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Frank Talks

Anne Muntges – Artist, Illustrator and Director of Development and Residencies at the Monira Foundation

BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 18: Artist Anne Muntges on January 18, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. © Ann Hermes 2020
BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 18: Artist Anne Muntges on January 18, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. © Ann Hermes 2020

Anne Muntges (b. 1982) studied at the Kansas City Art Institute earning her BFA in Printmaking in 2005 and at the University at Buffalo earning her MFA in Printmaking in 2008. Based in Brooklyn, her work focuses primarily on highly detailed drawing, prints and installation. She has been exhibited at the Children’s Museum of Arts in Manhattan, the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, and many other spaces nationally. Recently her work was on view in the exhibition Consuming Moment, at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in New Mexico. Her work is in many collections including the California College of the Arts, Library of Congress and Joan Flasch Library. She was awarded a NYFA/ NYSCA Fellowship in 2014 and became a Sustainable Arts Finalist in 2021.

Muntges’ practice is balanced with her arts administration work with nonprofit art organizations. She is currently the Director of Development and Residencies at the Monira Foundation, but has also worked as the Education and Studio Manager for the Center for Book Arts, Fiscal Sponsorship Officer for NYFA,  and studio coordinator for the Western New York Book Art Center. Her goal in these roles is to strengthen artist communities, enhance opportunities through fundraising strategies and grant writing, and expand programming and opportunities for artists.

What was your first job in the Arts and what was the most useful or important thing you learned in that experience?

My first real job, one where I was financially compensated and outside a school eco-system, was with the Western New York Book Arts Center in Buffalo NY. There I helped build an organization from its starting point and add to their community by building a screen printing studio, teaching, and helping fund raise to support the studios continued existence. It was important because it taught me that there was a way to not only work in a field related to my personal work but that I could also help to form a system and a space to better support artists by participating in it. I was able to think about programming, about the budgets that support them, and how to adapt feedback from a community to filter into program offerings that better meet needs of those being served. It was kind of monumental for me because it is something I have carried forward to literally every job I have had since. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

I realized very early on that I needed to be involved in the arts because I wanted to be an artist. I in fact tell people that I am an artist first and an administrator second. I make this distinction because it very much speaks to how I find myself in this industry and why I continue to pursue it. As a maker I want to understand how the systems that are built around my field exist and how I can mold them to better support other artists so that as I continue in my leadership roles within the arts I am making it better for others. I don’t know that there was a distinct moment that I made the choice to be in the arts, but I have never not tried to be in this field.

What do you do now? 

I am the Director of Development and Residencies with the Monira Foundation (an amazing young Foundation!). 

Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? 

I am from St. Louis, but left for college and never really got to know that community well. My most formative time was spent in Buffalo, NY post MFA. The community there is very interesting. It is a mix of established and emerging artists. It makes for a world that is both very inventive, very talented, and perfectly weird because the stakes are not as high as they would be in say NYC. It is much quieter than where I am currently in Brooklyn NY, but it is the exact kind of place that helps artists really find voice, experiment with wild ideas, and find good constructive conversations around the work they make.

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

It has absolutely informed me and the work I do. I do have a drive to make sure that there is fair and equitable representation for artists in all places in their career. (Especially in the residency program I am overseeing.) Seeing the art world from a smaller communities’ perspective helps keep you engaged in what impacts you can really help make without getting too lost in some of the bigger things that always circle the artworld. Perhaps it is a sort of empathy that I have from my experiences in Buffalo. I want every artist we work with to feel seen and heard and to know that their participation is valuable to the foundation and the community we work in.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Be present. I don’t mean physically showing up alone to shows or in the studio but showing up ready to listen and engage. Be present when you see new things and listen to those talking with you. Be present!

What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far? And what has been a challenge?

This one is a little funny for me because the one accomplishment I am most proud of was conquering my fear of grant writing and development work. In school the focus was always on making work. In so many ways money seemed magical (and maybe still does to a degree). I spent a lot of time and energy really working to hone my writing skills and becoming comfortable with talking about projects and programs to others in efforts to find support. It was a challenge to reset my mind to better understand how money was not something to fear or ignore but just a part of how to keep things moving

How is your current job adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape? What do you think can be done better if anything?

Such a good question! Because the Monira Foundation really started in the pandemic, we started with digital programs alone (outside of the residency program). Digital is absolutely a permanent part of our programming now and in some ways has made things like accessibility easier for us as an organization. The tech is in place to put up captions, record, and capture chat. Instead of keeping notes or setting up extra stuff to record we now have it all wrapped into one space. It is not going anywhere and is a bonus for us to have as a part of our work that goes out into the world. 

I can’t say I know what I would want to improve on in this space yet. Right now I see the Monira Foundation as being poised to use it as an asset for the org for years to come

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job?

In the nonprofit world nothing is too weird. I wear many hats and support as I am needed. Kind of what keeps life interesting as there are days where you have no idea what task will come up. Just good at rolling with it all

What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?

Being a good listener and being adaptable. I operate in the non-profit world and if there is anything that every boss and employee should be good at it is both those things. No day seems predictable and the better we are at listening to those around us and adapting as we see need the better both boss and employee will be! 

What artwork is/was in your home office?

I feel lucky that I am an artist first. It means through my work I have met some amazing artists who are now friends that I have the honor of owning work from! I have incredible portraits by Nancy Loeber, printmaker/ book binder extraordinaire, and incredible ceramic sculpture by Bethany Krull, a sweet little Maja Ruznic drawing, a Larrybob Phillips drawing of my partner and daughter up right now. I’ve met some wildly talented artists and feel blessed to have a little piece of them around me as I navigate the work I do for the Monira Foundation and the work I do for myself.

What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?

Focus can be tough. Working at home some days is a battle between getting things done and definitely trying not to nap….. (my favorite pastime). With that said though there is no way I can ever go back to highly structured workday hours. The thought of a firm 9-5 job right now makes me cringe. I love having the luxury of getting my work done without it mattering if it happened in a specific window. This gives me flex to take my daughter to and from school and to have breaks when I am stressed out. It is such a big deal as I have never had it before. No way I will ever go back again.

What aspect of the art world in 2022 are you most excited about?

I was trying to imagine something more profound to say here, but truthfully I am just excited to be able to experience art and see it in person again. It is so painfully simple but having spent time away from the physical art world in the pandemic has reinforced how important the physical experience of art really is as a counterbalance to digital work. There is no amount of documentation that can give the tactility of seeing a work in person. Seeing really is knowing.

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?

I have slowly entered going to shows in person (so I have not seen everything out there), but I was recently delighted to see the work of Colette Fu and the Center for Book Arts. The show, We Are Dragon People, has these gorgeous three-dimensional book structures that incorporate photography and pop-up paper elements. The works are incredibly large, sculptural and brilliantly colorful. You can easily get lost in the details and taken away through her visual stories to China layer by layer. You almost feel you are on the journey with her as you see the pages recede. Highly recommend the show.

How do you think the art world can become more transparent?

By holding leadership accountable for the work they do and demanding better accounting of how and why exhibitions, projects, and programs come to be! There is a layer of mysticism applied to arts organizations about how and why they choose the artists they do to work with and promote. That layer is nonsense as it would serve everyone better to be honest about an organization’s goal and plans to meet them through the artists they serve and their audiences. I think far too often we artists as commodities and their roles in the organizations that present them as divine interventions. It is far less glamorous than that and, in an effort, to make things less elite and removed the art world really should be clear about why a project or exhibition exists and the process by which the work and partnerships came to be. Letting artists know what is happening and how they can participate (if they can) would make the art world a better place.

How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward? 

As much as I praised the virtues of in person above, I am absolutely not and all or nothing for either digital or in person experiences. I think that there is a strength in all of it coexisting. The bigger concern should be in making sure that artists are compensated and represented in all of it. Art itself is the experience in the end and seeing it in all formats really just gives makers the chance to explore a wide range of tools for making their ideas come to life.

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