Pamela D.C. Junior and Sheila Sheriff
In an effort to keep the show fresh while trying to increase participation numbers, it is important for our coordinators to reevaluate the way in which they are reaching their target audience especially if the venue has been with the program for a number of years. After seven years with the National Arts Program®, this is exactly what our City of Jackson, MS coordinators did.
Co-Coordinators Pamela D.C. Junior (pictured left) and Sheila Sheriff (pictured below) decided to remove the middle man, in their case the administration they usually relied on to inform the employees of the opportunity to participate in the annual City Impressions exhibit. Instead, utilizing a new marketing strategy they decided to directly reach out to all eligible participants by sending them a mailer about the upcoming event. The result, the largest NAP show in Jackson since they joined the program in 2005! Their Eighth Annual NAP exhibit displayed 144 pieces of artwork by 132 artists, a 55% increase over 2011 alone. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a step back to re-evaluate how you are reaching your audience that can make all the difference.
After such a successful year, we asked Pam and Sheila to share their thoughts about the program. Here is what they had to say …
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on by the City of Jackson?
Great question that you ask! The reason this particular exhibit is different is because it’s put on by employees and their relatives. How great is it to know that the City’s 2400 employees have all of this talent lurking amongst them. People sit at home with their hobbies and passions and no one sees or is introduced to this side of someone that you may work next to everyday. So, this opportunity has been great for the employees to be able to walk into an established museum to see their artwork hanging not only is it good for them, friends and their relatives, but it give people an opportunity to come into a venue that they’ve never attempted to come to. It’s a win, win situation throughout.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
You work next to each other for years, never knowing a whole lot about your cubicle neighbor and all of a sudden you find out that this person is a budding artist or a craftsperson. How awesome is it to find out what a person’s passion is. Through this event we have been in awe at the degree of work that we receive from employees. Another summation is now you have something new to talk about! We have found out so much about the individuals who want to exhibit their works in this show, and have made some long lasting friends. One gentleman came in with a sketch; this sketch was of a man with the world on his shoulders. The gentleman surmised the work as being him with the stress and worries of work being a burden on his shoulders everyday! Through sketching out his thoughts it had to be therapeutic in a way.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
There have been employees who’ve participated since this program was introduced to Jackson, Mississippi. For that, we are truly grateful. The number of new faces increased and getting the children involved and seeing a parent and other relatives show pride in their children’s work is phenomenal.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in the government setting is so important?
Sometimes working in a government setting can become mundane. The routine workload can usually be the same from day in to day out. By bringing this program to Jackson, Mississippi we really think that Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. got it right! He saw this program on one of his many trips and he wanted to implement this program here. Mayor Johnson realized that this could be another avenue to see another side to the employees of the City of Jackson and by bringing this program here he has accomplished his tasks.
5. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
Preparation. This is truly a team effort. Sheila is the manager of Publications, she and staff members are responsible for titles and other graphics that make the gallery look inviting for the show. At least (3) of the employees under publications participate in this event. Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is where the event takes place, I am the overseer of this division. Staff members are responsible for putting up the exhibition and getting judges. We enjoy the camaraderie and partnership with the two divisions to get the venue ready for judging and the opening reception. For us, that’s the best aspect of the event.
Q. Do visitors to the building respond to the employee exhibit?
Curious patrons ask lots of questions about the exhibit. Who are the artist? What made them select this particular subject? Who initiated this program? And etc.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
Truly, the experience was new for us, but we were glad that a couple of the employees decided to go this route. We hope to make this a significant part of the event the next time.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
Pam: As a museum manager I must say I am impressed with the level and experience on some of the artist. Through the National Arts Program® we have one gentleman that decided to pursue a degree in art, has been and instructor of graphic art and is now moving to Texas to pursue a position as a graphic artist for a well-known company! You can’t beat that! We call him our little discovery. He has done well and his first showing in a museum started under this program!
Sheila: As manager of Publications for the City of Jackson it has inspired me to dabble in creative art projects and photography. I’ve learned to respect and appreciate the arts even more since working with the National Arts Program®. I can say that each year we receive a phenomenal group of participants who never fail to impress. It is truly a great privilege and honor to be able to help someone show off their talents.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
Pam: My background started as a Park Ranger with the National Parks Service outside of Washington, D.C. After moving back to Mississippi I pursued a position with Parks and Recreation under the City of Jackson. After 10 years of service I was asked to interview for a position as manager of Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center and have been employed here for the last 13 years.
Shelia: My background started as an Offset Press Operator twenty three years ago, where I learned how to mix various colors of ink for printing. During my tenure with the City of Jackson I learned the creative aspects of color separations and graphic design.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
We would truly like to thank all of the employees who have participated in this program over the years! Sometimes getting this program together can be really hard with us both having leadership roles in our perspective divisions, but we look at the outcome and that’s the faces of the many employees who enjoy placing their works in “City Impressions”. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts and can’t wait for the 9th Annual event!!!!