November 2023, Michelle Sunset

November Member of the Month: Michelle Sunset, Curator at the University of Wyoming Art Museum

Michelle Sunset is the Curator at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, and as a Regional Representative for the Mountain Plains, she is also a current member of our AAMG Membership Committee. Thank you Michelle for your membership and work with AAMG!

What’s one thing — either industry/work-related or not — you learned in the past month?

Recently, my museum hosted a public talk by Jason Baldes, Executive Director of the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative. I learned so much about this iconic animal (it’s on our state flag!) and efforts to rematriate buffalo to Native lands. A couple buffalo fun facts: they can run up to 35 mph and their hair is much more densely packed than that of cattle, with about 13,000 strands per square inch.

What do you value about your membership with AAMG?

AAMG is the first professional organization I’ve become really involved with, and I’ve appreciated how supportive and welcoming this community is. The ListServ has allowed me to connect with colleagues across the country to troubleshoot, share similar projects, and devise conference presentations. Through state and now regional representation/board service with AAMG, I’ve learned so much from colleagues who have been in the field longer than me. Through projects like the field-wide survey and the Task Force for the Protection of University Collections, we actively advocate for academic museums and museum-workers. I really couldn’t value AAMG more!

Michelle leading a tour through the exhibition, The New West: The University of Wyoming Art Museum at Fifty

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

There are probably more fun options I’m not thinking of, but today I would trade places with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or any one of the other mega-billionaires to quickly donate/redistribute their excess wealth.

Coffee or Tea?

Morning pour-over coffee is a life-giving ritual.

Book/Author suggestion?

I just finished Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet – an excellent edited volume with contributors from across disciplines, including Anna Tsing, Ursula Le Guin, and Donna Haraway. The essays explore the ways humans and the rest of the natural world are deeply interconnected. I found it really inspiring and thought-provoking from both professional and personal standpoints.

Michelle and other UW Art Museum staff installing artist Terry Maker’s Cowgirl Hat Ball.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I was all over the place, from veterinarian to environmental lawyer to journalist. I was halfway through undergrad before I realized people actually work in museums – and I could be one of those people!

What do you enjoy most about being a part of an academic museum?

I truly appreciate the privilege of working within a university community engaging in philosophical and academic inquiry. I’ve enjoyed getting to collaborate and co-curate with brilliant experts across disciplines at the University of Wyoming, including astronomers, anthropologists, and historians, among others.

What are your hopes for our industry?

I hope we can increase recognition – both inside and outside of our institutions – of the importance of art, history, and culture in society. As technology evolves and wars rage on, our connection to arts and the humanities grows increasingly important!

Do you have a favorite joke to share?

My cousin’s kid shared this one recently from a book of “dad jokes” – my favorite kind!

“Why did the kid bring their report card home wet?….because they were below c-level…”