Who greets you at the entrance to the MCA?
Who helps you discover the myriad of things to see in this building?
What do you call such a person? A person whose job it is to be friendly and welcoming, have an endless enthusiasm for art, always on hand to offer advice, guidance and information to you – the varied, sometimes volatile but always valued Museum visitor?
Answer: an MCA Host.
Here at the Museum, every now and again, we embark on a recruitment process to find the next crop of individuals that display the above characteristics. We uncover candidates from wildly varied backgrounds (artists, PHD students, architects, lawyers, parents, and teachers) wanting to join the team, all of them though are driven to deliver a unique Museum experience to our visitors.
For many years we have called the role Visitor Services Officer, or VSO for short. But for a while now we have been on the hunt for a new name. One that encapsulates the special job that the team do 364 days of the year. After much deliberation, polling, and hair pulling, we landed on the new title of MCA Host.
Next time you’re in for a visit, we encourage you to ask our Hosts some questions or just pause for a chat. In the meantime, read on to meet a few of the team.
Q What is the best thing about being an MCA Host?
Aileen Robalino: Not only are we surrounded by amazing and provocative artworks, but my colleagues are artists, writers, curators and all manner of creative and interesting individuals.
Sophie Lanigan: Having the time to interrogate the artworks’ meanings, and watch how others come to appreciate them (or not). I also enjoy meeting the patrons who never fail to bring a new perspective on the artwork.
Q What’s your top-tip to someone planning a visit to the MCA?
Aileen Robalino: Have a look on the website before you come and chat to our Hosts while you’re here. We offer so many experiences on top of our free exhibitions – lectures, film screenings and performances are all regular occurrences, and a wonderful way to expand your visit.
Kara Nissen: Give yourself as much time as you can, go on a free guided tour and then go back through and look at everything again!
Sophie Lanigan: My top tip would be to download our free app called MCA Insight. It has up-to-date information and what’s on and delivers insight to the art. I absolutely recommend taking time to watch all of Shaun Gladwell’s video work Storm Sequence and taking advantage of the view from the Sculpture Terrace.
Q What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Kara Nissen: Umbrellas and backpacks, I now wholeheartedly loathe both of these items.
Q What has been your favourite exhibition to work in, and why?
Aileen Robalino: My favourite exhibition to work in was the Craigie Horsfield exhibition in 2007. I was not familiar with his practice prior to working the show, but his large scale photographs are ethereally beautiful and evocative. Craigie belongs to a school of thought in which the viewer brings just as much to an artwork as the artist, so he chooses to not have information labels accompanying his work. By allowing the visitors to create their own interpretation, the artworks take on a much more personal relevance.
Kara Nissen: War Is Over! (if you want it): Yoko Ono. All my expectations were surpassed. I think if I could be 1% of Yoko when I’m 81, I would be super chuffed – she’s amazing, her works are incredible and everything about her is inspiring.
Sophie Lanigan: I’d have to say the show we’re hosting at the moment – the 19th Biennale of Sydney. I especially love standing in Douglas Gordon’s installation Phantom because it is such an immersive space and I feel I have time to absorb the beauty.