We would like to introduce Emily Ironside: Crystal Bridges’ new Membership Program Manager. Emily joined the Museum in August, coming to us from the Walton Arts Center, where she served as Annual Giving Manager. As Emily will be the “Face of the Museum” for our Members, we thought we’d ask her a few questions to help our Members–and everyone else–get to know her. — LD
What made you want to join the Crystal Bridges team?
Visual arts have been a passion of mine for some time. My mom taught art lessons for more than 20 years out of our house and now works as an artist full time. My sister is an artist at Lifestyles, Inc., my husband is a graphic and web designer, and I enjoy painting in my free time. Having grown up in Rogers, the only way for me to see museum-caliber art was to leave the state. With the arrival of Crystal Bridges, the artists I once traveled to see are now here in my back yard. I have seen the cultural impact the Museum is having on our state and I wanted to be a part of it all. Luckily, the perfect role came open at the perfect time. I’m thrilled to be working to enhance the Member experience at Crystal Bridges, helping others connect with major works of art right here at home.
What’s your favorite work of art in the collection, and why? During my first visit to the Museum, I spotted my favorite work immediately: Portrait of Martha Graham by Marisol. I was working at Walton Arts Center at the time and had just seen the Martha Graham Dance Company perform. I was really moved by the choreography of Lamentation and was inspired by the remarkable story of how choreographer Martha Graham changed the landscape of dance in an era when males traditionally dominated the art form. When I saw the wooden sculpture in Crystal Bridges, those feelings I experienced while watching Lamentation rushed back to me and for the first time I felt the strong connection between the visual and performing arts. I knew that this work was something very special when I learned the sculptor, Marisol, was also a female artist who challenged the masculine assumptions in her chosen art form of sculpting. Every now and then I visit “Martha” to say hello and draw on the strength of these two great women artists.
What do you like about working with Members? I love working with Members because I believe they are the core of the Museum. Their passion and dedication to supporting the arts through their Membership is remarkable and I am humbled each day by their generosity. We are fortunate to have so many members of our community contribute annually to help grow Museum programs and outreach so that even more families and individuals can experience the magic of art.
I understand you’re a true NW Arkansas native: what’s your history in the area?
I grew up in a historic downtown Rogers neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody and us kids played outside all day until one of our parents would whistle or ring the dinner bell calling us home. We always joked that we were living a Norman Rockwell painting, and to some extent that was probably true. Neighborhoods like ours are few and far between these days. We still gather every 4th of July for the annual neighborhood parade and on Christmas Eve for family photos. After graduating from Rogers High School, I left Arkansas for college in Missouri and then worked in Colorado for a few years before returning home in 2007. I now live in Fayetteville and am hoping to bring a little bit of my downtown Rogers upbringing to my new neighborhood.
What changes do you feel Crystal Bridges has made in the region? On a national level, the Museum has put Arkansas on the map as a cultural destination for people of all backgrounds. Here locally, I have seen the arts and culinary community become better connected and more energized in response to the Museum’s presence. I remember when one of the few places to “go out” in Benton County was the movie theater in Dixieland Mall and we had to drive to Eureka Springs to visit an art gallery. Now, unique restaurants and galleries are springing up all over in Benton County and there is never a lack of cultural experiences to choose from when planning a night on the town.
What are you most excited about in working at Crystal Bridges? I’m most excited about getting to know our Members and seeing the Museum through their eyes. Even if I’ve seen a work many times before, there is always something special about seeing it again through another’s eyes, especially if he or she is seeing it for the first time. I can’t help but smile when I think of that moment.
Why should people be Members of Crystal Bridges? By supporting the Museum, Members enjoy a variety of benefits that make their Museum experience even better. They receive insider information with a complimentary subscription to C magazine; they enjoy free admission to all temporary exhibitions as well as discounts at our Store, art workshops and classes; and they are invited to unique Member events such as opportunities to meet artists and lecturers. Best of all, Members are an active and central part of all that Crystal Bridges is for our community. Who wouldn’t want to be a Member?