All hands are on deck to keep the Mazza Museum running amid COVID-19

By: Lauren Wolters

The Mazza Museum continues to teach the UF community despite altered operations

Marc Brown’s original artwork from Arthur series donated to the Mazza Museum.

Shortly after he started at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, Dan Chudzinski, the museum’s curator, met Marc Brown, creator of the “Arthur” book series at an artist conference. Brown gave the museum an original piece of art, and Chudzinski asked if he could take a plaster mold of Brown’s hand for the museum’s Show of Hands display that features art and a replica of the illustrator’s hand.

“After I took the mold off of Marc’s hand, I noticed that there was blood in it.” Chudzinski said. “I asked him, ‘are you bleeding?’ And he said, ‘oh yeah, I have a paper cut. It must have come open again when it was in the mold. Did I ruin it?’ And I said, ‘no it’s perfect.’”

Actual hand mold of Marc Brown and original artwork from his Arthur book series in the Mazza Museum.

“And if you look at the hand mold closely, you can still see the blood smear on the finger,” Chudzinski said.

“It shows kids that these great artists are human, that they are regular people just like them,” Chudzinski said. “It shows them that anyone can make art. They don’t have to have fancy tools. It really captures the human element.”

This is just one of the unique stories behind the art in the seven galleries that make up the museum. Unfortunately, these stories have been more difficult to tell during the pandemic.

Ann Arbaugh, the administrative assistant and accounting officer, at the museum provided some of the museum’s COVID-19 guidelines. The White Discovery Loft, Havens Resource Center (Mazza Library), and slide are not open. The Mazza Gift Gallery/Shop is open only by request or for scheduled visits.

The welcoming of visitors and operation of the gift shop is usually managed by the museum’s volunteers, but for safety reasons the museum has just a few volunteers coming in at different times.

“We long for the time when we can get back to some sort of normalcy when it’s safe for them [visitors]” the museum’s director, Benjamin Sapp said. “Many of them are retired individuals, many of which are getting their shots right now and we’re hopeful that someday in the future we’ll be able to have them back. They’re truly like family to us, and they represent our University and our museum in wonderful ways.”

Mazza Museum COVID-19 friendly operations posted outside the Mazza Gift Shop.

The museum held 291 events in the year prior to COVID-19. This number is significantly lower this year as events must be held virtually. Despite this, the museum still hosts virtual programs like Funday Sunday, an art and literature fair held the first Sunday of every month; Mazza Artist Monthly, where an artist and illustrator are interviewed, and children participate in a draw along; and a preschool program called Tales for Tots.

The museum itself is open by appointment only. These appointments can be made by phone call or online. Arbaugh coordinates and contacts those who schedule via the Google form on the Mazza Museum website. Temperatures are taken upon arrival.

“Being open only for appointments has given us a wonderful opportunity to move things around,” Chudzinski said. “In the past we would have to make special accommodations to ensure people were not in the museum while we were trying to move things.”

“People have been very understanding,” Sapp said. “I think our staff has provided good content [and] good resources in a very professional kind of way with the help of a lot of people here on our campus.”

Artwork continues to circulate on a regular basis.

Famous author, painter, and illustrator Hardie Gramatky’s actual studio desk, used by him for 50 years, now donated to the Mazza Museum.

“We do a big rotation every six months, and a big rotation is a rotation of an entire gallery which typically covers two to three walls,” Chudzinski said.

The museum received its first piece of original studio furniture from Hardie Gramatky’s family three to four years ago. Gramatky is most famous for his book, “Little Toot,” and his work with Walt Disney.

“Luckily, they were very organized with his work, and we were able to receive enough artwork to tell Gramatky’s full story,” Chudzinski said. “We usually will get a few pieces from an artist, but not normally so many over the entire span of their career like we have from the Gramatky family.”

Despite COVID-19, the Mazza Museum continues to teach children, adults, and the UF community.

Featured photo: University of Findlay Mazza Museum Facebook page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *