volunteerMelissa Shimek and her daughters Ginny, and Mary have a regular date each month volunteering together at the Erie Art Museum. Their enthusiasm is obvious as they participate in our Second Sundays programming, helping to facilitate the experience for other families. We want to know what it is that keeps them coming back.

Why do you volunteer at the EAM?

I began volunteering with the EAM decades ago to learn more about the functioning logistics of a museum and to support an incredible local resource. I wanted Mary and Ginny to volunteer their time to learn museum membership isn’t just about having a great time at Gallery Night or anticipating the Spring Show. I need them to understand support isn’t just about giving your money. It is about giving of yourself to something you believe in. I want them to understand you need to devote your time and your energy to things you want to see succeed and grow.

What do you get out of volunteering?

Ginny and Mary are definitely beginning to gain a sense of community. They are able to see the familiar faces of staff and other volunteers. They also have a constant interaction with others they may never have had the opportunity to meet and share time with otherwise. Although they are young and often bump into age-related boundaries, they are able to actively contribute what they have to offer and know it absolutely makes a positive difference in the world around them. This makes them very happy. When they are happy, I am happy!

Why should others volunteer?

People need to be part of something beyond themselves and their most immediate environment. It is the nature of being humans. Community. Your city is not just where you live, it is HOW you live. It isn’t just streets, homes, and businesses. It is a living thing that needs to be fed, nurtured, and cherished. Now, take what I said about your city and apply that to your world. There are things existing much larger than us but we are all integral. We don’t exist without it, it doesn’t exist without us.

Why are art museums important to your family life?

Our family loves to create. We love to see/feel/hear all others are creating around us. It is expression keeping everything flowing within us and outside of us whether visual, kinetic, or aural. They say sharks must keep moving or die. We believe humans must keep creating or die. So, museums become a type of aesthetic temple for us. It is a place where we connect with art, with ourselves, and with others. It is a constant tip of the hat to all that makes us human. And EAM helps celebrate that by sharing it with our community. We visit numerous other museums in other cities, but the fact we have EAM within a 5-10 minute drive from our home? AMAZING!

How has your family benefited from volunteering at the EAM?

It brings us closer together as a family. It makes us realize our impact as a unit and as individuals. And we get to spend even more time in one of our MOST favorite environments TOGETHER.

Melissa Shimek is a dedicated mother, freelance artist, paper pusher, and a museum volunteer. Ginny & Mary Shimek are excellent students, writers, mixed media artists, and experimental filmmakers. Families like the Shimeks help to make our museum a lively place filled with activity while teaching their children about cultural stewardship and community building. Contact us to see how you can become part of the bigger picture.