As we navigate summer orientation in a pandemic, Arts NC State is reaching out to incoming students and others who’d like to get to know the faces behind the arts programs of Arts NC State. Be sure to visit go.ncsu.edu/arts to check out all we have to offer for your creative experiences at NC State!
We continue our Get to Know Us series with an interview of Mary Hauser, registrar and associate director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, two-time NC State College of Design alumna, maker of COVID-19 masks and handbell ringer extraordinaire.
How long have you been involved in the arts on campus and what do you do?
My involvement with the arts at NC State began over 20 years ago as a student. I participated in the women’s choir and percussion ensemble and took Jonathan Kramer’s world music classes. I also attended arts events through the University Scholars Program. Then as a graduate student, I was a part-time employee at the Gregg Museum (then the Gallery of Art & Design) and in the costume shop at University Theatre. I’ve been working at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design since 2007 and am now the registrar and associate director.
What has been one of your favorite projects you have worked on here?
Toward the end of my undergraduate studies, I took a special topics class through the College of Design taught by Susan Brandeis focused on textiles from around the world. For the final project, each student selected an object from the Gregg Museum’s collection to write a research paper about. We got to examine the piece in person, and afterward offered the information we discovered about the pieces for the museum to add to their database. Inspired by my time at the museum, I did an internship and got a part time job there. After graduate school, I worked at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.
When I returned to NC State for a job at the Gregg Museum, I got to work with Susan Brandeis to facilitate this class. Susan was a favorite professor of mine, and she continues to be a mentor to me. It was wonderful to collaborate with her to continue evolving the class to use the Gregg’s collection even more. We taught the class together eight times before we had to put collection visits on hold to move into the Gregg’s new building. While the number of students in each class had to be kept small due to the limited space in the museum’s storage area, the impact of seeing works in person was unmistakable. For some students (like me!) the class is life changing. This spring, we were able to facilitate the class again with Precious Lovell who took over for Susan following Susan’s retirement. Even though we had to transition to an online format for the last half of the semester, I’m proud of the impact we continue to have on students through the Gregg’s collection. This class takes a lot of staff time to facilitate, so it’s certainly not something we could do for every group, but it is a great reminder of why exposing students to new art and objects is a vital part of our mission.
What have you been up to during the pandemic? What shows have you been watching or books have you been reading? What podcasts have you been listening to?
Museum work has been keeping me quite busy during this time. From mundane tasks like flushing all of the toilets in the building regularly and extending loan agreements to more exciting things like watching our security cameras (trust me, it’s almost like a reality TV show) and starring in exclusive videos featuring the Gregg’s collection, there’s never a dull day!
Most of my time during the pandemic outside of work has been used making masks to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past three months I’ve sewn over 350 fabric masks for friends, family and colleagues. The project has been a way for me to process my frustration and stress over the uncertain and unsettling times. Sewing to me is like gardening for others. It is something I know how to do well, and it becomes almost a meditation (once all the wrinkles are ironed out).
I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to practice generosity. While some people do contribute money for materials or send items of gratitude in exchange for masks, I don’t ask for any payment or justification for why a quantity of masks are needed. When so much control has been taken away, it feels good to make something tangible and positive to send out into the world with no strings attached (well, just the ones that hold the mask on your head!).
I do enjoy having something playing while I sew, so I have streamed all 15 seasons of NCIS that are available, and I have been listening to podcasts including Omnibus and 99 Percent Invisible.
Have you watched any art performance online? Which ones?
I’ve watched a few sessions from members of my favorite bands including Wood & Wire (bluegrass/Americana) and the Boilermakers Jazz Band, but mostly I’ve been watching movies with friends all over the country though a watch party platform that one of them created.
What advice would you give to an incoming student about getting involved with the arts at NC State?
Get involved in the arts as early in your time at NC State as possible! Whether it’s to continue doing something you love, or to try something new, now is the time. As a student, I found the arts to be the best way to interact with students from other colleges. Many majors, like design, can be rather isolating, so it’s important to find ways to make connections and get outside of that bubble.
In addition, creating music has always been a way for me to shift my focus from work or my studies because it demands all of my attention and exercises a different part of my brain. Those structured times in music ensembles are vital to keep me going in other aspects of my life. I currently play in a handbell ensemble at First Baptist Church – Salisbury Street in Raleigh. I’ve just performed a bell solo that was part of the service on July 19 and is available on the church’s YouTube channel.
I can’t rehearse a handbell solo and stress about a pandemic at the same time! Maybe the arts will be that outlet for you, so give Arts NC State a try. Whatever it is, find your outlet, and commit to it.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m grateful to work with such a talented group of people with so many interesting skills and backgrounds. With so much going on and never enough hours in the day, it’s easy to push opportunities to connect with and learn about each other lower on our priority lists. Over the past year, we have been trying to focus on making time for this intentionally at the Gregg Museum. I believe that time spent during the workday connecting with each other builds a stronger team and pays dividends in the long run for an organization, even more so now when we can’t have those casual conversations in the breakroom or at the watercooler naturally. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this at the Arts NC State level, and I look forward to learning more about you all soon!
Contributing writer Christy Rain