About the Friends of the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art
On Thursday, October 2, 1980, thirty women who had been invited by Father Robert Dodson, O.S.B. assembled at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum for the purpose of organizing a volunteer association to serve the museum. Father Robert, who had led the campaign to build the MGM and who served as its first director, had asked Joan Hoar, chairman of the volunteers of the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, to direct the meeting, and with her organization’s by-laws as the model, the Mabee-Gerrer Museum Volunteer Society was established that afternoon. Under Father Robert’s guidance, the volunteers designated three areas in which the MGMoAVS would serve: they would give tours as Docents; they would operate a Gift Shop; and they would provide information, which included everything from directions for visitors to odd jobs for the director. Father Robert Dodson and Martin Wiesendanger, conservator, art historian, and supporter of the museum, gave training to the volunteers. Father Robert, who had studied under Father Gerrer and had an abiding love and respect for the collection, insisted that all volunteers must attend all docent training. Enthusiastically spreading knowledge of the collection was the mission; the joy of the experience with the paintings was its own reward.
Beloved Father Robert Dodson left a huge gap in the Mabee-Gerrer Museum and in the hearts of all the volunteers when he died in 1982. He had not yet accomplished all the research he had in mind, but he had seen the museum built and the collection protected. And he proclaimed his fervent belief in the enduring value of the volunteers to the museum. With brick and mortar established, he asserted, it would be the VOLUNTEERS who would generate the growth necessary for success of the Mabee-Gerrer Museum. His final words on the subject were, “Don’t let the volunteers die!”
The MGMoA volunteers have expanded their repertoire of duties far beyond the three original areas of service. They have equipped and managed a kitchen from which innumerable receptions, meetings, luncheons and dinners are served. They have developed award-winning children’s education programs, supplied diverse needs of the museum--from parquet flooring and wall panels to copiers and cameras--and hosted a myriad of educational, promotional and fund-raising events. Wherever they go, they are goodwill ambassadors for MGM, and several of the women who were present that fall afternoon in 1980 are still serving and supporting the museum today.
At their meeting on April 15, 2013, the members of the MGMoA Volunteer Society voted to change their name, effective July 1, 2013. The focus of the museum, as well as the lifestyles and interests of the volunteers, have evolved over the decades. There was consensus that the name “Friends of the MGMoA” better reflected and responded to all of those areas of growth and change.
by charter member Megan Clement