Do you enjoy spending time among beautiful works of art or perhaps being the first to see new exhibits
at the Museum? Do you thrive on meeting new people, from as near as down the block to as far away
as across North America? Do you see yourself as an ambassador for your community?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any or all of the above, then your Museum needs YOU! As a wholly non-profit institution, the Art Museum cannot exist without volunteers. Museum volunteers greet visitors, answer phones, help with Museum Shop sales, assist with special events and KidsArt programs and serve as docents at the Museum. They work as many—or as few—hours per week or month as they choose.Click here to submit the Art Museum’s volunteer form today to take the first step to becoming one of our volunteers.
Villa Voice, Fall 2017
When Saturday visitors to the Art Museum meet volunteer Judy Smith at the front desk, they’re charmed by her warmth and enthusiasm, her positive attitude.
What they don’t realize is that Smith is probably one of the luckiest people alive. Just last September, Smith experienced a frightening brush with pancreatic cancer. Treated immediately, with expert medical care — and as she says, “some big-time guardian angels looking out for me” — she came through the experience and, at recent checkups, has been pronounced disease-free. But she also shares some of the credit for her recovery with the Art Museum.
“The Museum really helped my recovery,” she says. “After being gone for three months (during treatment), I was really glad to get back. It helped me get back to being myself.”
Although she had no art training — she retired from a 32-year career in Loudoun County, Virginia, as a physical education teacher before moving to the Grand Strand in 2011 — Smith had always had an appreciation for the arts. After moving to the Market Common community in 2014, and looking for things nearby to do, she happened to visit the Art Museum with some friends.
“I was just hooked,” she recalls, comparing her experience with that of many of the visitors she meets at the Museum. “So often, it’s just by chance that they find it — even though it’s pretty well publicized — but when they leave, they’re saying, ‘I’ve just got to come back.’ ”
She recalls one woman who had come to Myrtle Beach with her husband to celebrate her 40th birthday. Bored with the beach, the woman told her husband she would go and look at the Art Museum for 10 minutes or so. “Two hours later, she was still here,” Smith says. “Her husband was probably wondering what happened to her!”
Smith says she enjoys meeting people, learning where they are from and trading tips about the area. But she also enjoys seeing the reactions of first-time visitors to the Museum. “They’re surprised at the quality of the exhibitions: the quality of the work, the history that’s incorporated into the exhibits, and that they’re so professionally put together. Like now, we have three different exhibits in the Museum, but they all go together. It just pulls you in.”
She has nothing but praise for Museum staffers: their knowledge, friendliness and helpfulness to visitors. “They really work hard to promote art,” she says. That includes the many programs and exhibits geared toward children. One of her first assignments was working on the Tea Porch during the LEGOs-based Art of the Bric exhibition. The area had been set up to allow children to create their own works of art with Lego bricks.
“The kids would come in and they’d get so focused on building their masterpieces that some wouldn’t want to leave!” she recalls.
Although impressed by all the exhibits she’s seen at the Museum, Smith says her favorite is the annual high school students’ juried exhibition, which she says “blows me away — the creativity, the vision they show. And they’re all so humble, saying things like ‘I never thought I’d even make it into the show.’ “
To would-be Museum volunteers, Smith emphasizes that no one should hesitate to sign on, regardless of their level of experience. “You don’t have to have any art knowledge, but you’ll certainly learn. I’ve already learned a lot about the history and culture of South Carolina. All you have to do is smile and be welcoming.”
“The great thing about the Art Museum,” she adds, “is everybody leaves happy.”
If you came to The Art of the Brick exhibit this summer, you probably saw the LEGO mural on the Museum’s Tea Porch: a sort of Lego-by-numbers rendering of the Myrtle Beach skyline, set up to allow visitors to try their hand at creating a LEGO work of art. And if you did, you may have also met Tracey Roode there in one of her first assignments as an Art Museum volunteer.
“I got to play with LEGOs all summer,” she says with a laugh.
A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Tracey’s childhood amusements ran more to Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys and the great outdoors. But she quickly warmed to the LEGOs assignment, sharing the enthusiasm of the youngsters (mostly) who worked on the mural.
“Some of the kids would add things like jellyfish or seaweed – made out of LEGOs – which weren’t really in the picture but were fun,” she recalls. “And one adult made a replica of the Swan Bench (on the Tea Porch). That was amazing.”
Tracey and her husband, Rich, a physician assistant with Doctor’s Care, relocated to Myrtle Beach shortly after New England’s brutal winter of 2014. “I’m actually a winter person,” she says, “but I have to admit I’m not missing it!”
New in town with no local acquaintances aside from Rich’s parents – and as a student in Arts Management in the University of Massachusetts’ online degree program – Tracey naturally gravitated to the Art Museum. There, she says, she discovered her “community,” a place where she could meet new people and share her enthusiasm for the visual arts.
“I worked at the art museum in Worcester, but this museum is unlike any of the others I’ve ever visited,” she recalls. “I immediately fell in love with it. It’s a very warm museum with a real connection to the community.”
What especially appealed to her was the accessibility of the Museum staff, unlike other facilities where staff members mostly seemed “tucked away” from the public.
“Here, a lot of times you’ll see Pat (Goodwin) interacting with visitors in the Museum Shop, at the front desk, or in the galleries,” she says. “I just love that.”
Goodwin has also been a resource for Tracey in her studies. With just two semesters to go before completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Arts Management, she’s been able to get hands-on practical training in museum finance and in researching exhibitions. Upon completing her degree, she hopes to work for a community-based nonprofit arts organization, but still plans to continue as an Art Museum volunteer.
“It’s great to be around amazing art, some from local artists, some from renowned, nationally- known artists, in an atmosphere that’s really warm and welcoming,” she says. “If you love art and love people, this is definitely the place to be.”
Volunteer Spotlight: Helen Bowden
I’m a real people person, and I love the people and the work there – although I don’t call it working, I have too much fun.
While many Myrtle Beach transplants moved here to escape the cold Northern winters, Art Museum volunteer Helen Bowden came for a different sort of warmth: the people.
Helen and her husband, Ned, were ready to retire from their respective careers: he as an Episcopal minister, she from more than 45 years as a registered nurse. The couple had acquired a lovely, 100-year-old waterfront home in New Harbor, Maine, which they had begun renovating. But its location was a tad remote for a couple who weren’t kids anymore – especially in the snowy winter months.
The couple had vacationed here from time to time since the 1990s. One day, Ned asked, “How would you like to retire to Myrtle Beach?” In slightly more than a heartbeat, Helen answered yes.
Happy to find the South Carolina locals to be friendly, she quickly settled into volunteer activities: joining a Kiwanis group, then Angel Threads Ministry, making hand-crocheted Afghans for babies. But still something was missing – and she found it at the Art Museum.
Working every Friday at the Museum, her main duties are staffing the front desk and helping out in the Museum Shop. While making introductions and offering suggestions on what to see in the Museum, Helen gets to enjoy her favorite pastime: finding out where the visitors are from.
“We get people from all over the world: English, Germans, Balkans,” she notes. “And from all over the United States. Just the other day I met people from Oklahoma, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Georgia, all in one day.”
On occasion she has been able to help Education Coordinators Arielle Fatuova with a KidsArt project, and she says she finds it hard to praise “those kids” enough for their creativity and inventiveness.
In fact, she offers high praise for all the Museum staffers – she refers to them as “the girls” – and for Executive Director Pat Goodwin, who she calls “the Steel Magnolia who runs the ship.”
Speaking of ships, Helen and Ned have discovered a new love since retiring: taking cruises. Although Helen was reluctant at first – “I saw The Poseidon Adventure years ago, and you know how that ended,” she says – eventually she put a toe in the water, so to speak, and found she was hooked. They’ve since traveled to the Mediterranean, multiple trips to the Caribbean, and as you read this, they’re currently touring the Baltic. Helen was especially excited about visiting the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, on her 73rd birthday, and this fall, making a pilgrimage to Normandy, France, where she hopes to say thanks to the fallen soldiers buried there.
Like the rest of the Museum staff and volunteers, Helen is excited about the upcoming exhibit of Lego creations. Art of the Brick. “They haven’t even advertised the exhibit yet, and we can already tell there are going to be huge crowds,” she says. “After all, who doesn’t love Legos?”
For Helen, it’s bound to be a busy and enjoyable summer, with so many new people to meet.
“I can’t draw a straight line, but I love art and I love meeting people,” she says. “You don’t have to be an expert (in art) – if you enjoy being with people, working at the Museum is a ball.”
© 2016 Franklin G. Burroughs • Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum
Myrtle Beach’s Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum strives to be one of the finest visual arts museums in the Carolinas. With 11 galleries that change throughout the year, Myrtle Beach’s only art museum offers exhibitions featuring paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, video, ceramics, assemblage, collage and more. A visit to the Art Museum’s exhibitions can be enhanced by its lively programming, including artist receptions, tours, lectures, workshops and classes for both adults and children.