“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
— Pablo Picasso
Working with kids and creating art is something I have a passion for doing. My job here at the museum has allowed me to do this for the past 21 years. Not everyone can land that dream job but I did. Here’s how it all started:
It was the fall of 1996 when my husband took a job in Hickory. I grew up and had lived in Greensboro my entire life so it wasn’t easy moving to a town I knew little about and our 3 kids weren’t that excited about leaving their friends. After settling in a few months, my daughter joined a Girl Scout group where I met another mom there who knew I enjoyed art and working with kids. She happened to be a docent at Hickory Museum of Art and told me about a part time position there as an outreach educator conducting art classes in pre-schools. Wow, this sounded great as my degree was in art education (from Western Carolina University) and my last job was working as a teacher and then a director at a childcare facility in Greensboro. It was August of 1997 when I was hired part time and I haven’t looked back since. I never thought in 1997 I would still be at HMA but here I am almost 22 years later still in the education department.
As the part time educator, I conducted the outreach programs, taught many summer camps, afterschool classes, birthday parties, and girl scout art programs. The summer camp program was much smaller at the time. By 2003, I was in charge of the youth education program and Kate Worm would run the adult education program. We worked well as a team and I was able to write the programming for youth classes, more summer camps, girl scout programs, homeschool programs, field trip guides for teachers as well as conduct many of them myself. Kate left that position around 2009 and I took over the adult portion of education also. It’s exciting to bring in different artists to teach classes and workshops, you learn so much yourself.
I’ve seen too many exhibitions to count but they are all special. Meeting many of the artists is a real plus to working at HMA, you feel like you’re meeting a star! I’ve met photographers, quilters, sculptors, woodworkers, and painters who are always so grateful to the staff. The photography shows always stick out in my mind like the large format exhibit Aftermath: Images from Ground Zero. How can you forget 9/11 and the devastation? These photos were as large as 12’ x 4’ so you felt like you were there as they all told the story of that day and the days following.
Through my time here I have gotten to know our community partners by working with the libraries, schools, Hmong community, SALT Block resident organizations, downtown development, habitat, and many more. With these various groups I’ve helped the museum with family days, Folk Art festivals, receptions, even a Hmong New Year celebration in the museum complete with dancers, food, and traditional clothing.
I would have to say the Annual Paul Whitener Student Art show is a favorite of mine. Student artwork comes in from our elementary, middle, and high schools. I organize this through the schools, hang the artwork, and present the ribbons at their reception. Year after year, the artwork is amazing and the students are so proud to have their work exhibited at the museum. It is something they remember for a lifetime.
Another program I conduct is also very special to me. Through our Art for All program, I have taught art classes at Conover School most the years I have been with HMA. If you are not familiar with this school, it is a public school in Conover that serves students ages 3-21 with special needs. I have taught students who are blind, non-verbal, autistic, deaf, or have other disabilities. It is very rewarding to work with these students who may not get the chance to do art that often. I have learned to adapt the art equipment so they can hold them, use a lot of tactile materials for the visually impaired, and bring in new art materials for them to try. I was nervous in the beginning but soon realized they enjoy art just like any other kid.
People ask me what my favorite part of the job is. I’d have to say I don’t have a favorite part because I enjoy it all but if I could only pick one thing, it’s probably the people you meet. For 21 years, I’ve seen thousands of kids and families come through the education department. The ones who stick out in my mind are the ones you see come to art classes year after year as a child, then again as a teen, and then the same teen interns for the summer or wants to teach a class once they are in college. That’s when you realize you have made an impact on those students, inspired creativity and a love for art. THAT’S why I work at HMA.
This post is # 37 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.
Post written by Ginny Zellmer, HMA Education Manager.