Women’s History Month Highlight: Ashlee Whitaker
For Women’s History Month, the BYU MOA wanted to highlight the incredible women who work inside the museum. Let us introduce you to Ashlee Whitaker, Head Curator.
- How long have you worked at the MOA?
- What is your favorite part about your job?
Learning about art every day! And finding exciting new exhibition ideas that I think will be meaningful for our patrons
- What has been your favorite exhibit at the MOA?
That is really hard to say, because I love so many of our exhibitions. As a curator, a few of my favorite exhibitions to work on have been: Loving Devotion –I had such a rich experience learning about and experience a small part of Hindu devotional practice; Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Park was just plain fun to develop; The Interpretation Thereof brought a lot of fulfillment in seeking to bring together scripture and visual art in a compelling way, and through interactions with contemporary artists.
- What’s one challenging aspect of your job?
Besides keeping exhibition label text short… I think balancing myriad curatorial projects can be tricky. I’m often working on five shows at a time, so it’s important to keep on top of all of the moving parts. It also makes the job dynamic and interesting J
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
Since age 5, my career aspirations evolved: Veterinarian, Teacher, Journalist, Art History Professor, Curator
- What types of cool opportunities has the MOA given you?
Too many to recount! It’s a blessing to meet wonderful people and to see original masterworks on a daily basis. A stand-out moment was my first opportunity to acquire a painting for the MOA at auction. We found out about the painting just three days before the auction. We were blessed to secure a donor to sponsor our bid at auction and within 12 hours I was on a red-eye flight to New York. It was quite an adventure, and we got the painting—which was very exciting!
- Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled?
England is always a special place to visit; Cambodia and Spain are amazing
- What women do you most look up to/ are inspired by in your life?
My mom and other women in my family. I have been continually blessed by incredible women as friends, neighbors, and mentors who exemplify genuine love, goodness, and gratitude. So often, they’ve use their own unique gifts and inspiration to bless lives in their particular way. Their examples help me aspire to do the same and find joy in life.
- What’s a typical day like for you?
There is a fair amount of variety from day to day, but when not in meetings, I usually am involved in some type of research or writing for a future exhibition.
- How do you stay motivated?
There are always deadlines coming up for various projects, which certainly helps me stay motivated. Truly, the anticipation of patrons seeing the exhibitions and imagining the potential impact of their experience is really motivating. It’s the vision that helps push the work forward.
- What are some of your hobbies?
Running, hiking, attending cultural events (plays, symphony, museums), playing the piano, spending time with friends and family
- What advice would you give students?
Take time each day to reconnect with your most important priorities, and enjoy the present moment/season you are in.
- If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
- Who is your favorite artist/what is your favorite artwork?
Too many to list! I can say that my first two artist “crushes” were Michelangelo and Van Gogh, during my teenage years. I read The Agony and the Ecstasy, a novel about Michelangelo, and I became enamored of his work, particularly his sculpture. Then I saw Van Gogh’s artwork in person and it was so emotive and powerful. It brought me to tears.
- If you weren’t at your current job, what would you want to do?
Some kind of humanitarian work.