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  • Meg Ubel

MIA GUIDES COUNCIL: The Inside Story

You’re in the Guide Lounge and a fellow guide mentions to you, “I’m on the Guide Council.” You think: “I’ve heard of that but what is it, exactly?” Not a surprising reaction, considering we’ve had our hands full the past few years adjusting to pandemic-induced changes to the museum, a whole new guide program and, more recently, our return to in-person touring. But it’s worthwhile taking a look at what the Mia Guides Council is and what it does.




Left to Right, top: James Eastman, Lyn Osgood, Meg Ubel, Loreen Fripp, Victoria Amaris, Deb Hegstrom (Mia, Senior Educator Left to Right, bottom: Sheila-Marie (third from left with family), Kit Wilson, Shawn Gilliam, Maryam Marne Zafar, Kara ZumBahlen (Mia Associate Educator) Photo Collage of Mia Guide Council Members • Credit: Maryam Marne Zafar


Some background: Our current Mia Guides program was formed a little less than two years ago, in May 2021, by merging the three existing guide programs. As part of the restructuring, a group of guides was brought together to help build the new program in the months that followed. This “Transition Council” was made up of members of the former Art Adventure, CIF and Docent councils, and our job was to work with Mia staff to shape the new program and resolve the many questions and issues that came up along the way. The Council helped in a number of different areas: drafting a policies and procedures document, merging bank accounts and guide support funds from the previous programs, helping develop the new Cross Currents and Public Tour formats, arranging social events such as the in-person anniversary event in June, and designing and producing a newsletter for all guides (Insight, which you are now reading).


The guide program has now moved out of the transition phase, so the Transition Council was officially renamed the “Mia Guides Council” last October. “I am very proud of the work the committee has completed so far. We merged three very different tour models and trainings and combined them into one cohesive set of guides,” said Sheila-Marie Untiedt, a member of the 2009 Docent class and a current co-chair on the Council. “The heavy lifting is done and we have the final documents. Going forward this group will be responsible to advocate for guides, continue to blend the groups to create a fun and supportive cohort, and serve as a liaison with staff.”


What does the Mia Guides Council do? We meet monthly during the school year, usually with both Kara and Debbi in attendance and sometimes other Mia staff. Council members fill various positions, including co-chair, secretary, social chair, newsletter editor and at-large member. We plan social events, discuss program policy, and pitch ideas for the newsletter. We get the latest Mia updates, including staffing changes, status of current and upcoming special exhibitions, new museum policies, and more. The atmosphere is purposeful but also energetic and collaborative; Debbi and Kara are very open to our ideas and input. Going forward, council members will have one-year terms beginning June 30, with a limit of two consecutive terms.


Now that the Mia Guides Council is up and running, it’s time to rotate in some new members and fresh voices. Here are some reasons you might want to consider becoming a part of this: you can have a say in what happens with the guide program in the future, you can choose a role on the council that suits you, and you can meet some great new people. Plus, you receive a tour credit for every month the council meets. James Eastman, a member of the 2015 CIF class and one of three rotating co-chairs on the council, commented, “The three of us take turns calling the meetings to order and helping to conduct focused, productive and efficient meetings. As one of the newer guides on the Council, it’s been a pleasure to meet my colleagues from other programs, all of whom are brilliant, kind and funny! I feel much more connected to Mia and our mission as guides.” Loreen Fripp, another co-chair, calls the experience “wonderful and rich. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and feel so fortunate to serve my fellow guides.” Meg Ubel, one of the newsletter editors, feels that “we are at the core of the guide program - we find out what’s going on at Mia, what other guides are doing and interested in, information about art and touring and exhibitions, and then we get to share that with the whole group.”


Interested? There’s a place for you on the council! You can contact Debbi, Kara or anyone currently on the Mia Guides Council (listed below) for more information. Or attend the Mia Guide mixer on March 23rd and get the inside story firsthand - Mia Guides Council members will be there and happy to answer questions.


– Loreen Fripp, James Eastman, Sheila-Marie Untiedt (co-chairs)

– Lyn Osgood (secretary, social chair)

– Meg Ubel, Shawn Gilliam, Marne Zafar (Insight editors)

– Kit Wilson, Victoria Amaris (at-large members)


Here are a few thoughts from other Council members, about the Council and about the touring we do. Shawn Gilliam, part of the CIF Americas class of 2010, says: “Giving a tour is a lot like writing a story (I've worked most of my career in magazine publishing), which I love -- engaging the audience with compelling information and ideas, reaching a more universal takeaway, and so on. Serving on the Council is exciting because I'm able to work with fellow guides and our Mia staff to help support you, our community of guides, ensuring we have all the latest insights to connect our visitors with art.” Marne Zafar, from the same CIF 2010 class, adds “Serving on the Council has allowed me to understand how to best support each of you. As a visual strategist and graphic designer, I am one of three editors who have created an online newsletter, Insight, that connects us to what we do at Mia as well as what is happening in the museum world nationally and internationally.”


One final comment from Lyn Osgood, who has served as secretary and also social chair of the group: “I have loved being a part of the Guide Council!I am a weekend guide and was in the Docent class of 1991.Being on the Council has really shown me how many different points of view we guides have from our respective past experiences.It is wonderful to be part of a group that only wants the best for our visitors, our guides and Mia.Come join us, you will be so glad you did!”

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