One of the perks of working at an art museum is being surrounded by people who live and breathe art. The Kemper attracts patrons from a multitude of places, and often I have found myself in great discussions with artists from all over the country. While some of these conversations include visitors, the best have occurred on rainy days when the museum is empty, and I am stationed next to another Kemper Museum Attendant (or KMA). Not only does the Kemper proudly house works by prominent artists; many of the KMAs are artists, themselves.
On any given day you can find a flyer plastered to the bulletin board in the break room advertising a show featuring Buddy Shumaker’s band, Media Ghost. The schedule on the front desk is filled with elaborate doodles, which, upon closer inspection, might resemble a drawing by Paul Klee. One of these front desk doodlers is Vincent Stemmler, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. Vinny recently received a residency at Cherokee Street artists’ haven, mushmaus.
Perusing the gift shop, you’ll find the work of Holly Childress. Holly is a printmaker with an affinity for food. She states that her work “examines the roles we play in cooking, creating, and eating food and how humans have shaped food through history.” Currently, she is illustrating a children’s book she wrote, and future plans include exploring the idea of food as medicine.
Rebecca Tochtrop, a multimedia artist, is most often found guarding the special exhibitions, but before joining the staff of the Kemper, she studied printmaking at Webster. Her work is whimsical on the surface, yet intensely examines human interaction with art, such as an installation at Floating Laboratories, which consisted of photographs of the now defunct space, stuck to the refrigerator, imploring visitors to pocket one or two upon passing. In her words, she intends to “make sure that what I put out in the world is constantly moving through the realms of the personal, the generic, the socially and politically aware, the blissfully ignorant, the emotional/instinctual, the analytical/cerebral, in order to complicate definition.”
Autumn Rinaldi is another woman of many mediums walking the galleries of the Kemper. A photographer and writer, her projects include an examination of Andy Warhol’s contributions to photojournalism, numerous short stories, and her photography business, Autumn Rose Images.
As my time at the Kemper comes to an end, I cannot help but be thankful for the inspiration that I have garnered from my coworkers, and from the pieces that rest on the walls of the museum. I, myself, am an artist of the Kemper. My work includes photography, and film, and I play in a band called Frances with Wolves, whose music is released on the record label I cofounded. I will be leaving in the fall to attend the Film and Video program at CalArts, and I look forward to the conversations in empty museums that await me there.
By Leanna Kaiser (May 10, 2013)