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  • Meg Ubel

FAREWELL to PAULA: Heartfelt Thanks and Fond Memories

The Wells Fargo Room swelled with cheerful conversation on May 19, but the occasion was bittersweet. Guides were gathering to recognize and honor Paula Warn, our Tour Coordinator extraordinaire, on her last day at Mia.

Portrait of Paula by James Eastman.

After some time mingling with the large group of guides, Paula spoke to us about her desire to focus her time and energy on her photography practice and see where that journey takes her. The demands of her job, particularly in the past few years of the pandemic, have been all-consuming and left her with just spare moments here and there to pursue her art. Her photography, as she told us, seeks to evoke people and their humanity without depicting their bodies and faces (see one of her photographs below). Guides enthusiastically requested that she bring an exhibition of her work to Mia in the future.

Photograph by Paula Warn

Lyn Osgood then took the microphone and led off a number of guides in offering tributes to Paula and the tremendous amount of understanding, care and compassion that she brought to her work over the past twenty-five years. Several of those guides recently shared the essence of their thoughts with Insight:

Lyn Osgood

Paula knew us more than we even knew ourselves. She worked with our known strengths, but would push us to explore places in art we didn’t necessarily think we were ready for. She was a gentle pusher for me and I can’t believe the rewards! I am amazed by her wealth of wisdom in knowing us.

Kay Miller

Although I am an extrovert, it was the quiet moments with Paula in the guide lounge where I really felt I got to know her, always at the end of a long day. Paula talked with subdued passion about her photography and about getting outdoors, feeling nourished and renewed by both. It struck me that these talents and sense of wonder were a part of what caused Paula to see each of us so clearly, and allowed us to see those passions reflected in others on our tours.

Farewell Gatherings by James Eastman.

Emily Shapiro

“Endless thanks,” Paula, for always being a haven of tranquility and stability, helping to keep me calm and confident amidst my Mia tour assignments, despite last-minute changes, cancellations, and unanticipated snafus. You always helped me to remember that Mia is a joyful place and that we guides are privileged to share it with our visitors and with one another.

JeanMarie Burtness

I will miss Paula's warm greetings and her spot-on knack for keeping track of our touring preferences and special interests. Like others, I always felt that she assigned me the 'plum' topics and groups. Unknown to many guides, Paula has also been an essential collaborator with the Mia Friends K-12 School Bus Grants program. She would share the tour dates of grant recipient schools with the Friends via a spreadsheet, and then verify when those tours were completed so the schools could receive their grants from the Friends.

Liz Short summed it up with one word: kindness. She pointed out that there is great strength in kindness and Paula modeled that for all of us.

We wish for Paula to find peace and clarity as she goes forward to discover this new phase, while recognizing the loss of her steady hand and heart here at Mia. As one guide said: “You were our port in the storm. You will be missed.”

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