Michael Rooks

Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the High Museum of Art 

“My name is Michael Rooks, and my job at the High Museum of Art first brought me to Atlanta. Prior to the High, I worked at Christie’s in New York, but I have been a museum curator since 1998. After Christie’s, I was in conversations with several museums, but was ultimately recruited by the High, which was awesome because it was my top choice.

When I got to know Midtown, I grew to love Colony and Hanover House – but mostly Colony House. I love the big long volume of the body facing the park. I am a fan of brutalist architecture. It is pure, honest, and speaks to the cosmopolitanism the city aspires to. I tried to get an apartment there for years, but they always sold before I could see them. As soon as one was listed, it was immediately snatched up. So, it took a while. I was living at the Mayfair on 14th Street, but would always come back to Colony House because a lot of art collectors live there and have been part of the art scene for years. So, I was frequently at Colony House and, eventually, was successful at buying a unit. I’ve been living in Colony House for four years now and have been on the board for two years. Not only is it a convenient place to live, it’s also not a bad commute to the High.

One of my fondest memories living in Midtown is when I met John Wieland, the visionary home builder behind One Museum Place on Peachtree. I became great friends with him and his wife, Sue, and have been for 10 years now. I remember the first time I met them; they took me up to Perkins + Will, and we had a brown bag lunch overlooking the site where OMP stands. It was vacant at the time, and he was explaining his plans for the lot. To meet someone so important to the city, especially in the life of the museum, describing his dream of creating connectivity between Colony Square and the High Museum, that was huge for me. Which is one of the big reasons I decided to join the High – after meeting John and Sue Wieland.

Having a sense of life returning to this block, during Colony Square’s reimagining, is fantastic. I missed that from the other places I’ve lived like midtown Manhattan–I still have a condo in Chicago and moved here from New York. I am looking forward to having more people back, energized, and revitalized by the presence of events, filming, dining, and shopping. I really love living in a building where adults live. At the same time, Midtown is predominantly a young part of town that wants to go out at night. It feels like a big city here. Midtown feels like its own place. Only a handful of locations in Atlanta have the kind of energy that nourishes people who choose to live in the city.

Final thoughts? I’m proud of how our leadership at the High has handled the global health crisis at a local level. It is important to our audience across the metropolitan area to have a safe place and refuge for the soul available to them these days, and it is fortunate for our community at Colony House to be just a stone’s throw away. But it could not be that safe place were it not opened responsibly. The mutual respect and trust we share with our audience has guided us in how to safely navigate the pandemic. These days, during the week, you may literally have the entire gallery to yourself. When everything goes back to normal, and it will happen someday, you will not get to experience it like that – so go now!”

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