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Meet Some 10-Plus-Year Volunteers

a collage image of volunteers

Crystal Bridges volunteers make everything we do at the museum possible, and some volunteers have been around since the very beginning, dedicating their time and talent for 10+ years! In this blog, meet some of the volunteers who have been at Crystal Bridges for 10 years or more and learn about the changes they’ve seen: both at the museum and in their personal growth.

a volunteer reading a book in the gallery

Karla Bradley

Museum Guide, Ambassador, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

I have met lots of wonderful staff, volunteers, members, and regular visitors over the years. Each person has had an impact in large and small ways. I would say the same about the artwork and the permanent collection. Each piece of artwork has had an impact in a large or small way. Some are seen on a regular basis like the people. The museum is constantly evolving, but I have a different experience each time I visit.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

2020 and 2021 have been rough, but there have been opportunities for growth. I loved many of our virtual sessions this past year. I loved learning more about our collection and grounds. It was rewarding to hear more about the vision for the future. I learned from our cultural trainings. Trivia nights were just fun as well as showing me what I did (or didn’t) know.

a volunteer poses with kindred spirits painting

Lowell Collins

Architecture Guide, Sculpture Guide, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

The best change has been the ticketing system and the emails with tickets for guests. I have been an advocate for a more user-friendly system. Also, the addition of more specialized tours.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

Volunteering at Crystal Bridges has enriched my life through friendships with volunteers and staff as well as knowledge and appreciation of art. Being a guide has been a wonderful educational experience. The training opportunities and trips have offered an invaluable level of education regarding the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Moshe Sadie, native plants, sculpture, and a multitude of other topics. I had the proud opportunity to represent Crystal Bridges at the National Docents Symposium where patrons were excited to hear about Crystal Bridges. I’ve learned how to properly open bottles of Prosecco!

headshot of a volunteer at crystal bridges

Tim Crane

Gallery Guide, Architecture Guide, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

The permanent collection has expanded. The Bachman-Wilson House addition opened up another universe to me and the museum. Special exhibitions have served as catalysts both for community communication (Border Cantos comes readily to mind) and personal introspection. The lobby expansion is wonderful!

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

Quite simply, my volunteer experiences have significantly changed my life for the better. I’ve received an incredible education, I’ve been exposed to beautiful and thought-provoking art, and most importantly, I’ve developed personal relationships that transcend my museum experiences and have enhanced my personal life.

headshot of a volunteer

Cora Davis

Museum Guide, Ambassador, and more

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

I enjoy the opportunity to greet the public from all over the world and being a friendly face as guests enter. The life lesson I have taken away is that ALL people can enjoy art which reinforces the notion that we are more alike than we are different. It is interesting to learn that people travel far and make dedicated trips to visit the museum while others make it a part of their visit to family and friends in the area.

Georgena Duncan

Georgena Duncan

Gallery Guide, Architecture Guide

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

The museum has certainly developed in its collections, presentation of art, and buildings.  I have given Bachman-Wilson House tours and worked to develop interesting gallery tours.  I particularly enjoyed the Zoom 3×30 tours [where a Gallery Guide discusses three works of art in 30 minutes] given during the pandemic as it freed us of a set route [in the galleries], and I was able to consider a wider range of art and sculpture. Zoom tours also opened Crystal Bridges to a new group of visitors.

headshot of a volunteer working in the museum store inventory

Cherie Geiser

Library Guide, Ambassador, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

The museum has become much more diverse in the last 10 years.  I love the bilingual signage (English/Spanish) that we now use.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

I can’t say that I have grown, but I do feel my skills as a retired university librarian have been well utilized and appreciated by the library staff and museum administration.

headshot of a volunteer

Cynthia Moss Hayes

Museum Guide, Ambassador, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

I think a great deal of the magic of Crystal Bridges involves change. From the first presentation given to volunteers, it was obvious that this adventure Alice had invited us to participate in was a very personal journey. It was one that she chose to share with all of us. A project of this size demands its boundaries based on the potential of change: in staff, in designs of exhibitions, in the design of building structures to accommodate spectacular visual perspectives, in policies, and more, of course. It has been incredible to watch and participate in a process that has seen such growth and yet continue to strive for that magic this museum creates for all of us.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

I was teaching in Fayetteville close to retirement when I first heard about the possibility of an art museum. The Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock had been my home away from home for years growing up. With the announcement of Crystal Bridges, I decided to sell my house and moved to a tired little cottage off the Bentonville square. The meetings for volunteers began and the excitement was infectious. There are unlimited opportunities to grow as a volunteer at this museum. I think one of my goals was to find a way to perceive what a guest might need by observing first and taking action second. It’s incredibly interesting what the needs of some guests are, while others just wish to “be there” and wander at will. For a decade, Crystal Bridges has been a place for continual growth for me and, most importantly, a place of peace. It is that place where I go as a guest or a volunteer and always leave a better person. My lesson is that everyone is better by being there. Just look at their faces coming and going. You cannot help but want to, in some small way, make it a moving, ever-changing part of your life. It is for me. Thank you, Alice.

a volunteer poses with an artwork in the modern art gallery

Kim Ratcliff

Gallery Guide, Architecture Guide, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of?

Over the past 10 years as a Gallery Guide, it has been amazing to be a part of the growth and transformation of Crystal Bridges from both a physical and philosophical perspective. It has been like watching a person grow into themselves or a newly formed butterfly spreading its wings. 

At first, Crystal Bridges was like the new kid on the block, trying to fit into the respectable museum mold. But then I think she began to appreciate the value of her uniqueness, the freedom of not having to fit into the mold. She began to show her true colors, respecting the past, but not being defined by it. Instead, she created her own identity that is authentic and current and still continues to evolve.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

Over the past 10 years, I have gone through some huge life transitions, and my time volunteering at Crystal Bridges has played an instrumental role in my personal development. 

As a child, I took oil painting lessons, and though I wasn’t very good, I had an inspiring teacher. Then, during study abroad in Italy my junior year of college, I took an Art History class and was inspired again, even wanting to change my degree. But practicality won over, so I forged ahead with my business studies. Fast forward to the Gallery Guide program, where I have been able to come full circle, learning about art and art history, sharing that rekindled inspiration with museum guests, and meeting an amazing group of kindred spirits along the way. 

headshot of a volunteer posing on the lantern bearer stage

Gail Slagle

Gallery Guide, Architecture Guide, and more

A lot has changed at Crystal Bridges in 10 years. What are some changes you witnessed and were part of? 

The guide program began with two types of tours: gallery and trail. Since opening more tours, Architecture, Sculpture, the Bachman-Wilson House, and cart guides have been added to improve the guest experience at Crystal Bridges. Guests can visit the museum and choose to take a tour that speaks to their specific interests.

How have you grown as a volunteer in 10 years? Have you developed any new skills? Taken away any life lessons? Made any life changes? 

As a secondary math teacher, I had no background in art appreciation or art history. Our training for being a Gallery Guide enriched my understanding of the world of art. Previous to that training, I was never comfortable visiting art museums.  Because of the exploratory approach we were taught of asking “what do you see in a painting?”, I was comfortable observing and discussing paintings and I have enjoyed doing that with our guests.