Meet teamHMA! Mary Johnson, Business Manager

17 years – who knew?

It started July 2002, hired as a temp working the reception desk and shop counter part-time.

They said bring a book as there may be periods of nothing to do. Ha! I started cleaning up the copy room and neatening the desk. Soon staff members brought me multiple projects to complete...filing, cutting, sorting, typing, data entry, etc.


The Membership & Admin Assistant position had been vacant for a while which meant there was a stack of unprocessed membership gifts just asking for attention. No one currently on staff knew how to use the donor database software…so I offered to learn. The interim director, Ande Maricich, had been interviewing candidates, I applied also, but another was hired. I missed her first day on the job…which was also her last…she said it was “boring”. What?! That was funny then and still today! There is always something to do here at HMA! I’m thankful for her boredom, because I was offered the position and began working full-time right away…as a temp until October 2002…which is my official anniversary date! It took me about three months to work through the stack of memberships and fully understand and utilize the software.


It was a pleasure to provide support to our board in their executive search. Lisë Swensson joined us as HMA’s 4th Executive Director in December 2002. Through the years, many team members have come and gone…each one’s strengths directing changes in positions…allowing for my promotions and eventual transfer from Membership to Bookkeeper and Office Manager.


My curiosity and can do attitude and “gift” of standing near equipment that suddenly begins working properly lead to the team’s “ask Mary” for issues with office equipment and computers. I always say my job is “knowing when to call an expert”.

In April 2017, when our new executive director, Jon Carfagno, joined us, Clarissa Starnes was promoted to associate director and I was promoted to Business Manager to complete our leadership team (LT3). LT3 meets weekly to sound off one another regarding all things HMA. I’m honored to be at the table and know that my insight and history with the organization is valued.


HMA has celebrated many milestones in my tenure and will have many more after I’m long gone because of the immeasurable value provided to our community. One of my favorite transitions here at the museum has been to openly welcome as many visitors as possible from all walks of life… there’s something for everyone here, if not today, then maybe next week or the week after.

The first 5-10 years at HMA included many afterschool hours of volunteerism from my three children (ages 7-11 when I started). As a newly single mother, I was grateful for full-time employment that also provided a safe place for them to do homework, create artworks, and, of course, help with mailings and class supplies prep! It was through their experiences at HMA, that I learned that everyone sees art differently…and that’s OK and celebrated. You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy an art museum…especially HMA…trust me, I know from personal experience. Come to Coffee in the Coe and/or any HMA event to find out for yourself!


Fundraisers are hard work and tiresome, but oh so fun to work! The Guild Holiday Brunch & Auction was always my favorite event to work each year. My children enjoyed it also…returning to help year after year at their own volition. So many wonderful volunteers, “Guild ladies” (and men), attendees, and staff members through the years participating and working the event…a lively and fun and successful fundraiser! Which is always pleasing to the “money person”. Now I also enjoy the opportunity to work with teamHMA on/at AutoLawn, Foothills Folk Art Festival, and our formal Gala!


Bottom line…HMA is family. Team members, board members, volunteers, and other SALT Block organizations employees, too, have become friends in life as well as in work. A true treasure!

Some of my favorite folks that are no longer here with us: Carol Triplett–she worked every Wednesday at the reception desk and helped with whatever we needed.; Tom Mate–he worked every Friday, also at reception; Tom made an impression on my girls and we all have a small collection of his beautiful art.; Carl Moser–he spent time here in preparation for his exhibition and was one of the nicest men I’ve met.; my mom, Mary “Jane” Webber–the best example of motherhood I’ve ever known; she generously volunteered on every visit to NC just to be close to me; and Ann Hinson–still here, just not with HMA as our Volunteer Coordinator, is my special friend for life.

Some of my favorite exhibits through the years at HMA: Andrew Young - Collages; Burton Morris - Pop Art; Mary Whyte – watercolors; Blue Ridge Realists – every exhibition; Portraits from the Permanent Collection; and Kate Worm – Figure paintings; too many to list them all!


In my time at HMA, my family has grown to include two son-in-laws, one daughter-in-law, and four grand-babies, I’ve learned more about art than I ever knew there was to learn, my own appreciation of beauty has changed to encompass a greater range, and I look forward to all that’s to come.

TeamHMA has found a rhythm through seasonal planning that works! Budgeting, though always quite an endeavor, has become a team effort, more accurate, and …enjoyable? Yes!

Here’s to you, teamHMA …YOU ARE THE BEST!

Thank you, HMA, for 17 years!

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This post is # 42 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.

Post written by Mary Johnson, Business Manager