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  • Shawn Gilliam

Getting to Know Our New Tour and Programs Coordinator, Ashley Linarte

Learn more about her background, her interests, and her thoughts on StaffSavvy.

With barely three months on the job as our Tour and Programs Coordinator, Ashley Linarte is already figuring out the bugs for (and what bugs guides about) StaffSavvy. As she learns more about tours, museum visitors, and all of us, she’ll put a special blend of creative and operational skills to work. Insight recently connected with her to learn more about her background, her interests, and what drew her to Mia.

Mia Guides are so happy to have you on board. Tell us a little about yourself—your first visit to Mia, your thoughts on art, and what drew you to this role.

I grew up in Eagan, and I grew up visiting Mia. I remember the first time I came here—I think I was a kindergartner on a school field trip. Walking in and seeing the sunburst in the General Mills lobby as a kid, I remember thinking I'd never seen anything like it. It’s a core memory at this point.

I’ve always had a love and appreciation for art. I myself like to paint and crochet, and I’ve always had a lot of artists in my personal life, so I’ve always enjoyed this sphere. That said, after college, I was working in veterinary medicine, and that’s kind of where I got into coordinating a little bit. At that point, I was living in Chicago, and it was just time to move back home. So I got a job in the Twin Cities as a client service coordinator and realized that I really enjoyed that kind of work. Kind of being the middleman and making things happen is fun to me. So when I saw this opportunity at Mia open up, I liked not only that realm of being in art museums and education—something that's much more aligned with my values than I was doing in the private sector—but also being able to bring my coordinating skills that I had developed over the years and really help the department flourish. And it might not feel like that way yet with all the software issues, but I'm confident we're getting there.

We are confident of that too. You just mentioned veterinary medicine. Tell us more about the jump from that!

I went to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, for animal science, and my plan was to be a vet. But I would say 90% of my friends were in the College of Art and Design, so I was pretty active in volunteering with their events because the things they were doing were very cool, and I also got to hang out with my friends. One of the events was Iowa State’s pretty large-scale fashion show they have every year, and that was something I was involved in all four years of college, assisting where it was needed. But I've always enjoyed being around creatives and seeing how their brain works a little bit. I would say I’m right there in the middle [of the arts and sciences], so it's always nice to be a part of creative spaces.

That’s great, because now you’re at Mia. Over the years, do any special experiences here or at other art museums stand out?

When Guillermo del Toro's At Home with Monsters special exhibition was here, that was really amazing to see. I’m a pretty big gothic horror fan. And when I can, I love to travel with my partner, and we either do art museum or a zoo. If I can find a credible AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoo, we'll do a zoo. If not, we'll do an art museum. I would say probably my fondest experience at an art museum is Moco (Modern Contemporary) in Amsterdam. I was in Amsterdam in 2018, and Moco was unlike anything I'd ever experienced in an art museum, with the level of interaction you could have with a lot of the spaces there. It was an experience that opened my eyes to what a museum could be.

What do you think of Mia’s approach?

Mia’s mission is one of its biggest driving forces—to be accessible to the community and make it known that this is a place for everyone. It's not only a benefit to the museum—to have people within the community come and visit—but it's a benefit to the community I'm living in.

Now, the question you’ve been waiting for: What do you think about StaffSavvy?

What can I say about Staff Savvy? I can say it nicely—I don’t want to offend it, I don't want to make it mad at me. It is a system that I'm sure would be great for a lot of things, and we're getting it to a place where it will be great for us. But it was something that was left unmanaged—and obviously that’s no one’s fault, we just didn't have this position filled. So it is a little bit of a “struggle bus,” but we're getting there.

You’ve already made a difference! What else are you looking forward to in your role?

I truly have not found the time yet, but something I do want to prioritize moving forward is starting to tag along on some of these tours—just to get a feel for how customizable a lot of these tours are. That isn’t something I had super clear perspective on when I started—how much time goes into planning before a tour. I did have the opportunity to meet a good chunk of guides at the guide mixer a few weeks ago now, which was really awesome. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming and patient through these issues. It could be a lot more discouraging starting a new job when things like Staff Savvy weren’t going according to plan, but the guides I have interacted with and met have really softened those blows, and it's been great.

How about the feeling you get working in a museum space like this? Have you taken breaks for some exploring?

I have had a little bit of time to explore. My first week, I just wanted to make sure I had a better idea of the layout of the museum. Obviously, I've been here before, but it's a little different when you're trying to coordinate guides and send them through the museum with groups of 60 at a time. You just want to make sure that that can be done successfully. So I wanted to familiarize myself with the layout, and then that led to me watching a lot of people throughout the museum. You can tell what this place means—being a free institution and being accessible to the public. I felt a lot of pride walking through the galleries and seeing people enjoy the art.

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