MEET YOUR MYSTIC MUSEUM OF ART STAFF
Amelia Onorato has worked as our Interim Exhibitions Coordinator since March of 2018, but has been one of the children’s studio instructors since the Fall of 2016. While employed part-time here at MMoA, she is a full-time cartoonist and also works as a Newport Mansion Tour Guide. Before getting a Master’s degree in Cartooning and Illustration at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, Amelia worked as an archivist and gallerina at the Lyme Academy of Fine of Arts, interned at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA, and had summer jobs before and during college as a sailmaker and airbrush tattoo artist!
Amelia lives in Providence, Rhode Island with Eugene, a six year old black cat with extra thumbs. It would be best to describe Amelia as a young woman that defies categorization or convention. On the one hand, her favorite types of art are oil portraits and marble Renaissance sculptures. At the same time, her job as a comic book author brings her an unequaled joy. Her comics are semi-realistic folklore and historical fiction, usually tied to whatever time period’s clothing she really wants to draw. When not drawing her comics, teaching an art class, or leading a Museum tour, Amelia can be found sailing with her parents whenever she can during the summer, or going out to the movies. She is also one you want to have on your pub quiz team, as her knowledge of trivia and little-known facts expands far and wide.
Growing up in Noank, she has seen first-hand the effect the Museum has had on the community. As a kid she participated in the annual Young at Art exhibition as one of the artists, as a teacher over the past few years she has worked with some of MMoA’s current artists, and this year she had the honor of hanging our artists’ work in March. In summary, Amelia shares, “It’s so wonderful to be part of an organization that continues to give back to and connects us with generation after generation of local artists.”
Who is the smiling face that you first see when you walk into the Mystic Museum of Art? Who graciously takes your calls to the Museum? Who is the glue that holds all of the Museum’s departments together? That person would be Charlene Johnston.
Charlene started in March, 2017, as a docent. Afterwards, she was hired as interim education coordinator until Mary Addison filled the position. She continued volunteering until she became the Museum’s Administrative Assistant — the job she currently holds. She helps every department that needs assistance with a task or project. In her role, Charlene understands how every part of the Museum works.
Before working at MMoA, Charlene was a stay-at-home mom, and prior to that, she was the Office Manager of Mystic Whaler Cruises. After being an Army wife for 17 years, Charlene lost her husband, Victor, in 2012. She is the proud mother of two children — Victor (15) and Genevieve (14). When asked what her favorite thing to do was, she replied without hesitation, “Spending time with my children and my family, being at the beach, or anywhere near or on the water.”
While not an artist herself, she does appreciate all that artists do. To quench that creative side, Charlene can be found coloring in her free time. Charlene shares that “Coloring is very therapeutic and relaxing.” She went on to share that her favorite style is “any style of art that catches my eye. I see so many genres come through the gallery, and each one is amazing in its own unique way.”
When asked what the MMoA means to her, Charlene replied: “MMoA is special to me because it brought me back into the ‘adult world’ after spending so many years at home. It has made me realize that I can do and be more than a mom. MMoA is a wonderful place to work. I love the small tight knit ‘family’ that we are here, and I am looking forward to all the exciting and challenging changes that are ahead of us. Simply: I love my job and the people I work with.”
Fun Facts about Charlene Johnston: Born in Mexico, Missouri, and moved to the coast in 1987. She plans on retiring to live on a boat and travel the Eastern Seaboard. After growing up in Missouri, Charlene vows never to be landlocked again.
James Kaczman has been at MMoA for much longer than many people know. Before the Museum had parking lot ticket machines, he worked part-time as an attendant in the parking lot booth. Later, in 2010, he started as graphic designer at the museum.
As graphic designer, James has implemented the visual identity of the Museum, making sure MMoA presents a strong, consistent voice in its print, web, and environmental design. The identity he created is meant to be understated so that the artwork itself can be featured. Other design projects that James works on with the MMoA staff are the newsletter, education catalogue, website graphics, marketing graphics, exhibition catalogues, and signage. One of his favorite projects each year has been creating the invitation for the annual summer fundraiser with the Gala committee.
James has been a freelance illustrator and graphic designer since graduating from college. Aside from the work he does for the Museum, James has been developing his portfolio, primarily doing illustrations for magazines and newspapers. Originally his freelance work was primarily illustration and now it’s mostly design. He has also illustrated several children’s books. According to James, “Lucky Monkey, Unlucky Monkey is my favorite because I also wrote and designed it.”
While James loves all visual arts, he especially enjoys painting, both realism and abstract. He keeps a sketchbook, and sometimes develops one of his sketches into a painting.
A fun fact about James is that he has done illustrations for hundreds of different magazines. At one point in his life he was regularly doing illustrations for a magazine called Supply Chain Management Magazine. Says James, “It amused me that a magazine with that title existed because it seemed like such a dry subject, and no attempt was made to give the magazine a catchy name. It was actually a very nicely designed magazine, and I liked to imagine that somebody looked forward to getting and reading Supply Chain Management Magazine — that there were people that were as passionate about supply chain management as I was about art and design.”
When asked what makes the MMoA so special, James shared, “Most of the time I have spent freelancing I have been working in my studio by myself, which I like, but it’s also nice to be part of the committed staff at the Museum. And there is a local community that loves art and loves the Museum so it’s nice to be part of that, too.”
James is married to Libby, and the proud father of Henry.
Melissa Hall Baker
Melissa Hall Baker, Corporate Relations and Event Manager, began working here at MMoA in June 2017. Melissa manages all aspects of public and private events including Mystic Museum of Art events and facility rentals.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales University and Albertus Magnus, her educational background is in business management with a primary focus in hospitality & event management. She started off her career working in hotel administration and management. Prior to working at the Museum, Melissa grew up working at her parent’s candy store in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. You will still catch Melissa working a shift here or there to fill in every once in a while.
Proud mother of Garrett (14) and Cassidy (11), Melissa loves watching & being involved in the creative process of art, especially when it comes to children. While not the traditional artist, Melissa does like to show her creativity when cooking for her kids, family and friends. Outside of MMoA, Melissa enjoys traveling and teaching her children about new cultures and cuisines. She shares, “One of our favorite pastimes is finding new places to go to and experimenting with different foods and recipes.” But it is being by the ocean that makes her the happiest; you will not find her living anywhere else.
Finally, Melissa shares, “MMoA has had a special place in my heart ever since I moved to Mystic over 15 years ago. I have always enjoyed attending events at the museum and my kids have had the pleasure of growing up being involved in the many studio classes and camps. I see the museum as the centerpiece of downtown Mystic for community events and I hope to build on that and continue to do more to promote the museum and keep it as a gathering place for the local community to enjoy.”
If you are walking around the Mystic Museum of Art property, and a voice calls out, “Pura Vida!” you are probably standing near Building and Grounds Manager Rodolfo Reyes. While having been here less than two years, Rodolfo has made an immediate and positive impact here at MMoA. Our grounds have never looked better, and the infrastructure of our buildings has never been more up to date.
Having been born in New London, Rodolfo has worked an assortment of jobs since graduating high school He has worked in sales, construction, boat maintenance, and many other positions. But since starting here in 2017, Rodolfo has found the job he loves and does his best work yet here at MMoA.
Rodolfo is what you would call a gentle giant. Strong from his time as an International American football player in Costa Rica with the Santa Anna Bulldogs and the San Jose Raptors, he is most happy living day by day collecting orchids and working in his gardens. It was Rodolfo who was the driving force behind the creation of the MMoA’s new rain garden. And it is in this way that Rodolfo is more than a staff member here, but also an artist.
When asked what his favorite type of art is, he shared, “The art where there is no rule an only expression.” With his passion being flowers and nature, Rodolfo can often be found painting flowers. “I like to call them doodles and I always try to pick a different medium or I will mix mediums.” And while he is truly talented as an artist (he recently had a show across the street from the MMoA), his true passion is his family. Married to Jacqueline Soto for fifteen years (And have been together for nineteen years), the two are the proud parents of Zoe (four) and Chloe (one). When it comes to his daughters, nothing makes him happier than being with them and “watching them live.”
The next time you are walking around the MMoA property, and see the beauty of our grounds, do not be afraid to shout out “Pura Vida!” It is the work of Rodolfo that allows all of us here at the Mystic Museum of Art the opportunity to lead a pure life.
Judy Flora is the heart and soul of the Mystic Museum of Art. Working in the finance office for over 20 years, Judy is currently the Mystic Museum of Art’s Director of Finance and Interim Executive Director. She is also an Elected Artist and has shared her works in a variety of MMoA shows.
After starting here in 1998, Judy has worked her way up from assistant to the Director of Finance to interim Executive Director. Her current role is Director of Finance, but she is also leading the Museum until a new Executive Director is in place. Prior to working here at 9 Water Street, Judy was in the restaurant business. She worked locally, and then in California and Oregon, before returning home and opening a small breakfast/lunch spot here in Mystic. After raising her daughter Chloe, she recently married Cal Crouch. Between the two of them, Cal and Judy have four children and four grandchildren.
When she is not working in an art museum, Judy loves to travel with either Cal or her daughter to other art museums. She loves looking at sculptures in particular. One of her favorite quotes is Michelangelo’s “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Overall, Judy loves any art that reflects the artist’s interpretation of a particular moment that may never come again. As one of MMoA’s Elected Artists, Judy enjoys doing photography and painting, but her true passion is arranging flowers. Along these lines, a fun and little known fact about Judy is that she is a certified Herbalist. Judy had the good fortune in 1999 to study under Rosemary Gladstar at her Sage Mountain Retreat in Vermont.
When asked what makes the MMoA so special to her, Judy shared….
Having spent almost a third of my life at the Mystic Museum of Art, I’ve seen many changes. What comes to mind as special is what has remained constant — the gifted artists that do amazing artwork show after show and inspire us with their talent, the children who come on school field trips with wonder in their eyes as they visit the galleries, the children who take classes where through art they learn another way to express themselves, the dedicated staff whose efforts bring our mission to life and of course, our many donors and volunteers who support us.
Mystic Museum of Art would like to introduce our new Director of External Affairs — Bill Furgueson. After working 24 years at The Williams School in New London, Connecticut, as a teacher, advisor, coach, mentor, event planner, and fundraiser, we are excited to have Bill join our staff. He will be overseeing the marketing, fundraising, and external communications of the Museum. Bill brings enthusiasm, expertise, and energy to our Museum.
A closet artist and published author, Bill is a sailor at heart. Bill is a competitive sailor, and has taught sailing in many area yacht clubs. He is also a founding member of the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Sailing Foundation (now known as NESS) and former Board Chair of the Mystic & Noank Library.
A fun fact about Bill is that he loves to cook. Something that very few people would know about him is that in 1994 he was very close to spending the rest of his life walking backwards as a Civil War tour guide at the Gettysburg National Park, but getting the job at Williams changed that path.
Lucky he did take that job at Williams, as it was here that he met his wife Alicia, a Spanish teacher there still today. They live in Mystic with their two amazing children Emma and Quinn.
Mary Addison is the Mystic Museum of Art’s Education Coordinator and one of the many talented artists who make up our faculty. She began at MMoA in 2014 after having taught at Sacred Heart School in Groton, CT.
Mary is the very proud mother of Sophie and Fiona, and the two of them can often be found helping out at MMoA events.
Mary is currently very excited to visit Massachusetts’s Museum of Contemporary Art where nine James Turrell installations are on exhibit. When asked to elaborate, Mary shared, “If you are new to Turrell, do yourself a favor and look him up. Simply stated – there isn’t an image, a form, or a focus in Turrell’s art. Rather, he fills space with light. The light becomes more than a source of illumination, but becomes the art itself. I remember studying Turrell as an undergrad and feeling in awe standing within his work. It was exciting, meditative, and spiritual all at once. I loved the feeling of art being an experience rather than just on view. I thought it was fascinating that because everyone has their own unique story; each participant could view it in their own way. His work pushes the boundaries and forces the confrontational, age old argument of what constitutes art. And who doesn’t secretly love a good ‘what is art’ debate?!”
When not working at the MMoA, Mary lives an active life. She runs marathons, loves to plan out future travels, relishes time with her daughters, enjoys exploring by boat, attends live music, and of course, creates art. When it comes time to relax a little bit, she can be found binge-watching whatever her latest obsession is (currently it is Homeland), or spending time on Pinterest.
A little known fun fact about Mary is that she once lived out of a backpack and tent while trekking around New Zealand for a year.
When asked what makes working at MMoA so special, she enthusiastically shared, “I can’t believe that each day I walk past incredible art as I make my way to my desk. Or that I can peer out my window and take in the beauty of the Mystic River. There are so many reasons why I love MMoA but it’s easy to pick the ONE THING… teaching students! Having worked here the past four years, I have developed a strong bond with many of the students and their families. It’s such a joy to see little budding artists start their creative journey with us; getting their hands in clay for the first time or splatter painting on canvas or building fairy houses on the lower lawn. But over time something amazing happens. Maybe art helped boost their confidence. Maybe they became skillful, accomplished artists. Maybe our studio became a space where they felt inspired and empowered and led them to try something new that they wouldn’t have done before. I am so utterly grateful to be a part of that experience. Now being the Education Coordinator I have the ability to bring more art into the community. Whether I’m designing new programs for our studio classes or bringing Outreach art programming into our local school, I am so grateful to be involved with MMoA! The world is happier with more art!
The Mystic Museum of Art is equally grateful to have Mary Addison share the joy of art with our community as she is for working here.