Twenty-four years ago, Susan Spears received a call from the board of trustees of the Michelson Museum telling her that she would be taking over as director of the museum.
At the end of next month, Spears will wrap up that trip and hand over to Dinora Harris, the museum’s former director of education.
“I never applied for the job, I was just told I would take over,” Spears said, recalling the call 24 years ago that appointed her to head the museum. “I was unable to attend our board meeting, and so I asked the vice president to sit in my place, and he called me afterwards and said “Well, our manager quit, but the good news is you’re going to be our next manager,” and I was like…wait a minute.”
She eventually agreed to take on the role of acting director, which she says was always intended to be temporary — except it ended up being her job for more than two decades.
“It all happened in the blink of an eye, really,” Spears said.
During her tenure as director, Spears said she was most proud of all she had worked to expand the museum’s collection. When she first stepped into the role of director, the museum was a unique artist’s museum, showcasing work exclusively by its namesake artist Leo Michelson.
“We still have Leo Michelson’s work, of course, but now we have a much wider range of different art and artists,” Spears said.
Today, the museum has 62 different artists in its collection.
“We’re not a buying museum,” Spears explained, “That means everything in our collection is given to us.”
Throughout her tenure as director, Spears oversaw the donation and presentation of hundreds of collections, which she said she always took extreme pleasure in organizing and illuminating.
“Susan is amazing with lighting,” Harris said, “there’s no one who can light up like she can.”
Spears actually discovered her love of lighting even before she started working at the Michelson, becoming passionate about it during her middle and high school years, where she worked in various school plays and productions. .
“My mom had this idea that I would be an actor, so she involved me in a number of plays and other show-type programs,” Spears said, “Well, I found out that I’m had a lot more fun working behind the scenes, and that’s really where I found the dramatic difference the right lighting can make.
Spears brought this natural talent to her work at the museum and said she intends to keep coming back after her retirement to help out and volunteer.
“I mean I started as a volunteer before I even joined the board, which is before I became a director, so it’s good to get back to that,” Spears said.
Spears said she planned for Harris to become manager when she was first officially hired on the team about a year ago.
“I cast her,” Spears said with a laugh, “I knew I wanted her to be the director for a while.”
Harris, on the other hand, said she had no idea when she started working at the museum that she would be offered the position of director.
“I’m excited and excited, but also a little nervous,” Harris said, “Susan has done such an amazing job. But it will be nice to have her around to ask questions again.
Harris said as director she plans to ensure the museum’s annual events continue, such as the regular Day of the Dead celebration, Christmas tree display and art classes. the museum’s annual summer events.
In addition to this, she said she will work to update the museum’s online presence and cataloging system to include a comprehensive list of artists and their individual works so that it is accessible to the public.
Additionally, she said she hopes to help the museum continue to grow its presence in the community, by attending and promoting other arts events hosted by local organizations, as well as promoting local artists.
“Community living is really important to me, and it’s always been really important to my family, too,” Harris said. “I mean, look at me, I’m a Hispanic woman going to be a director of a museum, I want to use that to represent my culture and extend it to the community so everyone feels represented here at Marshall.
Spears will officially retire from her position on May 31 and Harris will take over as director on June 1.