Fabulous People: Dianne Choie

Dianne Choie had never even stop foot in Wisconsin before accepting a job as the Youth & Family Programs Coordinator for Milwaukee Art Museum. After such a risky move, Choie couldn’t be happier. Learn about Dianne Choie

Hometown: Mendham, NJ

First job: I was an editorial assistant at the book publisher then known as Doubleday Broadway, an imprint of Random House in New York City. I ended up working in book publishing for 10 years, then I made the switch to museum education.

Favorite ways to spend your free time in WI: Having moved here without a car (I was used to taking the subway everywhere!), I spent a ton of my first year here just walking around Milwaukee. I explored the trails, the museums, the cool indie stores and, of course, plenty of the breweries and restaurants. I was worried that not having a car would be a big setback here, but between the great bus system and the very walkable downtown, I’ve been totally fine!

Person who has impacted your life the most and why: In my senior year of undergrad, I interned in the education department of my school’s art museum, and I absolutely loved it. The experience was easily my best one in my entire college career, due in no small part to my wonderful supervisor Lesley Wellman. As I neared graduation, Lesley encouraged me to pursue a career in museum education, telling me about different graduate programs I might be interested in. I scoffed in my mind, thinking I was completely done with school. Ten years later I came crawling back, and Lesley kindly wrote me a wonderful recommendation for the museum education Masters program I ended up graduating from. She also vouched for me when I was applying for my current job at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I can very confidently say that for many reasons, I wouldn’t be here without Lesley!

Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes and why: I tend to dislike changes and be risk-averse. It took me years to summon up the nerve to leave my job in publishing and attend grad school, and when I realized the difficulty of surviving in New York as a museum educator, I cast a wide net for opportunities in other parts of the country. I had never set foot in Wisconsin before I accepted this position (MAM was on the forefront of virtual interviews a year before COVID-19!) and arrived for the first time to look for an apartment. I took some big risks to end up here, and I couldn’t be happier that I did!

The biggest obstacle you have overcome: Complacency! It’s easy to tell yourself that a situation is “good enough,” but I’ve tried to prioritize continuing to learn, grow, and be a part of making the changes that I want to see. 

Someone who inspires you and why: I recently read Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, and it just completely set my mind on fire with all the insights about her identity as a Korean American woman. It was truly like she was in my mind, describing what she saw that I didn’t even fully understand was there. I love the way she puts into words the feelings that are so hard to articulate, and she’s not shy about speaking out, both for herself and in support of others. One upside to staying at home is that I’ve had the chance to hear her speak in several online events this year, and she invigorates me anew each time I hear her.

Favorite quote:  I worked as an educator at the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City, and a quote around which we built much of our educational programming is one from Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It reminds me that one action or idea is all it takes to start a big movement. 

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do:  Center your passion for museums and teaching—for me, I absolutely love seeing and learning about art and artists, and it is still thrilling to me to share that excitement and information with others. Also be mindful of your place in the larger community: museums offer so much, but be aware of the people to whom you’re offering those things and how they’re being received.

What you think makes someone fabulous: Someone who centers kindness and courage (and understands how complicated it can be to deploy both at once!) is definitely fabulous.

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