During a family vacation to Moab, Utah, Michelle Visser said her husband suddenly jaywalked across a street — arms brimming with freshly-bought groceries — drawn to get a closer look at a statue there. That disruption to routine, she said, was just one of the priorities she keeps in mind as she transitions in to the role of executive director of the Laramie Public Art Coalition.
“My whole family ended up on the other side of the street looking at the sculpture,” Visser said when she talked to the Boomerang late last week. “This position provides me with an opportunity to bring to our ordinary day-to-day experience these little opportunities to step outside of routine and just be curious.”
The desire to spark and fuel curiosity comes, in part, from her background in education. Visser taught art in Teton County, Idaho to elementary school students who otherwise would not have access to art education during their school day. Currently, she also serves as the teen coordinator for the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
With her history of pairing art and education together, Visser said she can see the relationship between the two applying to her time with LPAC as well.
“Art feels like an opportunity to connect people to themselves and to one another and to a sense of place without any direction,” Visser said. “I get to work alongside them and provide opportunities and explore with them what’s meaningful. Education is similar; you get to be a guide to learners, but ultimately, they’re making their own sense of what it is they’re noticing and engaging with.”
While not a formally trained artist, Visser said she enjoys creative outlets including poetry, water color painting and teaching herself how to play guitar. Encouraging anyone to make art, not just those with training, is another goal Visser has for her time at LPAC.
“We have wonderful visual art represented around our community, so can we change it up and get more laypeople involved?” Visser asked. “Children are a natural connection for me, so can the public art realm be a way to influence self-expression and potential endeavors in professional artistic activities for children?”
A recent public art piece using a projector inspired Visser to explore ideas involving setting up videography mentorships and workshops to help teach community members how to use the cameras they carry with them every day — cell phones.
“I think we all are trying to tell a story when we’re making videos, and social media sort of enhances that,” Visser said. “So, is there some way that we can take that intrinsic interest in telling a story about our sense of place that we have or something that feels real to us, and turning it into an art form that we could share?”
Creating relationships between artists and community members is an idea Visser said would be “fascinating.”
Broadening people’s definitions and understanding of art is another area Visser wants to explore, citing potential in crafts like knitting or performance art downtown. Art can create meaningful conversations in a nonthreatening way, Visser said, something refreshing in today’s culture of polarized views and opinions.
“That ultimately is what really excites me about this position,” Visser said. “You’re bringing people together intentionally or because they happen to stumble upon it, and you get a new kind of conversation.”
A Laramie resident since 1996, Visser said she’s always been driven by the desire to “contribute to the community” she lives in. Whether It’s coordinating Teen Open Art Studio Time at the University of Wyoming or her new position with LPAC, she said she’s drawn to “improving the quality of life” in her community.