After learning what Amanda Shepard "does" at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art as our Vice President and COO, she now follows up with the answer to the question she hears the most: Where do you get the art that you display?
When people learn we work in a museum, the first question we often get asked is "What do you do all day? Do you just get to stare at art?". The follow-up question is, usually, "Wait, do you get to touch the art?". It often comes as a surprise, therefore, when they learn that many museum jobs do not include handling objects at all! Therefore, I sat down with Amanda Shepard, our Vice President and COO, to talk about her background, what her job entails, and if she is ever disappointed that she doesn't get to touch the art.
In my role at FWMoA, I’m lucky enough to be inextricably linked to all our social media accounts, so every little thing people say about us is conveniently delivered to my inbox. Most reviews are positive, accurate, and heartwarming. Some stretch the truth, and others inspire my blog posts. A common set of complaints seem to bubble to the surface of our negative reviews: “It’s not as big as I thought it would be;” “There’s not enough to see;” “There were no famous artists like Degas or Renoir;” “It’s not like Chicago or Los Angeles.” Read on to see how our museum compares to others and what makes our collection unique.
A few weeks ago, a fire at the 200-year-old Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, obliterated years of Latin American history, science, and culture. Investigations revealed the extent of disrepair the museum had experienced, stemming from a lack of government funding over the past few years. Multiple news outlets reported on the museum’s use of crowdfunding to pay for expenses and lack of digitized records. A public museum, this spurred international outcries over budget cuts experienced by public museums, libraries, and archives worldwide. I started to think about the collection at FWMoA, what would be lost for the residents of Fort Wayne, and Indiana at large, if our museum was there one day and gone the next.
The news media loves to circulate stories of brazen museum visitors who get too close to the objects in their midst, causing some degree of harm to priceless art and antiquities. The more valuable the art, the more headlines, and the more dramatic the damage, the more shame we in the audience can heap on the hapless fools.
Sensational news stories are one thing; real life “please do not touch!” incidents at FWMoA are another.
It’s that time of year again: Back to School! While students of all ages cling to their final vestiges of freedom, we at FWMoA welcome this time of year. It’s when our galleries fill up again with tour groups and brighten our days. I was one of those kids excited to go back to school—I could learn and see my friends? Yes, please! I can see you shaking your head and smiling about how that eager little girl ended up in a museum (where she can now learn literally every day of the year) but I’m not the only one! There are artists who look back on school days with fondness, and one of them is on display just in time for the school year to start: Winslow Homer.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art will collect, preserve and present American and related art to engage and educate broad and diverse audiences throughout the region to add value to their lives. I’ve copied and pasted this sentence into hundreds of grant proposals, stamped it into countless museum publications, analyzed its meaning with board members, worked with my colleagues to weave those activities into every museum program, and conveyed this message to every casual visitor who wanders onto the requisite “About” page of our website. Those 32 words define the work of this museum every day for the staff and board as we put our shoulders to the wheel in the name of art for the betterment of the community. But what does that work look like in real life? If life at FWMoA were a reality TV show, what would our producers exploit for the sake of juicy television?