December 11, 2015

The Preparator

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Hometown:
I moved around a lot, [but I] spent time in Central Minnesota, Minneapolis, Edina, Kansas City, [and] Texas.

Education:
BS, Cross-Concentration in Art History, Studio Arts, Cultural Studies and Comparative Discourse, and Housing Studies; University of Minnesota

Position:
Preparator

Years at WAM:
12 – [I] began as a Student Custodial Artist in 2003. After graduation I left WAM for about 9 months, then returned as Building and Technical Operations Assistant until 2014, and have been in the Exhibits department ever since.

Favorite WAM memory:
I met my wife at the Weisman, so it would be hard for a memory to compete with that one. Another favorite that comes to mind [is from] about ten years ago, [when] we had an exhibit [featuring] some works of art that were loaned/donated by Cheech Marin. At the opening reception we had a live band, and Cheech went on stage to sing “Lowrider.” It was fantastic.

What are your responsibilities as Preparator?
I consider myself very lucky because I get to work with the art itself on a regular basis (crate, move, clean, frame, hang, etc) both in the museum, which can mean working on pieces from our Art Rental program, or in the galleries. Additionally, the Weisman has works that are all over campus and the University of Minnesota system that we are responsible for maintaining and rotating; libraries, offices, etc. We also work with artists, our exhibition designer, registrars, curators, and others to find the best ways to display artwork for upcoming exhibitions.

We are responsible for lighting exhibits and maintaining those standards throughout the exhibition spaces. We also do some regular sculpture cleaning, wall touch-up painting, bulb changing, and workshop maintenance tasks. On that note, we have a workshop where we manufacture frames, pedestals, vitrines, crates, and many other things. Many shows/artists involve translating an idea to fit our gallery spaces, so we encounter some unique challenges; tactfully utilizing natural light for some of our architectural or acoustical nuances can require some brainstorming, and our workshop is a great place to create solutions to many of these challenges. Those opportunities to really get creative are my favorite parts of the job!

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most
rewarding?
Sometimes there are discrepancies between what an artist might prefer, in terms of space usage, and what is achievable/safe in a gallery space open to the public. Scale, lighting, [and] access are all things which might conflict with Weisman or University policies, or even Building or Fire Codes. Coming up with solutions that please all concerned parties can take finesse sometimes.

The most rewarding moments are when we complete installations and get to take a step back and be proud of our efforts. We put so much love and elbow grease into every show that it can be sort of exhaustive. Leading right up until the show opens, I’m always pondering whether there’s anything else that could be done to enhance the exhibit. It can be sort of exhausting, and when the show opens, our job [is] in a way done. We can [breathe] a sigh of relief. Depending on the show, it can be downright cathartic.

Do you follow any special protocols when installing art in the
museum?
That’s practically all we do! We take great care with all of the artifacts. Different mediums require different handling, storage and display methodologies, and we always make sure that we’re using appropriate materials (handling gloves, crate components, storage solutions, etc), and the right environment (light levels, temp, humidity, etc.) for artworks.

What is your favorite room (gallery or behind the scenes) in the
museum?
I think the Target Studio is a really interesting room, and has a lot of [potential] for experimentation. We’ve had some cool stuff in there, and I look forward seeing what unique things artists will come up with to utilize some of its unique opportunities.

I also love the 2nd floor terrace – It has some interesting vantages, including of Gehry’s facade, but it is also features one of my favorite vantages of the Minneapolis skyline, especially at sunset during the summer.

What is a typical day (at work and at home) like for you?
One of the things I enjoy about my job is that every day is different. I might be framing some prints, assembling a giant glass fish sculpture, painting a wall, or [even] cleaning and organizing our workshop. At home, I usually get up early and work on art or music or a house project. I always have way too many things on my daily to-do list, but I like to stay busy.

How do you practice mindfulness at work or at home?
Basic things – stretching and deep breathing are things that I find helpful. Jamee (the WAM’s Education Director) also leads Yoga sessions for staff at the museum. I always go when I can. Being positive and calm are invaluable to reducing stress, but also, in my experience, being creative, productive, and happy. Those transcendental moments allow [me] to take stock of [my] day and prioritize [my] actions and thoughts.

What is the most important thing you have learned during your time
at WAM?
Almost everything that occurs at the Weisman is collaborative – nobody can do their job without their colleagues. [Therefore], I think the most important thing that I have learned at the WAM is the importance of having good communication with those around you. Whether at work or home, you can’t really expect to be on the same page as others if you don’t articulate your perspective and listen to others. The more honesty and transparency, the better the relationship, in my experience.