Interview with Laura Millin


1)   Please give me a basic description of your job here at the museum:

Laura is the Executive Director. She serves as chief administrator, executive officer, works under the direction of the board, and is responsible for enforcing the board’s policies. She manages all of the MAM’s activities, collections, programs, and overseas planning and construction. Above all she supervises the artistic direction of the MAM.

2)   How long have you been working at the MAM?:

She has worked at the MAM since February 1990 and this year will be her 23rd year as Executive Director.

3)   What brought you to Missoula and then the MAM?:

Laura had been interested in the MAM and applied while she lived in Seattle. She didn’t get the job, however until she moved to Missoula, after following her boyfriend there. 

4)   What are your interests in art and what did you go to school for?:

Laura always had an interest in contemporary art but also studied dance, art history, visual arts, and political science in college. She wanted to study a bit of everything so she didn’t select a specific major. She worked as an art administrator while she was a student and then worked in Seattle for 10 years after that before moving to Missoula.

5)   Did you go through any special training to work at a museum and/or a non-profit organization? How has the training helped you?:

Other than on the job training, Laura did a lot of unpaid volunteering in the beginning specifically to gain job experience. While she was in Seattle, Laura and her friends also started and an art organization for experience sake as well as to create new facilities for current artwork. 

6)   How is working at the museum different from other jobs? Especially an art museum?:

Laura notes the differences between eastern museums and western museums (older versus newer). While she worked at the Seattle Art Museum she felt that it was trying to play catch up with the east and she wasn’t interested in that mentality. She thinks that a small museum better reflects the community rather than a large museum worried about notoriety does. The MAM for instance has always been contemporary but they don’t have the option to become larger. However because they are so engrained in the community they have always had the support they needed to thrive.

7)   How do you think the field of art has changed over the years?:

Laura believes that virtual communication has greatly impacted the art of the last decade. There has been a movement towards the commercialization of art, with things such as art fairs, which she finds unfortunate. Also there is too much fascination with finding the newest greatest artist instead of just celebrating all of the different artists and styles. But one of the changes Laura is pleased by is the focus on education rather than the collections of artwork. This revelation of focusing on education at museums means a more artistically educated community.

8)   What is one of the funniest and/or the most memorable moments you’ve had while working here?:

When celebrating the MAM’s 25th anniversary charity auction, they sold 25 chairs made by artists to benefit the MAM. They had a great party and coroneted a queen: Lela Audio. Laura sometimes misses the days when the MAM was smaller because it was easier to have these fun, intimate parties.

9)   Is there any artist you would like to see exhibit at the MAM?:

Laura emphasizes that she would love to see many, many more artists. If she could have the choice of some one famous she would like to see Rauschenberg. Regionally she is interested in in Jun Kaneko and Hung Liu. 

10)  If you could personally own one piece of artwork what would it be?:

Laura doesn’t want to covet any one artwork. She would like to change the focus from acquiring art to acquiring knowledge and an over all appreciation to constant appreciation.

11)  Is there anything you wish you had known at the beginning of your job here that you now know? What would you tell your past self?:

Laura wishes she had known how to sell the importance of contemporary art. She felt that she grew up experiencing art that was outside the mainstream and lacked support. She feels like artists of this generation should be more confident in their art because contemporary art has such wide spread support. 

12) If you were an art medium or tool what would it be and why?           

Laura chose sculpture because she thought it would be the most fun thing to be. Interacting with a three dimensional object is a very unique experience.

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