The Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi is one of 10 museums and libraries awarded with the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. StoryCorps Facilitator John White and I made the trip south to provide the museum with one part of their reward: three Door-to-Door recording days.
We had a great time wandering inside the museum during our lunch hour, lucky to enjoy its many exhibits, like The Orient Expressed and Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders. But while walking the halls of The Mississippi Story, an ongoing exhibit, we got a surprise: Hanging on the wall was the portrait of one of our own participants, called “Tee.”
L. C. Tucker, Jr. recorded a conversation with his co-worker and friend, Mindy Kunz. According to Tee, he can’t remember what the L. C. stands for, but he told Mindy of his coming to the MMA over 30 years ago, when he had completed his U.S. Army service. Driving by the museum years ago, he thought, “That’d be a great place to work.”
Tee applied to work as a museum security guard three times before applying to be a preparator. Tee took the job, and has not looked back since. He told Mindy of the importance of lighting of and how every piece is measured before it is hung. Now, as chief preparator, he feels pride in being one of the first people to experience the paintings and sculptures when they arrive at the museum and of the role he plays in bringing art to the community.
Tee has touched the walls of the MMA in another way, as well. “Portrait of L.C. ‘Tee’ Tucker, 2009″ by Jason Bouldin hangs next to “Tee Sits for Jason’s Portrait Demonstration, 2009″ by Jackson Garner (both pictured above). These acrylic-on-canvas works remember the day Tee sat for portrait artist Jason Bouldin.
Tee is proud to be part of The Mississippi Story. Although other participants did not have their portraits included in the exhibition, all expressed how the MMA has influenced their lives. They were all able to enjoy art, hung level and at exactly 56 inches center. Tee and his crew made sure of that and will continue to do so for years to come.