Many have toured the wonders of Dixon Gallery and Gardens, but few have taken a backstage look and met the people who create this magical experience. Slip behind the scenes with us as we talk to one of those pivotal staff members, Director of Communications Chantal Drake.
Chantal manages all digital and print communications, marketing, graphics and public relations for exhibitions, events and more at the Dixon. Her current goals are to make the Dixon even more recognizable in the community and to diversify the museum’s audience and membership. Welcome, Chantal!
Have you always been a Memphian?
I was born and raised in Huntsville, AL. I have lived in Memphis for a little over six years, and I really love it here.
How do your family and professional schedules mesh?
I have a very active 7-year-old son, and fortunately the Dixon has tons of fun events and programs for families that he can attend with me. We have Garden Family Day coming up May 31, and he always looks forward to our Family Days.
He has his own little schedule with sports and music lessons, but it is an interesting balance that I have learned to embrace. His dad plays a huge role in how often I can work late and assist with Dixon programming, plus the Dixon is just a very family-friendly place to work. We joke that we need a Dixon daycare.
When did you know that you would go into a communications career?
Honestly, when I started working at the Dixon. I have a B.A. in art history and studied art history and museum studies in graduate school. Although I had experience in communications through various jobs and internships, I didn’t know I was headed in this direction until I became the communications associate at the Dixon in 2010. I would have never imagined being in this position when I started out — but now I can’t imagine it any other way!
What sets Dixon apart from other art galleries?
We are a public garden, historic home and art museum all in one. The combination is the distinction. Local historic homes don’t have a Degas sitting in their living room, and the other local museums don’t have a dahlia show coming up this summer in their gardens. Walking to the entrance of the museum is an experience within itself when you are surrounded by tulips, daffodils and hyacinth, but being surrounded by those flowers while listening to a concert during Symphony in the Gardens or while taking in a fashion show by Anthropologie takes it to another level. Our museum and property are unique, and so is the programming we offer.
Speaking of beautiful gardens at Dixon, do you have a favorite hideaway? Or perhaps a sculpture or cut flower garden you enjoy most?
There are a few strategically placed benches that make for good hideaways and are ideal for a few quiet moments with nature. I don’t have time to go out and enjoy it as much as I should, but when I do, it works wonders. A stroll around the property, especially now that everything is in bloom, can alter your state of mind and mood instantly.
What is in the Dixon gift shop that people may not know about?
The museum gift store is really a one-stop shop. From Mo’s Bows bow ties to beautiful jewelry and scarves, gifts for Mother’s Day, graduations and quick drop-in shopping are covered. There are wonderful books and toys for children of all ages. The puzzles have kept me and my son busy on many a rainy day, and exhibition catalogs are a great way to remember past Dixon exhibitions. The catalog for our current exhibition, Memphis Milano:1980s Italian Design, is available now.
What is your favorite vacation?
Any beach with blue skies, white sand and clear water.
What restaurants top your list in the Memphis area?
I love to eat, so this is tough. The Ethiopian Restaurant in Cordova has an amazing veggie combo platter that I eat at least once a week. The crab avocado at Local Gastropub is a classic, and any “vegetable of the day” at Three Angels Diner makes me a happy girl. I could go on and on … but I won’t.
Are there any must-have fashion items in your closet or on your mind for this spring and summer?
I love shift dresses. I have a few and always gravitate to them more than any other item when shopping. I don’t know how trendy they are, but they work for me.
What books are on your bedside table?
I just finished The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri — she is one of my favorite authors. I am currently reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.
Is there a beauty product you could not imagine living without?
My eyebrow pencil. I have crazy eyebrows that have to be shaped and then filled in because they are so sparse. I keep one in my purse, my desk at work, my car and I have several at home.
What major events coming up in Memphis are you looking forward to?
Two at the Dixon! Our popular beer tasting event, Art on Tap, returns Sept. 5, and our fifth annual bonfire party, Art on Fire, is Oct. 25. I can’t wait!
Thank you, Chantal! Learn more about the Dixon here: www.dixon.org.
Whitney McNeill of Moving Screens Inc. photographed our behind-the-scenes tour with Chantal.