Pat Brown’s 30 years in Memphis have been spent in both a corporate career and in the arts community. She is now a co-owner of T Clifton Art Gallery, and since the gallery moved to Broad Avenue in 2009, she has championed the revitalization of the Broad Avenue neighborhood, our city’s newest arts district. Previously, she served as vice president for the Historic Broad Avenue Arts Alliance. Currently, she oversees ongoing creative place-making projects for the district, the responsibilities of which have included development of Broad Avenue’s Water Tower Pavilion, cochairing the team that created the Hampline and coordinating the district’s Art Walks.
After witnessing Pat’s ability to serve as a change agent for the Broad Avenue neighborhood, it was no surprise to us when we learned that her 25-year career at First Tennessee Bank included direction of the bank’s efforts to build a work-family culture, which led to First Tennessee being recognized as one of the best places to work in America by Business Week, Fortune and Working Mother magazine.
Welcome today’s FACES of Memphis feature, Pat Brown!
Have you always called Memphis home?
Technically, I’m a transplant, but, I’ve lived in Memphis for more than 30 years. Memphis is home and a part of my soul.
How did you go from banking to art gallery co-owner?
It’s really great to be able to reinvent one’s self … to find your passion. In the early 1980s, I was fresh out of school with an MBA degree, and First Tennessee was my first job offer. I was fortunate to build a corporate career in an organization that fostered my passion to be a change agent. The skills that were developed in the corporate world have been invaluable to me as a small business owner, as well as helping to fuel Broad Avenue’s redevelopment.
Fortunately, Tom (Clifton) opened the gallery at the same time I joined First Tennessee. I was his business adviser and sounding board. When the opportunity presented itself in 2008 to retire from corporate life, we thought I would help him relocate to Broad Avenue, build out the retail art aspect of the gallery and then go into corporate consulting.
I didn’t leave.
Looking back, when did you discover your interest in art?
Tom would say it’s because of his focus on mezzo fresco painting. If your best friend and business partner is an artist, owning an art gallery is a likely option to pursue.
However, I’ve always appreciated art–both performing and visual. A funny twist is that Tom and I met in college. We were both performing in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac. Not only does my second career surround me with colorful visual art every day, but Broad Avenue’s various initiatives keep me involved with the performing arts.
T Clifton has an abundance of art glass. How did this focus develop?
Our love of art glass was triggered by the exhibit of Dale Chihuly that Dixon Gallery & Gardens held in 1997. Once we built a strong representation of two-dimensional artists (paintings), Tom and I wanted to create an art glass collection since we loved the medium, and Memphis did not have a gallery specializing in art glass.
We now exhibit art glass by 16 glass artists, and I’m always scouting for additional artists. In total, the gallery exhibits works by more than 40 artists. We feature contemporary paintings, ceramics and sculpture by regional and national artists, in addition to the art glass.
What other services are offered at T Clifton?
In addition to original art, T Clifton specializes in custom framing. This accounts for half of our business. The variety of items people have trusted us to frame for them is very rewarding. Tom has created frames for priceless paintings by some of the masters, christening gowns, treasured musical instruments, military medals and silverware from the Titanic. Just as enjoyable are the family portraits and kids’ original art that we frame. A lot of clients are the second or third generation to come to us.
What’s next for Broad Avenue?
I feel Broad Avenue is finding its niche. Memphis’ urban core is very focused on bringing energy and growth back at a neighborhood level. Broad Avenue is a collection of artists, makers, retailers and neighbors. It has this very unique, funky vibe. Chantal Johnson of 20twelve compares us to the early days of New York City’s Meat Packing District.
Within a few blocks, you can find artists painting, dancing, sculpting and carving. There are makers brewing beer, baking cupcakes and crafting guitars. You can shop for fashions straight from the Paris runway, as well as chairs painted by neighborhood kids. Plus, we are home to the Hampline—an example of world-class bicycle lane design.
The neighborhood has grown so much since T Clifton was the first retail business to move to Broad six years ago! What are some of Broad’s newest businesses to arrive?
It seems like there is a new business or event happening weekly. Three new businesses just opened, and three more are soon to open. City & State is part coffee shop and part gift shop, featuring craftsman/maker goods. Red Zone is an upscale sports bar with a great patio. Rec Room offers arcade games and craft beer. Paggio’s Hair Salon opens the end of this month, and the other two (both art/furnishing-related) will be announced soon.
Loeb Properties recently announced its commitment to transform part of the warehouse space on the north side of Broad. This will offer more opportunities for retail to join the street.
The Hampline will be completed later this year or early 2016, and will include fitness stations sponsored by the Memphis Grizzlies. This year, two large-scale public art installations will be completed in the area. And I’m sure I’ve failed to mention a few other projects.
After a busy day of running a business and building a neighborhood, how do you recharge?
I’m a Grizzlies basketball junkie. Actually, I love watching football, as well. But the Grizzlies are my favorite above all. My oldest nephew often asks me if I love him more than the Grizzlies. (I do.)
What are some basic words of wisdom you can offer based on your professional experience, and/or perhaps a favorite quote?
I encourage everyone to find a way to incorporate your passion into your career. Plus, commit to creating win/win situations. You can achieve much greater results if you see your success as a part of a greater whole.
Regarding quotes, early in my career I framed the quote, “Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time.” I still agree with this; however, once I came to appreciate that “it is what it is,” I became much less frustrated. I highly believe you can create change, but it’s important to respect reality.
When you go on a vacation, what is your number one choice?
At or on a body of water—I’m flexible, as long as when I look to the horizon, I just see water.
Are there any special events coming up soon that you are looking forward to?
Broad Avenue’s Spring Art Walk is Friday, April 24. I hope all of the StyleBlueprint readers will stop by our gallery and say hi.
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Grizzlies basketball, spring and fall in Memphis and sinus medication
Thank you, Pat! Just as you have supported many people as a leader in both corporate and community settings, you have inspired us with your story and wise advice!
Today’s photos of Pat Brown at the T Clifton Gallery on Broad Avenue were taken by Micki Martin.
Check out the new SB Weekend. It arrives each Wednesday as an email to StyleBlueprint Memphis subscribers and includes events for the coming weekend, local dining ideas and a real estate section showcasing area homes available through our most prestigious Memphis real estate companies … just one more way to enjoy StyleBlueprint and share the excitement of what’s happening in Memphis!