Take a Piece of the Museum Home at Seasons: The Museum Store

Written by Meghan Gattignolo, Visitor Services Coordinator

Every awesome museum has a gift shop, and the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center is no exception. Since the early days, when the entirety of the Museum was contained within the 1898 Post Office and Customs House building, it had a gift shop. Granted, the shop was smaller then. The tiny gallery now home to the Museum’s Boehm porcelain collection used to host the gift shop, stuffed with books, postcards and other memorabilia (see photo to the left). With the Museum’s addition in 1996, the gift shop gained significantly more square footage and its own identity as Seasons: The Museum Store.

Museum gift shops are hopefully more than just a place to grab a kitschy branded souvenir on the way out the door or reward well-behaved little ones. A great museum gift shop allows you to take a piece of the museum home and extend the experience of a visit long after exiting the building. Often, artists who exhibit their work in the galleries of the museum opt to sell smaller, more affordable pieces in the store, too. If you have a great experience while enjoying the art on exhibit, you can be pleasantly surprised to find the same artist’s work in Seasons. Legacy local artists’ pieces who have exhibited in the past, such as Tom Rice’s birds and Mike Andrew’s carved stone works, are still available for purchase at Seasons.

A trend started by previous store managers – and embraced by the current store manager Laura Rone – is to make every effort to populate the store’s shelves with the work of local artists and craftsmen. Just as the Museum galleries are full of artistic curiosities and unique-to-Montgomery County historic artifacts, Seasons: The Museum Store’s shelves are stocked with beautiful art unique to the area.

Seasons, then the Joseph M Balthrop Family Shop,
opening at the 1996 Museum expansion

Since August 2020 marks women’s suffrage centennial anniversary, a few female creators on display in the store stand to be highlighted. Hilda Walker is local to Clarksville and has done the circuit at various vendor fairs. Her work has a medieval flair with her use of metallic links to make stunning jewelry. Donna Rizzo, a woman with a history of dance and choreography, has turned into an accomplished sculptor. An award-winning artist with her pieces on exhibit throughout Middle Tennessee, her art echoes her past. Figures arc and bend in a dancer’s ecstasy, and children are always in the midst of exuberant playtime. Finally, Ayesha Safa creates bold but simple metal jewelry inspired by motifs found in Islamic art. A sculptor by education, she’s passionate about expressing the inter-connectedness of people through the geometry in her art.

Seasons, then the Joseph M Balthrop Family Shop,
opening at the 1996 Museum expansion

Many more pieces of art by imaginative creators from Middle Tennessee can be found at Seasons: The Museum Store. These are artists you may not have been exposed to otherwise including jewelry-makers, sculptures and painters who have a unique story to tell in the area which they were inspired to make art. Recently, Seasons has gone virtual too. Shoppers can now browse store products on the Museum’s website and make purchases from home. A good Museum allows you to experience the culture it strives to express, and its accompanying shop should do the same. 

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