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Go behind the scenes at MMAM (07/07/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer
With four upcoming exhibitions for 2014 and a 4,000-square-foot addition set to open in early fall, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) is currently looking for volunteer greeters and gallery attendants to ensure a pleasant visit for museum goers.

“The volunteers are very important,” said MMAM Executive Director Andy Maus. “They make people feel welcome; they make sure that the people and the art are safe as well.”

Maus stressed that anyone with an interest in volunteering and in the museum itself can become a MMAM volunteer. There is no requirement for an art background or prior knowledge of any art in the museum. Every volunteer goes through about two hours of training, during which MMAM staff teach the basics of what the volunteers need to know and how to interact with visitors. “The two most important things [in being a volunteer] are friendliness and the ability to anticipate the needs of visitors,” Maus explained.

Some bonuses of volunteering with MMAM include getting to see exhibits before the public opening, as well as the social aspect of interacting with museum attendees and other volunteers. “It is a unique way to get involved with the community,” Maus said. “It’s a great way to become a part of a community of volunteers.”

Connie Strand, who has been a volunteer with MMAM since its beginnings at the library of the College of Saint Teresa, elaborated, “everything about [volunteering at MMAM] is satisfying,” she said. “It’s fun to interact with people, and I’ve met some very interesting people.”

MMAM volunteers are required to complete at least one two-hour shift per month, which makes it doable for students or for people who live farther away. Strand, who lives in Fountain City, Wis., volunteers twice per month for a total of four hours. “It’s like a vacation,” she explained. “I do it every couple of weeks, and I love it; it’s fun. Even the drive here is fun!”

Both Strand and Maus emphasized the fact that almost everyone can become a volunteer, noting the wide variety of ages of MMAM volunteers. “We’ve had college kids as well as older people,” Strand said. “You just have to be old enough to put one foot in front of the other.”

One of Strand’s favorite aspects of being a volunteer with MMAM is the fact that she is able to get close to new art on a constant basis. “To see all these new showings, and before anyone else — what more could you want?”

Maus agreed. “There is something to be said about gaining new experiences,” he said. “[We have about 10 exhibitions a year], so if you volunteer once a month you will be able to see new art each time you come.” There are currently several exhibitions, including “X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out,” which will run until August 10. Organized through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services, the exhibition features photographs of the skeletal anatomies of various fish species throughout the world. On July 6, Nick Wroblewski, of Viroqua, Wis., will present his first major solo museum exhibition, “Carved by the River,” which is a series of woodcut prints that illustrate scenes from the Upper Mississippi River environment, including natural landscapes and animals. Also currently on display at the MMAM are 20 original illustrations created by Rockwell Kent for the 1936 edition of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,” which ties in with the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Kent, who lived in Winona for two years, is best known for his book illustrations of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

“The fact that the museum exists in Minnesota and along the Mississippi River says very confidently that art is for everyone,” Maus explained. “[The MMAM] could have been put in downtown Minneapolis, but it’s here and it’s here for a purpose. We embrace everyone, and our volunteers do that with their friendliness and accessibility.”

If you would like to become a MMAM volunteer, please call (507) 474-6626 for more information or to sign up for a volunteer orientation. The next orientation will be Saturday, July 12, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  


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