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Meet Our 10-Year'd Staff: Trisha Parker

a picture of preparator trisha parker in front of rosie the riveter

In celebration of Crystal Bridges’ 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting museum staff who have been working at Crystal Bridges since the beginning: 10 years or longer! So take a few moments to meet our 10-Year’d (get it? tenured?) staff. In today’s blog, meet Preparator and Mountmaker Trisha Parker, who is celebrating 10 years at Crystal Bridges.

 

Tell us a little about your role. What do you do at Crystal Bridges?

I am a Preparator and a Mountmaker. As a Preparator, it is our responsibility to ensure the historical and contemporary objects in the Crystal Bridges collection are cared for, conserved, stored, transported, mounted, and installed in a safe and secure manner to ensure their longevity for many generations to enjoy.

A Mountmaker specializes in the process of designing, fabricating, and installing supports called “mounts”, “brackets”, or “armatures” for safe display or storage of artworks, artifacts, or natural history specimens. Mountmaking is a creative thought process for solving specific problems of support, balance, and aesthetics in the museum environment. A well-made mount should help protect the object from external hazards or inherent structural weaknesses while enhancing the viewer’s experience.

a drawing of a necklace mount for an artwork
A mount sketch for a necklace featured in Crafting America (2021).
mount supporting the jewelry artwork called Neck Lace by Mary Ann Scherr, seen in Crafting America
Trisha's mount supporting Neck Lace (1969) by Mary Ann Scherr, seen in Crafting America.

Have you always been in this role? If not, how has it changed?

I was hired for this role seven months prior to our opening and our team was focused on opening the museum. Once we opened, I did a seven-month stint as an exterior protection services team member because they needed the help and before I knew it they wanted me back in a Preparator position. The foundation of skills a Preparator must-have is always being built upon. With every project, my knowledge of materials, their capabilities, fabrication techniques, and creative problem-solving abilities grow and helps me better serve our museum.

Staff member poses outdoors with a caulk gun
Trisha poses with a caulk gun.
staff member installs an outdoor sculpture.
Trisha installs an outdoor sculpture.

In your role, can you share with us 1-2 significant changes you’ve seen happen (or been part of) at Crystal Bridges over the last 10 years?

Golly! I’ve seen a lot! One of the most significant changes I have been a part of has been the expansion of our outdoor sculpture collection. When I started here at Crystal Bridges, there were only seven outdoor sculptures on view. I think we now have 37 on our grounds with my favorite outdoor installation being Monochrome II by Nancy Rubins. It’s not every day you get to tie 61 boats together and suspend them 35 feet in the air.

Nancy Rubins, Monochrome II sculpture
Nancy Rubins, Monochrome II, 2010-2018, stainless steel, stainless steel wire, and aluminum, 33 × 55 × 35 ft. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Stephen Ironside.

What is something we do at the museum now that we were not doing 10 years ago?

I believe we have been able to advance our outreach into diverse communities. We have become more self-aware and are constantly asking ourselves how we can be more inclusive with our experiences. A few years back, we began including Spanish translations in all of our signage and I believe it has helped strengthen our relationship with Latinx and bilingual communities which helps them to be more engaged with their experience.

 

What has kept you here?

On a personal level, it would be our mission. Transforming lives through art. Being a native Arkansan who didn’t have access to museums growing up, I feel a responsibility to help create memorable experiences for my local communities. On a professional level, it has been the quality and challenging level of projects. This inspires me to be a creator as well. Every time I think one of our projects can’t be beat, we turn around and do something bigger and better.

What has been the most exciting artwork you’ve seen at the museum, either in the collection or in an exhibition? Most exciting moment?

One of the most exciting artworks I have had the pleasure of installing was La Jeune bonne by the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani from the Van Gogh to Rothko exhibition. I have always been an admirer of the way he simplistically elongates the linear female form while presenting it in a confined space. It was the first time I had seen one of his paintings in person and I was honored to be in its presence. That exhibition was a monumental one for me, as it showcased many great masterworks I had only seen in textbooks. A few years later, I traveled to New York and visited the Museum of Modern Art for the first time and recognized many of the works from that exhibition. Unknowingly, I had developed a personal relationship with the objects. The unexpectedness of seeing them as a guest was humbling to say the least.

staff member unpacks ceramic balls for maman installation
Installing Maman

I am blessed that I am able to say I have had a lot of memorable moments here at Crystal Bridges. I have done everything from turning the pages of George Washington’s diary to waxing the legs of a 30-foot spider. But I would have to say one of my best moments happened on an overbearing winter day when I was feeling discouraged. Everything seemed out of alignment so I decided to take a walk around the museum to clear my head. I didn’t make it too far past the lobby when I looked up to see my high school art teacher walking toward me wearing a perplexed smile. We recognized each other instantly. Pleasantly surprised and full of hugs, she asked me what I was doing here. As I began to explain we walked together, and as I described my duties she became awestruck, complimenting me on how I was one of her art student extraordinaires, how amazing it was to see me in this setting, and seeing a former student flourishing within the field of arts. There I was 20+ years later standing in an art museum, in Arkansas, 187 miles from home with the woman, who in 1995, took her high school art class to see a Dale Chihuly lecture. Upon this realization, I said “You know. I want to say thank you, because I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for you.” We hugged and parted ways and as I returned to what I had thought was a disaster of a day, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was meant to do.

two staff members pose with artist jeff koons
Former Preparator Robert Lemming (left), Jeff Koons (center) and Trisha (right).

How have you grown over the last 10 years, either as a person or in your professional capacity?

Crystal Bridges has shown me that anything is possible. If you set your mind to doing something, it can be done, but you are going to have to put in the work. Getting started is the hardest part. If you don’t know how to do something, find someone that does, start asking questions, and do your research. You will be up and running in the right direction in no time. Don’t give up and be persistent. Have fun. Know you are going to fail. Know that when you fail, it is an opportunity to learn and become better. You get to decide how to proceed.

 

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

Make sure you are having fun and doing what you love. If you ever find yourself second-guessing, take a step back and re-evaluate the situation. Always be true to yourself. Follow your intuition and your heart. Trust the process. Everything will work out so you might as well enjoy the ride!

 

What do you think Crystal Bridges will be like 10 years from now?

In 10 years, we will have doubled the size of our facility, probably doubled the size of our team, and doubled the size of the collection of objects we care for. I would expect our outdoor sculpture installations to grow as well. I would love to see us expand our outreach with satellite arts education and sculpture parks statewide.

staff member rides a construction vehicle for installing outdoor artwork