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Volunteer Spotlight: James Dains

Meet Crystal Bridges Volunteer, James Dains!

Career Information:

I worked as a maintenance & mechanical design engineer for Seal Air Cooperation in Cedar Rapids, IA. I retired in 2008. In 2009, I joined the Board of Directors of Nonprofit Org. (Friends of Cedar Rock) at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Walter Estate. We moved to Bella Vista and joined Crystal Bridges Museum Volunteer Program in 2017.

Hobbies/Activities/Interests:

My wife Helen and I enjoy the outdoors. We enjoy hiking and biking the trails. We like to travel to explore lighthouses, architecture, art, nature, and vintage automobiles. We volunteer at other NWA ordinations including the Bella Vista Recycling Center, Audrey’s Boutique, and The Plaza Cooperative Living Center.

Favorite artwork or space at the museum:

The first piece of art that I was drawn to was The Lantern Bearers by Maxwell Parrish.  I visited that work so many times, they had to put it in the vault to protect it. Haha.

Maxfield Parrish, "Lantern Bearers" (1908), oil on canvas mounted on board.

Maxfield Parrish, “Lantern Bearers” (1908), oil on canvas mounted on board.

How did you learn about the museum and what prompted you to get involved?

In our search for a retirement location, Northwest Arkansas came up with the new museum listed, along with the abundant parks and nature. Once Crystal Bridges acquired the Bachman-Wilson House, that sealed the deal!

In what ways have you been involved as a volunteer with the museum thus far?

Starting as a Museum Guide was probably the best unintended opportunity for me. I had my blinders on and wanted to start immediately as a Bachman-Wilson House guide. I had to wait for that training opportunity to open up. What I thought was a way to simply pass the time became one of the best experiences I have had volunteering. It challenged me to learn about the entire museum and I am a better Architecture and Big Picture Guide because of it.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer?

People, not just our guests (from all over the world), but my fellow volunteers and the museum staff. Everyone at the museum is so nice to work with…it’s the best environment I have ever worked in.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience?

Being able to enhance to museum guest’s experience from greeting, way-finding, and guiding tours. I feel joy when I see visitors enjoying their museum experience.

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected from your experience with the museum?

I have learned a different outlook on art. I had limited interest in art…if it’s look was appealing to me, I might learn more about it. Being exposed to the collection, and needing to know about it in order to help guests, I have gained such an appreciation for art. I have started arranging our travel plans to include art museums that exhibit works of artists I have learned about at Crystal Bridges.  

Do you have a funny or inspirational story you can briefly tell about your volunteer experience?  Please share with us!

I greeted a father and his young (age 3-4) son in the lobby. Wanting to give the youngster something to look for in the gallery, I told him to look for butterflies in The Garden by Jessica Pezalla.

Two weeks later, I was greeting in the lobby and the boy returned with both of his parents. As soon as he saw me, he shouted, “I brought my mother to see the butterflies!” We did a high five and off they went.

Do you have any advice for individuals considering volunteering with Crystal Bridges?

Just do it. It is one the most rewarding things I have done in my life. There are so many opportunities at the museum. If you don’t feel comfortable about a lot of guest interaction, try one of the behind the scenes support opportunities, they are every bit as important and fulfilling.

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