Over the past few months, I have learned a lot about the city of Memphis, the greater Memphis Jewish community, and how my internship will impact my professional career as an artist with a goal to create social justice communities. Through my internship at ArtsMemphis, I have had the privilege of learning from each staff member on what their position is and how they envision the future of this non-profit organization. ArtsMemphis raises millions of dollars every year through corporate and private donations without receiving any funding from the government. They use all of their donations to support local non-profit organizations and individual practicing artists who are truly benefitting our Memphis community. Not only do they support our community with funding, they also give countless hours of support and community engagement to ensure that we are constantly learning from the talented members of our Memphis community.
I have taken away a lot from learning about the administrative side of running a non-profit organization. And I am so thankful that ArtsMemphis treats me like a staff member rather than just a college kid who is rolling through for a few months. Not only am I getting to attend multiple meetings and have the opportunity to understand the financial side of ArtsMemphis, but they are also giving me more responsibility in terms of taking over projects. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with Karen Moore and Beverly McRobertson of the Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis. Inc. At this meeting, I was there as a member of the ArtsMemphis staff but also there to give my advice how the Women’s Theatre Festival could connect with the Memphis Jewish community on their upcoming project. In November, they are having a play called A Box of Yellow Stars at TheatreWorks in Overton Square. The play is set during the Holocaust and focuses on a Christian man’s attempt at social justice. He would travel from the United States to Europe and marry Jewish women to bring them back to the United States and then would divorce them so they could be free to live a life on their own terms in the US. He did this 15 times! It’s based on a true story discovered by a University of Memphis professor years ago. Women’s Theatre Festival wants to build partnerships with Jewish community leaders in order to spread the news about A Box of Yellow Stars. And just yesterday, I met with Karen to learn about how I could help her develop this project. Next week, I’ve organized a meeting to meet with Women’s Theatre Festival, ArtsMemphis staff, and Memphis Jewish community leaders from Temple Israel, Memphis Jewish Federation, Hillel Memphis, and more. I’m truly honored to be working on this project with her and to share a beautiful story to our Memphis Jewish community.
A few weeks after I started working at ArtsMemphis, I began working with Parke Kennedy on planning an event for the Fellowship. After going back and forth with different ideas, we settled on organizing a private tour at the Metal Museum. Next Tuesday, everyone from the Fellowship will be going to the museum to have a cocktail hour outside followed by a tour and metal demo. I’m so excited for this and couldn’t be happier to share it with everyone in the program!
Aside from my internship, I’ve really enjoyed doing various things around Memphis that I never really did when I lived here before leaving for college at the University of Vermont. I love attending concerts at the Levitt Shell, going to happy hours hosted by Connect TI at different locations around town, and doing really awesome activities with the Fellowship like meeting with Mayor Wharton and volunteering at the soup kitchen. I’ve truly loved my experience living back home in my city of Memphis this summer and I can’t believe there’s only a few weeks left!
-Betsy Rose Besser
Other than a quick stop through town on my way to school a couple of summers ago, this summer has been my first real visit to Memphis. I came here 6 weeks ago without knowing anyone at all and without any connections to Memphis. All I knew was that Memphis had an NBA team and that barbecue was a big deal. And that was the extent of my knowledge about Memphis. Now after having spent more than 6 weeks here, I can say that there is a lot more to Memphis than the few basic things I knew before I arrived.
This week was pretty busy for the TI Fellows. On Friday, we had the great privilege of meeting Mayor AC Wharton and listening to him talk about Memphis. He has an incredible passion for all things Memphis and he clearly enjoys his job. Mayor Wharton discussed both the successes and struggles of Memphis and about what he sees as future possibilities for the city. This was a unique experience that I am glad I got to be a part of. On Saturday morning, we volunteered at the soup kitchen at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown. Our major task of the morning was to organize the pantry that contained most of the soup kitchen’s food. It was great to work together with everyone and give back to the community. After we finished working in the soup kitchen, we toured the church and learned about its long history in Memphis. It was pretty crazy to learn about how long the church has been involved in the community. We capped off the morning with a nice brunch at the Blue Plate Cafe downtown (the biscuits and gravy were excellent).
My favorite aspect of the Fellowship has been getting to know all of the other Fellows. In just 6 weeks, we have become a pretty close group. When I arrived at the beginning of the summer, I was a bit concerned that the Fellows from Memphis would keep to themselves and not make an effort to get to know those of us not from the area. I am happy to say that I could not have been more wrong. The Fellows from Memphis have been beyond welcoming to those of us from out of town. Even though it hasn’t been that long, it feels like I’ve know everyone here for years. I feel like I have really become a part of the Jewish community of Memphis. I have also really enjoyed my internship at Baker Donelson, where I have been able to experience what working at a big law firm is like. My time in Memphis has been great and I look forward to seeing what these last few weeks will bring.
– Jackson Olesky