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Third Thursday Thoughts: Reflections from the Executive Director


May 19, 2022 | Third Thursday Thoughts
Dawn LaRochelle, Executive Director

Confession: I am a recipe addict. My shelves are filled with dog-eared cookbooks that I have been collecting since my teenage years. I subscribe to six different cooking magazines that arrive to me via snail mail (remember that?!) as well as a dozen more online recipe sites. In fact, I spent my lunch hour today scouring the Internet for a vinaigrette recipe that incorporates blood orange olive oil and chocolate balsamic. Okay, maybe I extended my lunch hour by a hair because when I put “blood orange” and “chocolate balsamic” into the search engine, I came across a recipe for Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Balsamic Brownie Balls, and… well, BLOOD ORANGE AND DARK CHOCOLATE BALSAMIC BROWNIE BALLS!!!

The recipe for a great museum may be less straight-forward than a recipe for a great brisket, but the ingredients were there in MJM’s recent collaboration with Opera in the Pines, culminating in two sold-out performances of The Diary of Anne Frank the inaugural performance for Opera in the Pines and the first large-scale in-person event for MJM since the pandemic shut-down. There is power in pairs, and The Diary of Anne Frank was proof positive of the magic we create when we collaborate instead of competing. I look forward to joining forces with many more organizations in the future to amplify our mission, better our community, and build tikkun olam. 

As we continue to refine the MJM secret sauce, I find myself returning to an old blog post by curator and art historian Amy Jane Barnes. Barnes opines that great museums are willing to take risks and challenge audiences. Such museums are “inspiring,” act “as catalysts for community cohesion and regeneration,” and are “places where social issues can be publicly explored.” I think our current exhibit by M. Annenberg, “News/Not News,” checks off each and every one of those boxes (it’s also the first exhibit at MJM to feature a working barber pole!). If you haven’t seen it yet, come check it out and tell me if you agree! And if you missed Annenberg’s Artist Talk, here’s the link to the recording. 

Going forward, because stories are to museums what flour, sugar, butter, and eggs are to a baker, my goal is to tease out the stories behind our remarkable art exhibits that “celebrate and honor Maine’s Jewish immigrants in the context of the American experience.” Stories of history and progress that fill us with pride or shame. Stories of art and culture that inspire and challenge us. Stories that connect our immigrant past with our present and future. Stories that foster greater affinity among Jewish and non-Jewish people of all racial, ethnic and demographic backgrounds.

Of course, you – our patrons, friends, and supporters – are the key ingredient to MJM’s success! Don’t be a stranger — drop by, introduce yourself, tell me what kinds of programs you would like to see at the Museum. And hey, if you have a killer kugel recipe you’d like to share while you’re at it, I’m all in!