Welcome to another installment of Meet Our Staff, which is a chance to profile those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the UMFA fantastic. This series will run for the duration of March, so keep checking back to get to know us a little better.
Alright, let’s kick things off with Alexandra Monet Monjar, better known around here as Ali:
5 Questions for Alexandra Monet Monjar
What is your role at the UMFA? Describe a typical (or memorable!) day on the job
I am the Manager of Volunteer and Tour Programs. Most of my job ends up being a lot of administration work—lots of emails and phone calls and scheduling. That stuff is just okay, but the fun part of my job is meeting all the amazing docents (a fancy name for tour guides) and volunteers we have and getting to know them. I think my most favorite moment in my job was during our docent trip to Philadelphia. On the last night of the trip, we went on a dinner cruise on the river. There was this light-up dance floor in the middle of the boat straight out of how I imagine the 70’s. And, I did not expect this to happen, but nearly everyone got up and was dancing to the hip hop and pop music the DJ was playing. I’m always delighted with how much fun we can have.
What is your favorite work in the collection, and why?
I have always had a hard time picking my favorite anything, but I will say that one of my favorites is Walking Buddha. I didn’t always think of this piece as particularly interesting, but one day, I was walking in the galleries from the very north end of the American Art galleries into the Asian Art gallery. I looked up ahead of me and saw Walking Buddha. In that moment, he looked like he was walking towards me, too, with his hand raised in greeting like he was an old friend I just happened to run into. Since then, whenever I walk along that route, I like to offer him a greeting and notice the fluid movement of the sculpture: his soft, curved body, swaying hips, and flowing robes. I just think it’s really lovely and calming. The sculpture feels familiar and friendly to me.
What are your favorite parts of this city and this state? When you’re not at the museum, where might we find you?
My favorite part of Salt Lake City is downtown. I am so happy with how it is growing and I love watching new bars and restaurants open up on Main Street and nearby. Since Pie Hole started offering daily vegan slices, you can find me there rather often.
The other place you would find me is at ONYX Pole and Aerial Fitness Studio. (More about that later). I also spend a lot of time just relaxing at home with my husband and cat.
What is your favorite way to pass the time—what are your hobbies, your talents, your interests?
My biggest hobby is pole and aerial fitness. I’ve been doing it on and off for about 5 years. And I recently started teaching beginner pole and silks classes at ONYX.
My twin sister and I grew up dancing together and started exploring this new (to us) form of dance together as well. We like to do goofy duet performances and we recently performed at an 80’s themed charity event for the Rape Recovery Center.
I’m also interested in sustainable and compassionate living. I have a plant-based diet and I like to work on reducing my carbon footprint and choosing sustainably and humanely sourced and manufactured products.
You’re pretty much the UMFA’s resident dancer on staff. Could you tell us a bit about this experience? When did you begin dancing? What does dancing give you that you can’t get anywhere else?
My experience as UMFA’s ‘resident dancer’ has actually been pretty rewarding since I got to perform on aerial silks at a SMAC Cirque Party when we had the Georges Rouault: Circus of the Shooting Star exhibition. It was exciting to have the chance to show my fellow staff what I do for fun.
I started dancing ballet when I was 8 years old, and I got into Modern, Jazz, and African dance in High School as a member of the Davis High Dance Company. I started pole and aerial dance in college when my sister planned a pole class for our friend’s bachelorette party. I think that dance gives me an amazing amount of freedom and creativity of expression. When you dance, your body is your instrument, which makes the art form very instinctual, almost primal. We are moving from even before we are born and I think that when we dance, we tap into this really deep place in ourselves whether we realize it or not. I have also read that when you watch someone dance, your brain reacts as if you were the one dancing. I think that is really powerful and can connect us to each other—it’s like unconscious empathy. Dance for me is a way to communicate deeply with an audience without using words. In that way, I think it’s a very universal art form.