Meet the New CEO of Minnetrista Museum and Gardens

Brian is pictured on the far left as he speaks to a group. Photo providedBrian is pictured on the far left as he speaks to a group. Photo provided

By Brian Statz, CEO of Minnetrista Museum and Gardens—

MUNCIE, IN—Since arriving in January, the Muncie community has shown me kindness and patience as I learned on the job, made my way around the city and elsewhere in East Central Indiana, and found an apartment downtown. I am grateful to those who made time to meet with me to discuss their role in the life of Muncie, their history and hopes, and what they are working to achieve. I still have many people to meet and much to learn, but the information and guidance from the people I’ve met have been invaluable.

 2023 was a year of transition for Minnetrista – one that challenged us and helped point us in a new direction to better serve our community. In addition to transitioning to a new President & CEO, we welcomed new staff throughout our organization who brought fresh perspectives, creativity, and dynamic thinking to how we operate. Our existing staff truly has been welcoming to me and all the new staff while we work to make sure we all are in tune and playing in the same key.

 I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all our wonderful members and generous donors, everyone who attended a Minnetrista exhibition, program, field trip, workshop, class, camp, or signature event, and everyone who just came to our campus to relax, recharge, and find the peace and serenity that our grounds and gardens were designed to provide.

I am also thankful for the Minnetrista staff and volunteers for all their work in creating exhibits, developing programs, caring for our grounds and gardens, and hosting events that brought our community together in 2023, including (but not limited to) Black History Month Kickoff; Muncie Arbor Day Celebration; Garden Fair; Independence Day Celebration; Faeries, Sprites, and Lights; Flags of Honor; Boo-levard Bash; and Enchanted Luminaria Walk, not to mention our free Family Adventure Days and our Farmers Market. Minnetrista is meant to be a gathering place for all of Muncie and East Central Indiana, and I believe events like these help strengthen our community.

Because of the pandemic and other factors, museums can no longer rest on their laurels, content to offer quality exhibitions and programs, open their doors, and expect the community to visit.

Instead, museums must proactively engage with their community–reaching out to learn what interests the community, what matters to our visitors, and how we can help improve the place we call home.

To that end, we are working to provide the following in 2024 and beyond:

  • Increased outreach to schools, community groups, neighborhoods, and more.

The best way for us to know how to serve our neighbors is to ask our neighbors how we can be of service. Our activities will not be confined to our campus borders but rather will extend throughout Muncie and East Central Indiana.

  • A full menu of exhibitions and programs.

We will build on our success in 2023 by offering a variety of exhibitions, programs, workshops, classes, and more, so that visitors have the option of coming to Minnetrista for a day full of activities involving art, history, nature, and more.

  • Continued focus on informal learning.

We will continue to develop programs that supplement the formal learning of our community schools by providing informal opportunities for children and all learners to build fundamental skills, including literacy, building upon the love of reading shared by George, Frances, and Betty Ball.

  • Complete our signature event calendar.

For years, Minnetrista has offered signature events in spring (Garden Fair), summer (Faeries, Sprites, and Lights) and winter (Enchanted Luminaria Walk). This year, our creative staff came up with an idea to fill the gap in autumn – Boo-levard Bash, a fun family event. We look to build on that event, and we would love your input on what you would like to see and experience.

  • Wellness offerings.

In addition to our exhibitions and programs, we would like all of Muncie and East Central Indiana to be able to enjoy our gardens and grounds as a type of sanctuary – a sanctuary for everyday people. Around 100,000 people visit our campus each year to enjoy the surroundings and find peace. To supplement that experience, we will work to develop programs that promote health and wellness to help our visitors take care of themselves.

  • Develop and define our campus.

Through landscaping and other measures, we will further define our campus so that visitors to Minnetrista feel like they are “in Minnetrista,” surrounded by historic buildings, gardens, and other natural environments, to provide separation from the cares and concerns of the outside world. We will continue to explore plans to beautify our expansive East Lawn to have it match the splendor of the rest of our campus – doing so could give Muncie an area that resembles (and may one day rival) historic places like the Biltmore mansion and gardens.

These are just some of the projects we are working on at Minnetrista, all designed to benefit our neighbors and contribute to the quality of life in Muncie and East Central Indiana. Some of these ideas are big and will not be easy to achieve, but Minnetrista is a unique and special place that warrants and inspires big ideas. Our community deserves nothing less.

Before closing, I want to mention the invaluable help our volunteers provide, not just through their physical work but also through the perspective they bring to Minnetrista. We recently lost one of our long-time volunteers, Jean Gadziola, who passed away in November. Jean volunteered for 27 years at Minnetrista (with almost 1500 volunteer hours) across a variety of areas, including our Horticulture department, Farmers Market and signature events. I spoke with Jean over the summer during the Farmers Market, and we discussed everything and nothing, as people do. She told me how much she loved Minnetrista and being a part of our activities. The last time I saw her was at a volunteer reception where, when asked about her history, she casually mentioned that she had a degree in microbiology (among other degrees) and worked as a microbiologist and epidemiologist at Ball Memorial Hospital before retirement. At first, I was surprised that she had never mentioned something that important to me during our discussions, but then I realized that it was just who she was – a kind and helpful person with a good sense of humor who wanted to talk about Minnetrista instead of herself. We will miss her a great deal.

No matter who you are or where you come from, please know that you are welcome at Minnetrista. I hope that you, like Jean, will find Minnetrista to be a place that makes you happy. Thank you for being a friend to Minnetrista, and best wishes to you during the holidays and in the new year.