Marsha Williams, a docent at University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, has had an overwhelmingly positive experience with the many different kinds of visitors who have graced the Museum with their presence. If there is one word she seems to continuously prescribe to all of the people and the atmosphere of the Museum in general, it’s not too hard to figure out.
From the visitors to the artists to the volunteers to the job itself, Williams is quick to point out that the joy she gets from all of them is due, in large part, to the level of fun that it all offers.
“I remember one entertaining [artist] that I had picked up at the Detroit airport,” she said. “After a bit of mix up at the airport he gave Ben [Sapp, Mazza Museum’s director] a call to let him know we were on our way. Conferences are very tightly scheduled and it is often nerve-wracking for Ben and staff when things go awry. In his message he reported to Ben that ‘Marsha has changed plans and we are heading for Cedar Point, that’s OK with you right?’ Poor Ben!”
When Williams first started as a volunteer at Mazza, she explained, her thoughts were that she was just to give tours to primary students. Williams taught first and second grade in Findlay for thirty years, and she and her husband reared four children, so young people are as much a part of the enjoyment toward Mazza as anything or anyone else. As a part of the Tales for Tots sessions during the school year, she is also a part of the education that children get at the Museum, and her former career makes this an ideal opportunity, “After thirty years of emphasizing visual literacy in my classroom,” she mentioned, “the transition for my retirement has been wonderful by continuing to work with children involving the picture book world.”
As time went on, however, she began to realize that it wasn’t just the children and the artists from whom she’d be receiving happiness, and that there are countless other things about her time at Mazza that can provide joy. In the fifteen years she’s been volunteering, she said, she has enjoyed being able to increase her knowledge and interest in the illustrators and their art; she has loved the “spark of appreciation and interest for the world of art from children’s picture books” that the museum creates, and relished the opportunity to provide the community with picture book art appreciation.
Williams assists with docent training, serves as a Museum hostess year-round, has presented in the museum during National Children’s Book Week and Funday Sunday, and is a member of both the Mazza Enthusiasts Executive Board and the Fall Weekend Conference Committee. Seemingly, the more activities and people with whom she becomes involved, the more delight she is able to experience. She explained that it’s the Mazza staff and other volunteers who mentored and inspired her to share with people of all ages and positions in life, from internationally known illustrators to the “wee ones” and those facing special life challenges. “Next week you might find me reading a book to moms and tots, giving a school tour, greeting walk-in guests or picking up a special illustrator visiting for a presentation. The Museum and all of its programing is never static, but always dynamic. Due to the allure of this wonderful spot I have added much to my repertoire,” she said.
At the heart of her jubilation is also what is at the heart of the Museum itself: family. Williams said that she can arrive feeling unenergetic and glum, but the minute she sees staff, meets the other volunteers and clips on her name tag, she becomes full of energy and excited to share her enthusiasm for books and art. “I couldn’t imagine volunteering anywhere else,” she disclosed. “The Mazza Museum is a place that makes all volunteers feel like family and always shows such appreciation. If I couldn’t find delight in my retirement volunteer time, I probably wouldn’t last. Well, I find volunteering at Mazza delightful and so here I am fifteen years later. That’s why we like to refer to this spot as ‘Magical Mazza’.”