There is a whole different sort of art to entertaining and doing it well. That’s been the function of our MMFA events planner since the Museum relocated to the Blount Cultural Park in 1989. This individual is responsible for ensuring that every event held at the Museum—from receptions, to dinners, to musical performances and community festivals—is a distinctive and memorable experience for our guests. Aaron Ganey recently joined us as Events Coordinator after having worked previously for our long-time caterer Jennie Weller Catering and Events. It was a smooth transition since the Museum staff had already enjoyed working with Aaron for several years, and Jennie now has an established and familiar line of communication within the Museum’s staff. I sat down to talk with Aaron about his position at the MMFA the morning after he coordinated a wonderful dinner for more than 300 guests held to celebrate Montgomery Medical Advocacy and Outreach and its 30 years of serving our community. The building was still buzzing with the excitement generated by this amazing occasion when we began our discussion.
Margaret Lynne Ausfeld: Aaron, tell me a bit about how you chose a career in events management and planning, and a little about your background.
Aaron Ganey: I have always loved entertaining at every level of complexity, the full gamut, from simple intimate dinners at home to more elaborate receptions, corporate events, and the like. It’s been my passion for a long time. I started by working in a restaurant in high school, and later transitioned to the world of catering. I get a real satisfaction from taking care of all the small details that will make an occasion successful. It really doesn’t matter how many people are involved or being served: planning can make or break an event.
MLA: What attracted you to a position at an art museum? How does this position differ from your previous experiences?
AG: Well, simply put, I love both entertaining and museums! When you combine the two it’s pretty much a dream job in my eyes. I knew from my work with Jennie Weller there were a lot of “rules” about what we can and cannot do because of the presence of the art, but that is just part of the challenge and I like that. The other side of that equation is the inspiration that I can draw from the creativity that is all around me in the works of art.
MLA: Speaking of inspiration, how does working at the Museum allow you opportunities to incorporate more creativity into your own work? What functions of the events planning position do you like best?
AG: I am the ultimate “details” person. The planning is a natural part of my personality so I don’t find it daunting or intimidating to deal with the many elements that go into a large dinner or a public festival. Here at the Museum, I find it’s a great asset to take an art installation and design an event that plays off of it. The Frank Stella print exhibition opening was a good opportunity for me to create an atmosphere that emphasized the color and vibrancy of the art itself in the tablescapes, the linens, florals, and other decorations, as well as in featuring the menu prepared by Jennie.
MLA: We both are fans of “natural” arrangements of flowers and greenery. What’s your favorite element to use in your own designs?
AG: I take “florals” rather less literally than just arrangements of flowers. To me, a successful design incorporates forms just as much as color. The geometry of greenery and leaves always fascinates. For example, I love to cut branches with green, unripe figs and use them when they are in season. The rounded shapes play off of the otherwise linear parts of branches and leaves. A small budget doesn’t have to mean a less impressive expression of creativity…. I love a challenge.
MLA: What aspects of the Museum recommend it to a client who is seeking a venue for a special event? What are you looking forward to trying in the new sculpture garden space?
AG: Just being in the spaces at the Museum imparts character to an event. Not only the art on the walls, but the architectural forms of the spaces are beautifully scaled and they allow for a variety of vistas through doorways and windows. We have art that’s always changing, and the landscape and light in the park are always in transition too. The garden will offer entirely different options for events and elements of events we cannot do inside. We’ll be able utilize specialized smaller spaces and combine them creatively to make the event more successful. People and things can be more spread out in the garden. We’ll have the added factor of changing seasons, too. It will always be a different space to experience every time someone comes.
MLA: What do you want people to know about the Museum and the advantages of hosting events here?
AG: The Museum is a unique venue for Montgomery, and because of that, we can make events one-of-a-kind too. I strive to make each event personal for the host. I want to make sure that they and their guests feel comfortable in the environment and are free to enjoy themselves. It’s important to me that we work together to create wonderful memories for special occasions. Finally, it’s a great way to have that amazing experience AND support one of the most important art institutions in our community. If you have ever considered being a donor to the Museum at a patron level, there’s a complimentary use of the facility that comes with that major support category. Thus you can truly support the Museum in multiple ways when you host an event at the MMFA. It’s truly a win-win in my book!
Thanks Aaron! And with that, he’s off to plan another great event at the MMFA. To contact Aaron about booking your own special event, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can request more information online here. He can also be reached at 334-240-4350.
Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art