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So You Think You Can Blog, Crystal Hammon?

We challenged America to submit to be the IMA’s next top blogger and America answered.  Over the course of the next month, we’ll post the finalists in the IMA’s “So You Think You Can Blog” contest. After we’ve posted all five entries, we’ll let our blog readers vote for the winner. This week: Meet Crystal Hammon.


If I want to become part of the IMA’s blogging team (and I do), I’m supposed to write something about myself and the best anecdote or experience I had at the museum.

What is best? Best for you to read or best for me to have? I don’t know. It’s all been good. So I’ll just give you my top five experiences and let you decide what’s best. Let’s save the boring bio stuff for the end. I’ll try not to make it too boring, yet totally true. Have you noticed how easily people brag/exaggerate in their online bios? Everybody is a guru of something. Not me. But we’ll talk about that later.

My top five IMA experiences

#1. My husband and I were standing in the lobby of the IMA at a kickoff party for a big opening. A woman came up to me and said I looked exactly like Annette Bening. I have to admit, that was a few years ago and she may have had a few drinks when she said it. But still. There’s not a menopausal woman anywhere who wouldn’t savor that compliment. Call me shallow. I don’t remember the exhibit opening but I do remember being compared to one of my favorite movie stars.

#2. I took a drawing class at the IMA once and learned that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. No latent talent just waiting to be developed. The instructor’s approach was simple: draw the shapes of a canvas in the gallery and fill in the space with the basic proportions of the objects within–not the details, just the proportions. “Oh, please!” I thought. “Anyone can do that.” Wrong. But, hey, at least I can remove learning to draw from my bucket list and get on to other more realistic things like growing my own vegetables.

#3. Sometimes I take a book to the IMA and read in the comfy leather chairs scattered throughout the galleries. I don’t even look at the art. I know. That’s what libraries are for. Here’s the problem. I work in a library two days a week. Trust me. You don’t want to read or study at a public library unless they have washable leather or vinyl seating. I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Check out your books and read them at home or at the IMA. People are usually quiet when looking at great art. And you can sit down without worrying about well, as I said, I’ll let you figure that one out.

#4. The IMA is a great place to go after a disagreement with your spouse or significant other. One summer day, after my husband said or did something I found atrociously thoughtless, I jumped in the car and headed to the museum for a walk. After nearly 30 minutes of stomping around the grounds in a rage, I started to notice that everything was in full bloom. I found myself in front of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture. It reminded me that my petty little fight didn’t amount to much in the scheme of things. I remembered that my marriage (sort of like that LOVE sculpture) was permanent. It was a what-would-Jackie-do moment for me. I got in my car, headed home and made lunch for my husband.

#5. I’m a big fan of the one-hour IMA visit. Let’s face it. For the average Jane (that’s me) who doesn’t know much about art, the prospect of slogging your way through a complete exhibit, reading every line is like asking a first grader to read Moby Dick. Whether they can read it or not, they most certainly won’t be able to connect all the dots. Not enough experience. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. But I don’t deprive myself just because I’m a little ignorant. If there’s an interesting exhibit, I go for an hour. I pick out one piece that really appeals to me. I try to learn all I can about that piece while I’m there. Then I leave. If I have time, I try to learn more afterwards. I may decide to go again for another hour. This is the only way I know to have an experience that sticks. I probably miss some important stuff with this technique, but I look forward to going back because I know I’m not going to make myself bored and tired. Good art deserves our best attention. I believe in giving it all I’ve got, an hour at a time. But that’s just me. Everyone should do it their way.

Now for the boring, but totally true bio stuff I promised. Once upon a time, I was a corporate writer paid to write things for big business. It’s the only kind of writing I ever found where you can make enough money to support yourself. After doing that for about 11 years, I started to connect with what one of my colleagues said about our work: “I’m really tired of writing pink champagne and having some attorney rewrite it until it becomes like distilled water.” I’m not saying I’m a pink champagne kind of writer. But I did have a few moments of greatness along the way, especially while I was working for a company I truly believed in.

Gradually I worked up my courage to swap that life for one that now includes all my loves–books, kids, writing, yoga and more time for golf and family. (I know that last part sounds trite, but it’s true.) In 2004, I finished a master’s in library science, which allowed me to enter the library profession at a wage that keeps me above the poverty level. I knew it wouldn’t pay as well, but I get to do and say what I want. It’s hard to put a price on that. When I’m not working part-time at the library, teaching yoga, or helping my husband in a small, family-owned business, I write a blog, Leading Reads. It’s mostly devoted to inspiring books, ideas, and people plus an occasional golf or yoga story.

Why vote for me? I write well, enjoy art enough that I visited Italy for an art and architecture tour a few years ago, and live just a few miles from the IMA. I can be there in a heartbeat. I don’t know enough to be snooty about things, so I can promise you I won’t have a highbrow complex if you give me this pleasure of blogging. A crown was promised with this position, but it’s not necessary. If someone would occasionally tell me I look like Annette Bening that would be nice.



Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Marketing, Musings

19 Responses to “So You Think You Can Blog, Crystal Hammon?”

  • avatar
    Melanie Audette Says:

    This is a good entry because it draws on many people’s fears or hesitations about visiting a museum…it’s gonna take all day; I might feel awkward because I don’t know a lot about art…and it gives ideas about how to feel comfortable for those who might not otherwise (e.g., new visitors). For those who are museum junkies, Crystal also will appeal because they are typically like her–travelers, more urban dwellers, similar age… She draws you into the experience and makes you want to have one of your own. Nice job, Crystal! (Disclosure: I know her).

  • avatar
    Bob Howell Says:

    Wonderful blog. Crystal is a fine writer, and appreciates the change that a good museum, and fine artwork, can have on a person. She will help to convey that change to those reading her blog. (And I do think Crystal is as beautiful as Annette Bening.) Disclosure: Yes, I know her as a good friend.

    Many folks do not appreciate how restful a museum can be. Crystal does.

  • avatar

    This is a wonderful blog — well-written, great photos, feels like she’s chatting with you and inviting you to the museum without any hype. I enjoy art, but am intimidated by Art Museums. Crystal Hammon makes me want to explore my local art museum (the GRAM in Grand Rapids, MI) as well as check out the IMA some day. I have absolutely no connection to Crystal, but I’ve read a lot of blogs lately!

  • avatar
    Kim Andrews Says:

    I, too, personally know Crystal, and I find her to be one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and honest people I’ve ever met. Aside from her engaging and entertaining writing style, I would love to see the IMA through her eyes because I know that I can believe what I’m reading. Readers will connect with Crystal and her ability to relax and encourage her followers. Great entry, Crystal!

  • avatar

    I was part of a selection committee that slogged through hundreds of portfolios for a corporate writing position – and Crystal came out on top. Her work proved that we had made a great choice. I believe that fans of the IMA may very well come to the same conclusion – and will then find they have found a gem.

  • avatar

    Carrying a book in my car, so I can take time to enjoy the IMA and time for reading on one of those lovely couches is a great idea. Crystal’s creative ideas, honesty and talent make a great combination. Her blog made me realize it’s been too long since I visited the IMA. Crystal’s many talents amaze me and I feel fortunate to know her.

  • avatar
    Rachel Says:

    I love your blog, Crystal! It was high-lar-ious.:) I especially like the part about sitting on the chairs at the IMA versus the public library. I wonder what those gallery guards would do if their chairs came under attack in the same way that ours do in the children’s room? Seriously, though, I think you did a really nice job of relating the great things about IMA to everyday life.

  • avatar
    Crystal Says:

    I like the humor Crystal brings to the “blogosphere” and I was able to relate. You deserve this!

  • avatar
    Beth Says:

    Crystal, this piece was luminous! I vote for Crystal!!!

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