This month, Member Spotlight features Laura Michels, Contributor Member and Docent.
“I joined the museum in 2016. I also became a volunteer that year. One of the perks of membership is the opportunity to volunteer at the Norton. Joining the museum and volunteering introduced me to an entirely new community. As a volunteer, I met several people from the Museum’s Education team. These people were smart, caring, and excited about the Norton. This was something I wanted to be part of. I met other volunteers—people of all ages—with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds; yet, we all had something in common: we supported Mr. Norton’s mission to share art and art education with the community. I attended programs, even took some classes, and enjoyed the Friday night Art After Dark festivities on a regular basis. The Norton’s offerings started to populate my calendar. I felt part of an inclusive community.
My initial volunteer assignment, helping with a visitor survey, brought me to the museum a couple of afternoons a week. After volunteering, I always wanted to linger in the museum (The Norton was under construction and only the original 1941 building was open). I found myself wandering through an elegant series of Art Deco galleries surrounding a central courtyard. The intimacy and elegance of the galleries beguiled me. I would wander the galleries and spend time with the art. H.D. Thoreau spoke of the “art of sauntering”—taking unhurried walks with no destination and often traveling repeatedly over the same terrain. Surveying the countryside, Thoreau imagined which estates or farms he might purchase. While Thoreau sauntered the countryside taking in the natural world, I sauntered through the galleries considering the works art—some became my favorites, others made me curious, and some were puzzling, but my experience was somehow meditative.
Recently, I read about a study on the benefits of museum experiences linking the museum experience with time spent in a natural environment. Research indicates that the four factors that contribute to mental restoration are commonly found in both natural environments and museums. The best news? As a member I can visit the museum as often as I wish, free of charge.”