Some museums might have a member appreciation day, or maybe even a week—at the Blanton, we have an entire Member Appreciation Month! Over the course of June, we’ve set up special perks, treats, and tours to thank our members for all they do for the Blanton. If you’re a member, one of the people you’ve undoubtedly interacted with is Hilary Elrod, our Membership Associate. To put a face to the voice on the other end of the phone, we sat down with Hilary to get some insight on what it’s like working with our members.
You graduated from UT in 2013 with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Art History—what’s it like working on the UT campus after spending 3 years here as a student?
Hilary: I love it so much. My time at UT was so special to me, so being able to take a break and walk by my favorite spots on campus any time I want is such a treat.
What does a typical day in the membership office look like for you?
My job covers many areas of membership, so my days are often very different. Sometimes, I will spend an entire day working on member profiles making sure everything is current. Other times, I’ll work on processing payments for our different levels of membership. We have about 4,000 members, so there’s always work to do in our database! On other days, I will be working on writing member-specific emails, preparing for events, attending brainstorming meetings, and answering any questions that members might call our office with, such as replacing a lost membership card or renewing their membership through another year.
What makes Blanton members special, and what’s the best part about working with them?
Blanton members are unique because of the small art community in Austin. In cities like New York, where large art museums are in abundance, it seems like a member might feel like they’re voice isn’t heard as much. In a small city like Austin, where the Blanton is the largest art museum, we are able to interact more closely with our members and really hear them and listen to feedback that we receive. That’s also one of my favorite parts about working with our members: it’s wonderful to get to personally interact with so many people who care so much about our institution. I hope that they can feel how important they are to us.
If a member walked in and said they only had 20 minutes to tour the museum, what three works would you recommend seeing?
The Blanton has such a wide range of art on view, so I think it’s important to get a taste of that when you visit.
First, I would definitely recommend Allegory of Youth by Domenico Piola—it’s my favorite piece in the collection. There’s something about a dramatic Baroque-era painting that will always stop me in my tracks in order to take a closer look.
I also love Modern and Contemporary art as well. One of the Blanton’s show-stopping pieces is Summer Circle by Richard Long. It’s a must-see. As soon as you see the giant, intricate sculpture taking up half the gallery floor space, you immediately want to know what the artist was thinking when he created it. The thoughtful placement of each stone is so beautiful to me.
Finally, I would also recommend seeing Rock Bottom by Joan Mitchell. In the center of the gallery on its own free-standing wall, this piece draws you in. Even if you aren’t a fan of abstract art, I think most visitors would enjoy discovering their own interpretation of the work. I personally love abstract art, and even have a wall in my apartment dedicated to my own amateur abstract pieces that I made a few years back.
What should members look forward to during Member Appreciation Month?
There’s going to be a lot of events and activities this year for Member Month! We have planned a family scavenger hunt, a special member preview of our new exhibition Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World with Caribbean themed snacks, and our B scene member lounge is going to be extra special. I’m excited about this year! We really wanted to show our members how much they mean to us by making this month as fun as possible.