Name: Lisa Wheeler
Occupation/title: Director of Education, Booth Western Art Museum
City of residence: Cartersville.
Family: My daughter is Whitney Wheeler, my son and daughter-in-law are Will and Erin (Butler) Wheeler. My significant other is Roger Waters and my pets are Vern the dog, and cats Apple and Bebo.
Education: Cartersville High School; Bachelor of Science in Art Education, University of Georgia; Master of Education in Art Education, University of West Georgia.
How did you become involved with the Booth and have you always wanted to work with a museum and/or in the field of education?
A: My first teaching position in Bartow County was teaching art at Emerson Elementary School. Later, I ran a pottery business, and then worked in museum exhibit design and development. In the mid-1990s I was hired to teach art at Cartersville Primary and then at Cartersville Middle School. In 2001, while the Booth was still under construction, I was hired as director of education. I feel very fortunate to have been hired before the museum opened to develop our educational and docent programs. I had considered working in art museums early in my career, but now see that my other work experiences were important in preparing me for this job.
What sets the Booth apart from other museums in the state in terms of its education programs?
A: The museum houses a collection of art of the American West as well as the Presidential and Civil War galleries. The uniqueness of this collection located here in the South enables us to teach not only visual art concepts and art history, but also a variety of unique social studies programs based on subjects like westward expansion, presidential history and the Civil War. Our language arts program, “What’s the Story? Connecting Art & Literacy,” addresses language arts and literacy skills in grades K-5. If you think about it, many of our children may never experience the West firsthand. The programs at the Booth give them an opportunity to explore Western history and culture in a museum setting.
What role do you feel the education programs play in the community?
A: I think our programs cross over generations in the community. Our older visitors enjoy the museum because the art collection and our programs bring back memories of Western television shows and Saturdays spent at the movies watching movie stars like John Wayne and Jean Arthur. For families we offer our Cowboy Festival and Symposium in October and Cowboy Gathering in March. Both events give families an opportunity to experience aspects of the American West. Our school programs for pre-school through high school students are designed to be fun, hands-on and educational. Our goal is to help our youngest audiences become lifelong museumgoers. Our community is very fortunate to have a resource such as Booth Western Art Museum. We regularly welcome students from metro Atlanta and surrounding communities. As the result of recent budget cuts, Bartow County students have not had the opportunity to utilize the resources we offer at the Museum during the current school year. It is my sincere hope we’ll be able to welcome back our Bartow County students in the 2013-2014 school year.
While working with the museum, have you had a favorite piece or exhibit pass through that you wish was a mainstay?
A: Personally, I enjoy the more modern and contemporary pieces more than the traditional works of art. However, in answering this question I realized that the piece I miss the most is Sunset on the Plains by Albert Bierstadt. It’s traditional and features a glowing sunset with buffalo grazing in a field. He worked on beautiful images designed to inspire people to move to and settle the West. It was on loan to us from the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.
What do you consider your greatest personal or professional achievement?
A: My greatest personal achievements are my children. The two professional achievements that mean the most to me are being selected as the 1998 Teacher of the Year for Cartersville City Schools and last week when we won the Georgia Museums and Galleries 2013 education award for our What’s the Story? Connecting Art & Literacy program.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I think most people would be surprised to learn that my first teaching job out of college was teaching wood shop to eighth-grade boys — and no, there were no accidents with the power tools.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: My favorite place is either the Modern Wing on the second floor of the museum or at home with my pets.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Early in my career one of my principals advised me to “Sleep on it. Don’t make a quick rash decision. Get a good’s night sleep and in the morning you’ll know what to do.” That has proven to be the best advice I ever got.
Do you have a personal philosophy?
A: Take things one day at a time. Enjoy life and don’t sweat the small stuff.