Andrew J. Groveman
Senior Vice President
Belz Enterprises
(901) 260-7348




Peabody Place Museum One of Memphis' Best-Kept Secrets: An A-List Reason to Come Downtown

MEMPHIS, Tenn., (Thursday, September 26, 2002) – Blues, baseball and basketball…some of the B-list reasons to come downtown. Looking for an A-list reason, as in art? Then you don’t have to look any farther than one of Memphis' best-kept secrets, the Peabody Place Museum.

Tucked away in the historic Pembroke Square building at 119 South Main Street on the concourse level, is a treasure trove of Asian and European art and artifacts unlike anything to be found anywhere in this region of the United States. In fact, the Peabody Place Museum is home to one of the most extensive collections of Asian art in the country.

The Museum opened in 1998, and operates as a private, nonprofit foundation, which was established through the generous donation from their private collection of Memphians Jack and Marilyn Belz, who began collecting Chinese art in 1968.

"More than 30 years ago, my wife Marilyn and I discovered a fascinating world of artistic beauty in an Asian art collector's gallery," said Jack Belz, founder of the Peabody Place Museum. "We’ve gained a great appreciation and admiration for the wonderful artistic skill, splendor and symbolism represented in these centuries-old artworks and are pleased to be able to share them with the community."

The approximately 12,000-square-foot museum is home to more than 600 works of art, consisting primarily of items created for Chinese nobility during the Quing (Ch'ing) Dynasty. The expansive collection includes exquisite jade sculptures, intricate ivory carvings, colorful cloisonné pieces and ancient bronze ceremonial vessels, as well as imperial textiles and red lacquer furnishings.

In addition to its permanent collection, the museum has begun hosting new temporary exhibits, expanding the variety and subject of the collection, according to the museum's new director Nancy Knight.

In August, the museum opened its first such exhibit, A Legacy Unearthed: Early Chinese Clay Burial Figures, featuring 20 rare clay burial sculptures and tomb furnishings dating from as early as 206 B.C., during China's Han Dynasty.

"These figures represent one of the most distinctive eras and aspects in Chinese ceramic and cultural history," Knight said. "It was during this time that the practice of burying clay models with the deceased originated and continued for several centuries."

Knight explained that much like the customs of the Egyptians, Chinese tomb furnishings were reflective of the wealth, status and interests of the deceased, and were often objects replicated from the deceased's life. The Chinese belief in an afterlife, where the pleasures and activities of the living world continued, fostered the crafting of models or spirit gods called minqui (pronounced min-key), which often included renderings of attendants, entertainers, pets and warriors. This special exhibit will be on display at the museum through October 31, 2002.

In addition to the temporary exhibits, Knight, working with the museum's new assistant director Jennifer Barr, has developed a new educational program for Memphis-area students visiting the museum.

This year, teachers are offered lesson plans and learning materials tailored to each grade level, prior to coming to the museum, Knight explained. The educational guide includes classroom activities, stories and vocabulary designed to prepare students for their visit to the museum and enhance their understanding of this ancient Culture. A series of discovery kits also are available for parents and teachers, which include books, videos and hands-on activities.

"The educational guide, coupled with the visual experience of visiting the museum, offer Memphis-area children a unique opportunity to view Chinese culture first-hand, through the beauty and history captured in the museum’s artworks," Knight said.

In addition, a space is being established in the museum for local students to display their own works of art.

In an effort to make the community more aware of the museum and its unique treasures, Knight and Barr are excited to be participating in Memphis’ annual Arts in the Park Festival for the first time this year. They also are developing a membership program for the museum to help secure additional funding for new activities and exhibits.

Along with its Chinese art collection, the Peabody Place Museum is also home to an eclectic range of artworks including a selection of Judaica and Russian lacquer boxes, some of which were featured with the recent WONDERS exhibit Czars: 400 Years of Imperial Grandeur. Italian mosaics, European contemporary art glass, gemstones, minerals and fossils also are a part of the museum's holdings.

Children's favorites include unusually shaped scholars' rocks, a 100-million-year-old dinosaur egg found in China’s Henan province and a 210-million-year-old fossil of a prehistoric four-legged bird.

Reflecting the museum's collection, its gift shop offers a variety of unique, one-of-a-kind items including cloisonné jewelry and eggs, lacquer boxes, silks and other Asian collectables.

Also, the museum offers a distinctive setting for special events such as intimate dinners, corporate functions or receptions for up to 150 people.

Parking is safe, affordable and convenient. Each of the three Peabody Place garages – the Peabody Place Garage at 250 Peabody Place; the Blues Garage, next to the Hampton Inn and Suites at 149 Peabody Place and the Tower Garage, just south of Main Street at 110 Peabody Place – offers museum guests three hours of parking for just $1 with a $5 purchase of admission tickets or items from the museum gift shop, with parking ticket validation. The Tower Garage is the closest to the museum, located just across the street from the Pembroke Square building.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, and $4 for students. For information on special group rates, guided tours, educational programs, teachers' packets and special event room rental, call the museum at (901) 523-ARTS, or 260-7419. Information also is available on the Web at: http//, where visitors can catch a glimpse of a few of the extraordinary treasures in the museum's collection with a sneak-peak virtual tour.

The Peabody Place Museum is fast becoming a "must see" stop for tourists visiting Memphis. It's definitely an A-list downtown destination. Now, you know the secret too. Come see what you've been missing.