VIDEO: Mulvane welcomes ‘new’ exhibit preparator

Finding a job after graduation and finding a job that you love are two challenging and sometimes difficult tasks to achieve after college. Luckily for Michael Allen, he has killed two birds with one stone.

Born in Wichita and raised in Plainville, Kan., Allen graduated from Washburn University this past fall with bachelor of fine arts degree, and was appointed the position of exhibition preparator for the Mulvane Art Museum on Jan. 2.

“It takes a variety of different types of talents and skills in order to do this job,” said Cindi Morrison, director of the Mulvane Art Museum. “[Allen] was the one that suited our needs as the permanent preparator.”

Allen was selected to be a student assistant to the previous preparator, Michael Hager. After working as Mulvane’s preparator for about eight years, Hager decided that he wanted to teach full time as a printmaking professor in the Washburn Art Department. Allen served as an intern for about two years before Hager made the switch to teacher, and Allen was offered a full time staff position.

“He’s willing to do whatever it takes, and we need that kind of person around here,” said Morrison.

A preparator in a museum is someone who prepares and handles artwork, displays, and/or furniture for an exhibition. This includes matting and framing, carpentry work, helping keep the location database and inventory on stored artwork, and other various needs for the museum and exhibitions.

“He is also helpful with the photography of the collection,” said Morrison, “as we bring the pieces out when we are having an appraisal done for the insurance value of the works.”

Being an artist himself, Allen knows the value of art and tends to it with great care. Morrison states that Allen has all of the talents and expertise that the museum requires, and is very organized.

“He’s very orderly and boy, do we like that around here,” said Morrison. “When you’re working with 4,000 pieces in a collection, orderliness is a good talent to have.”

Allen explained that the past two years have been a great and necessary learning experience, because the real challenge started when he stepped up to full time preparator. Allen’s first order of business was the installation of the four exhibits that showed on the First Friday Art Walk of Feb. 3, which required him to hang paintings, display origami and industrial sculptures, show almost 1,500 matted works and build six movable walls.

“That was quite a challenge,” said Allen. “I really had to jump in with both feet and hit the ground running.”

As an artist, Allen has done three solo shows, numerous exhibitions, and recently had his work chosen in a five state photo competition. Allen also stated that he will be the featured artist of March at the Flying Monkey Handcrafted Brews café located at 1500 SW 17th Street in College Hill.

Allen is known mostly for photography, with some mixed media works, and does a lot of wet paint photography and manipulations, that transcend the ordinary.

Examples of Allen’s work can be found on his website