Q&A with Karen Ohren, new volunteer at Mystic Arts Center

Recently, Mystic Museum of Art welcomed art enthusiast Karen Ohren to our galleries. Karen has been an incredible support to MMoA in a variety of ways including; reception in our galleries, assisting with exhibitions, and managing special projects from our marketing and education departments. In the Q&A below, Karen shares with us why she chose MMoA for her volunteer experience.  

MMoA volunteer Karen Ohren

MMoA: Where are you from? How did you come to live in the area? 
Karen: I was born and raised in a small town on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. I met my husband, had three wonderful sons and lived most of our time near Ann Arbor, Michigan. We relocated to CT in 2007 and currently live in the Montville area.

MMoA: How did you find out about Mystic Museum of Art (MMoA)?
Karen: I’ve always been interested in art, especially photography. When I moved here from Michigan, I heard a lot about the Mystic area and MMoA. I visited and really enjoyed all the great local artists’ work. I also was interested in some of the classes offered at MMoA.

MMoA: What do you like most about volunteering at Mystic Museum of Art?
Karen: I love being around the art and the artists. I’m always amazed at how creative and talented people can be. At some point, I would love to have one of my photos make it into an exhibit.

MMoA: What is it like interacting with visitors at MMoA?
Karen: I love talking with the visitors about how they heard about MMoA, what they came to see and just before they leave, hearing their comments. Many people say how beautiful the work is, but also how great of a job MMoA does choosing and displaying the art.

Every time I’m at the reception desk it’s different. I met a gentleman once that came to take a picture of his grandson’s work that was on display and had won an award. He wanted to buy it, but it had already been purchased! I also met a young man that came to pick up his sculptures thinking that he didn’t get into the show to find that not only had one piece been displayed but two! He was beaming with pride and surprise. I think I enjoy most seeing the families that bring their children in to see the art exhibits. I met a young family from Hartford that just could not say enough wonderful things about the art work and MMoA. Their young children had lots of questions for them and me. I’m so glad I found this volunteer opportunity.

MMoA: Is there an experience you’ve had so far at MMoA that stands out in your mind?
Karen: When I started volunteering at MMoA during the “Young At Art” exhibition, I met an incredibly talented young painter with obvious handicaps. Meeting this wonderful artist and her mother was a profoundly moving experience that really helped me to understand the power of art in people’s lives. Although this young artist’s work did not make it into the exhibit, she and her mother spent a very long time viewing the displayed work. I spoke to them at one point and her mother was actually moved to tears because of the amazing art on display. She said it’s hard to believe there are such amazing and talented people in the world, and I more than agree.

MMoA: What do you like to do in your free time?
Karen: One of my favorite ways to spend my time is to get out and explore this beautiful state we live in, as well as all of New England, with my camera. I enjoy nature photography the most and this is the perfect place for that. I also love spending time in my yard, watching the birds and occasional wildlife venture through. Spending any time I can get with any of my three grown sons is a blessing. We enjoy dinners, board games and just goofing around, having fun. In the summer, you will find us getting out to one of the beaches as much as we can.

MMoA: Are you an artist? If so, what is your favorite medium? (Photography, painting, drawing, etc.).
Karen: I never called myself an artist until moving here to Connecticut. Since being here, I started doing photography and painted my first acrylic painting, ever! I guess I just needed the inspiration of New England to get motivated. I really enjoy trying to capture the world around me with a click of my camera.

“My Front Yard” by Karen Ohren

MMoA: Who and what inspires you?
Karen: I find inspiration from many different sources. I love to see how other artists view the world and then compare that with my own world view. A consistent source of inspiration for me is the amazing beauty of the Eastern Connecticut and New England land and seascape.

MMoA: Do you spend time in Mystic outside of volunteering at MMoA? What do you usually do/ where do you go?
Karen: Yes, I love Mystic! It is always the first place I bring visiting family and friends. First of all I think it’s the rich history, architecture and being near the water that I love most. A wonderful day in Mystic for me would start with a walk through the shops, stopping by MMoA to check out the newest art exhibit, then a pomegranate martini and stuffed mushroom at the Captain Daniel Packer Inn. Winding down the day with an ice cream cone from the Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream store and – if lucky – some live music at the Mystic River Park. Of course if the drawbridge should happen to go up while I’m there, that’s even better!

Stop by and say hi to Karen on Fridays at Mystic Museum of Art. Learn more about volunteering on our website.