For 21 years, Mary Jo Maute taught the history of the Northwest Coast people to thousands of Whatcom County school children, brought art to families experiencing homelessness, inspired high school students to consider careers in the arts, and taught adults painting and art techniques through various workshops. Last month, Maute, an education and program coordinator at the Museum, retired from her position, but her legacy will remain. Before leaving, Maute reflected on her time and experiences at the Museum.
How long have you worked at the Whatcom Museum, and what role(s) have you had?
Twenty one years ago, we moved to Bellingham from Montana, where I had served as the Curator of Education at the Yellowstone Art Museum. We were drawn here for this job at the Museum.
My role has been planning and presenting programs that relate to the permanent and special exhibitions, most often working with school groups to enhance the school curriculum. The school program that has kept me the busiest since day one is the People of the Sea and Cedar tour and workshop. Pretty much every 3rd grader in Whatcom County and many from Skagit, Snohomish, and Island Counties benefit from this program. One would think that running this remarkable program for 21 years would become tiring, but I love working with children and everyone has a good time. Teachers praise the program and return each year because it fits so perfectly with the Washington State education standards and provides an authentic quality experience that is not replicable in classrooms.
I’ve also coordinated a variety of public programs, including talks by artists, curators, and historians, Family Activity Days (now Community Art Museum Day), Brown Bag lunch programs, Artful Pairings (opportunities for adults to get creative and learn interesting techniques while sipping wine), and concerts, which provide the community with opportunities to engage with our local arts and culture.
I can say with certainty that Mary Jo is a beloved art teacher, a well-respected colleague and friend of this community! –Susanna Brooks, Whatcom Museum Director of Learning Innovation
This past spring marked the 20th anniversary of the high school Art Career Day, a special project of mine. Art Career Day builds the next generation of artists, educators, and lifelong creative learners. This conference brings together 130 Whatcom County high school students and their art teachers for a day at the museum meeting with regional artists and college art department representatives.
I’ve also been the education department’s liaison with the museum intern program through Western Washington University’s (WWU) Anthropology Department. It’s been a real joy to give college students a taste of what it’s like to work in a museum and engage with school groups and the public. Read more