It takes many different sensibilities and skills to be a volunteer at University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum. You have to love children’s books and the art within them; you have to cherish the children and adults who read them and who visit the Museum, and you have to have an equal amount of dedication to education.
Thankfully, the docents at Mazza collectively have all of those attributes, and more. One of those docents, Sandy Reinhardt, takes one such skill and makes sure to sharpen it regularly. “I remind myself to be a good listener when the children come,” she said, “to hear their questions and comments. I want each one to feel good about their ideas and to leave Mazza with a desire to know more about books and the artists and also to realize a lot of thought and planning goes into creating a good book.”
Reinhardt’s listening talents were no doubt honed during her younger years as a 4th and 5th grade teacher for the Columbus schools and in South Euclid. It’s not difficult to understand how good teachers become good listeners, and, when those teachers become parents themselves, that ability to listen often becomes even more finely tuned. Switching to the role of “full-time mom” to two boys is something that Reinhardt said she enjoyed immensely and really dug into. It was apparent that she was happiest around her children and other people with whom she shared a common bond. “When the boys were in school,” she said, “I volunteered, hoping to lighten the workload of teachers, but also to be around children. I joined a group of mothers who shared art in the elementary schools, known as the Mini Art Program, which I did for several years.” The six-week project, which culminated in a bus trip with 6th graders to the Toledo Museum of Art, piqued another interest in Reinhardt, one that would lead her inevitably to Mazza and the different roles she’s played within the Museum for many years.
She became the president of her sons’ school’s PTO in the early 80s, and it was in that position that she met Dr. Jerry Mallett, the late former UF education professor and founder of the Mazza Museum. “[He] was asking schools to sponsor a work of art to be placed in the newly created Mazza Collection of children’s book art,” she remembered. “Everyone thought it was a great idea resulting in the sponsorship of a beautiful artwork illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen named, ‘The Hound.’” After hearing Dr. Mallett talk about children’s books and the artists creating them, Reinhardt said, she was immediately hooked and wanted to know more. “Dr. Mallett’s amazing gift of storytelling with big helpings of humor made learning so much fun,” she added.
In 1991, when the Museum was still in its infancy, Reinhardt was asked to join the Mazza board where she met and became dear friends with many “wonderfully enthusiastic women” along with Mallett and current Mazza Director Ben Sapp. “We all helped with the various duties of organizing the tiny Mazza collection, then displayed it in the basement of the Shafer Library on the UF campus,” she said. A period of growth came for both the Museum and for Reinhardt, who, after a time of scheduling school tours and picking up artists at the airport, settled in with the docent program starting in 1994. “It was natural for me as a past teacher loving children. I still help with training while meeting new docents and working with the amazing Mazza Staff and two co-coordinators,” she explained.
Now, with her boys grown, Reinhardt has an additional group of children for whom she works on sharpening her skills as a listener: her five grandchildren. “I especially enjoy sharing good books with [them],” she said. “They love to read and visit the Museum. I certainly know much more about children’s books, thanks to the Mazza. I have learned so much about the art and artists behind the best children’s books, which Dr. Mallett and Ben Sapp have been proud to have in the Mazza Museum. I feel so privileged to have been a part of helping to make the Mazza Museum a wonderful happy place for visitors.”