Catherina “Cat” Mueller, 30

“I want to create a new generation of museum goers who can critically think about our artworks and exhibitions from an intersectional viewpoint and who feel the museum is also for them.”

In their own words
I’m a compassionate individual with an overdeveloped sense of empathy (a friend once described me that way, and I now use it as a point of pride). This has helped guide my work and how I shape programs within the Nelson-Atkins’ mission. I want to highlight social justice issues in the context of museums and the art world, bringing attention to these causes and helping our audiences understand the connections. I want to welcome new audiences to the museum and expand who we think our visitors are.
I’m the lead on our Third Thursday monthly series, a free evening program for young adults and the young-at-heart where I bring in local musicians, creatives from artists to designers, businesses, other non-profits to transform the museum for a not-so-quiet night and to introduce our attendees to the museum in a new way (and to other really amazing folks in the city). Planning Third Thursday is an incredible feat and I’m so proud to have seen over 30,000 people pass through our doors in almost three years to attend this program that I put so much of myself into.
I also co-created a program called Reel to REAL: Movies and Conversation with my friend and colleague, Kreshaun McKinney, that seeks to explore tough issues surrounding culture, communication, race, sexuality, and so on (issues that are continually explored through art) by using a film as launchpad for
Discussions, some of which go 2+ hours!

Beyond those two programs which I’m especially proud of, I am an advocate for diversity and equality within the museum itself, and I create free programming for adults tied to our exhibitions and permanent collection. I actively look to make a difference in the Kansas City community by showing support and volunteering for numerous local causes and groups as well as hoping to join local boards.

I am a biracial woman, half Chinese and half German by ethnicity, who was born in Malaysia and grew up in California while traveling back and forth visiting family every year. Thus, while Chinese, I am much more familiar with Chinese-Malaysian culture than that of mainland China. I grew up mainly in California but would spend summers with family in Malaysia, and spent time in primary schools in Malaysia, Barbados and Colombia. As a third culture kid, this mix of experiences have a tremendous influence on how I see the world and its nuances.

KC Story

I moved here in December 2013, so I’ll have called Kansas City “home” for almost four years now. As a native Californian, I never thought I’d be living in the Midwest and loving it. I was hired by the Nelson-Atkins originally as the Coordinator of Public Programs, which is what brought me here. My work at the museum, the friends I’ve made,  the colleagues I have and the vibrancy of the city are what keep me here (cost of living doesn’t hurt either).

A day in the life

My days always start off with cuddles with my American Bulldog, Rifkin. It doesn’t start off right without loving on him a bit. If I can’t make breakfast, I’ll usually pick up something from t. Loft on the Plaza to eat at my desk before I get started on work.

I spend a healthy amount of time sitting at my desk, coordinating with departments across the museum as well as people around the city in planning programs like Third Thursday, Reel to REAL, exhibition-related programs like talks and films, and one-off special programs and events. I’m always researching the wonderful things that people are doing, creating, and organizing in Kansas City and reaching out for collaborations or to be featured at a Third Thursday in our Community Spotlight.
However, I run enough programs during evenings and Saturdays that some weeks, half my time is spent moving around the museum like a madwoman. I log a lot of steps between escorting speakers and performers in; connecting with our AV tech, volunteers, maintenance, security; and setting up activities. I love being able to spend time with our visitors.
After work, you can probably find me at Westport Ice Cream Bakery, Julep, or The Foundry before heading home to watch Netflix, scroll through Instagram for home and travel inspiration or read up on museums making headway in the social justice arena. (I’m quite the multitasker – just ask my colleagues about the number of Google Chrome tabs I have open at any given moment.) I’m an INFP so I value my
quiet recharging time greatly. It’s much needed after spending time out at First Fridays, checking out the amazing and varied food scene in KC, heading to shows and events around town to see who would be a good fit for a museum program and how I can connect the museum to the greater KC culture.

Legacy

I want to be known as an intelligent, strong, empathetic woman who uses her voice to speak up for gender and racial equality, justice, and issues of equity. I’d like to be known for helping to push museums into critically thinking about diversity and acting on it, for creating programs that speak to both traditional museum audiences interested in the aesthetic value and history of art to newer audiences who perhaps previously didn’t think museums were for them. I want to
create a new generation of museum goers who can critically think about our artworks and exhibitions from an intersectional viewpoint and who feel the museum is also for them.

Whoa

I freaking love a good harmonica solo (if you’ve seen ZZ Ward or classic rock gods, you’d know why). I really want to learn how to play and can squeak out an almost recognizable Amazing Grace. I’d love to play proficiently by my 31st birthday next June so if you have any tips, let me know!

Protip

Explore. Be aware of the world. That exploration not only makes you more aware of yourself, your place in humanity, and your purpose, but creates an understanding and empathy for others that is, quite honestly, sorely needed in today’s climate.