I first started coming to the Milwaukee Art Museum when I was a sixth grader, attending the Wisconsin Writes [ed. note: now called the Art of Writing] conference for middle school students. This is a school program for young authors and artists hosted by the Museum, and it was the first time that I set foot in Milwaukee. The conference was an opportunity to view the permanent art pieces in the galleries, and the goal was to be inspired by an individual piece of art and reminded of a personal story to write about. These stories would then be included in a compiled publication from all the students in attendance. It was a chance to form a connection with the art, and for me was one of the most memorable parts of my middle school career. I remember sitting upstairs among the Bradley Collection, waiting to decide which piece I would choose to write about while looking out at Lake Michigan, feeling a great sense of peace.
This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting a variety of different positions within the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education.
Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?
Our team is here to secure the people, the art, and the building – which can mean something slightly different each day. There are always different challenges to address. And, a large part of our job is also customer service: helping people to find the restroom, or locate a favorite work of art. We’re there to help the visitors.
This past summer, we hosted 30 Americans, featuring works of art by contemporary African-American artists. The exhibition was, by the numbers, a huge success: we had an attendance goal of 85,140 and our actual attendance was 114,389! But impact goes beyond facts and figures, which is why we wanted to round out our blog posts about the exhibition with a look at a powerful expression of the city that was embedded in the show.
I had the pleasure of being the Media Intern for the 4-week-long High School Internship Program at the Milwaukee Art Museum. As an Interactive Media Design and History major at Alverno College, being chosen to intern at such a beautiful place full of creativity, history, and passionate people was not only a great learning experience, but also a real treat for me.
This summer’s High School Internship Program was slightly different than how it had been in the past—it was part of the TED-Ed Clubs pilot program (TED-Ed is the educational side channel of TED Talks). As the Media Intern, it was my mission to film and edit a video directed by the 16 teens, which answered the question: “What are museums for?”
Although I try very hard not to bring work home with me, sometimes (okay, most of the time) I can’t help it. I just love museums, and so I often find myself thinking about them after 5 p.m.
Something I’ve been mulling over for a while is the use of the word “curate”, and how the phrase has become a buzzword around the world wide web. What does the word “curate” mean in popular language—and more importantly, what does it mean for museum professionals that this word is being re-appropriated?