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Letter from Erika: Semper Gumby

June 27, 2023 8:04 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters,

When I was 36 years old, my mother bought me a three inch-tall Gumby. For those without much gray hair, Gumby was a claymation TV show character who had a horse named Pokey. The Gumby Show was one of my childhood favorites, especially once we were able to afford a color television and I could see that Gumby was green and Pokey was orange. Eddie Murphy dressed as Gumby in costume on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s (I don’t remember many of those episodes) and Gumby had his own 1995 feature film.  

Gumby’s essential trait is that he is flexible. My mother’s gift was sent at a time when I needed to learn that flexibility is important to success. I was working at an organization that had just hired their third director in four years and I was suffering from a severe case of priority whiplash. The director who hired me concentrated on audience and community, the second on major donors, and the third on facilities. Projects in which staff had invested years of work were tossed; budgets were cut, then increased; technology was always behind the last update. Leadership did not make time to share their process, and much of the staff did not understand the “why” behind the changes. When I was at the end of a frayed rope, or my mother was tired of my complaints, she sent me a Gumby. 

A few years ago, I was talking to a colleague who had served in the Marines about organizational change. I enjoyed hearing their perspective about teamwork and project management. As we wrapped up the conversation they said “Semper Gumby” and my heart skipped a beat. They shared that the Marines adopted “Semper Gumby” as an unofficial motto to teach the importance of flexibility. My mom and the Marines were on the same wavelength.

I believe flexibility is a lesson best learned with an open mind. MANY’s Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore is a unique, immersive, and transformative experience where museum professionals learn to build leadership skills and open their minds to change. Over the course of four days in this beautiful, isolated environment, all you will be asked to do is think deeply and participate in learning. You will exchange ideas over breakfast, discuss strategies under the stars, and reflect on shared experiences without the buzz of phones, traffic, or daily life to interrupt your thoughts.

We are really excited about our Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore this year and the different ways our presenters are planning to help attendees learn leadership skills - including flexibility. Someone interested in applying asked us to extend the deadline. So with flexibility in mind, the new deadline for applications to the Re-Thinking Leadership, the 2023 Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore is 5 PM on July 5. If you are a mid-career museum professional, I hope you will apply to join us this year. 

Thank you and Semper Gumby! 

Erika Sanger, Executive Director

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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