator Marina Pacini talks about why this Tennessee artist's work has a special place in the Brooks Museum's permanent collection

Courting Lady, ca. 1940s

Great art doesn't grow on museum walls. It goes on a journey: from the artist's easel through galleries and auction houses to private homes and then, much later and after considerable appreciation, into the preservative fold of museum collections. On today's culture desk, art curator Stanton Thomas looks at how one man's love of old art helped make the Brooks Museum what it is today. 


Chalkbeat TN

In this week’s Midsouth Education Report, Chalkbeat community editor Caroline Bauman says that Shelby County Schools teachers often open their own pocketbooks for essential classroom supplies not covered by their $100 annual allotment from Shelby County Schools. Read her report here.

Brooks Museum of Art

Nashville-born artist Red Grooms may have left behind the rural roads of Tennessee for the bright lights of New York City, but the cartoon chaos of life in America follows him wherever he calls home. On this week’s Culture Desk, curator Marina Pacini talks about a colorful Grooms’ sculpture in the Brooks Museum’s permanent collection. Grooms will be the subject of an  exhibition Red Grooms: Traveling Correspondent, opening in October.


Brooks Museum of Art

Okay, the portrait itself isn't changing. But Andrew Jackson's Presidential biography has taken on a somewhat more controversial hue through a modern lens. This flattering painting at the Brooks Museum finds Jackson in full military splendor, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. But as curator Stanton Thomas points out, this dignified mien must now be expected to answer for some notorious decisions.


On this week's Education Report, reporter Katie Kull of Chalkbeat explains how several downtown schools face an enrollment problem due to the delayed closing of the Foote Homes housing project. Read the full story of how the neighborhood's student exodus is affecting the local schools. 

Arthur Dove's painting "Car in Garage" can be a bit of a head-scratcher. The abstract artist breaks his subject into simple components. On this week's Culture Desk, curator Marina Pacini tells us why this painting is an important part of the Brooks Museum's permanent collection.

Chalkbeat TN

Is your neighborhood school a candidate for future closure? Chalkbeat reporter Laura Faith Kebede analyzed recent closings in the Shelby County School District. Here's what 25 schools have in common with other recent shutdowns. 


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