Community Service Award Winner: Peggy Speir
The College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences congratulates the 2022 Alumni Award Winners! These distinguished alumni have made positive, lasting impacts on not just CAHSS but within the liberal arts and their communities at large. We are proud to shine a spotlight on the incredible work these alumni have done and we look forward to their continued success.
Graduation year and major
MA ’09, Art History with a concentration in Museum Studies
What is your current role?
Manager of Access Programs and Resources in the Education Department at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas
How did you get into this career?
Since I was in high school, I have always loved working with special needs groups, particularly adults with intellectual disabilities. That was something I continued doing while in undergrad at Loyola University Maryland. In college, I was on a communications major path, but I took an art history class and fell in love. I switched tracks and declared art history as my major. Once I graduated, I took a semester off, then started at DU.
While earning my degree, I helped at organizations like the Special Olympics and adult day-hab facilities when I could. I took my first museum job in the education department at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) after graduating from DU.
Because of my experiences, I was very aware of accessibility needs while I was doing other in-gallery interpretation work. This eventually landed me another position at the DAM with the manager of access, where I did that for a couple of years while also creating family experiences. When my contracts ran out, I took a position in the education department at the Baltimore Museum of Art in public programs and made sure I always integrated universal design into my work. I continued to attend conferences and workshops that included accessibility sessions or focuses to keep up-to-date on best practices.
When that contract wrapped up, I accepted a position at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which was now about nine years ago. I started as interpretation manager but continued integrating universal design into my work. That snowballed, and I essentially made my work just as much about access as it was interpretation, and the museum changed my title/responsibility to reflect what I was doing.
Looking back on it, I basically created my own access position here. The need to include and welcome visitors of all abilities became more and more necessary in the museum industry and the world. In 2020, I began focusing on only access programs and resources. I manage/create all the special needs programs while developing universally designed tools and resources for the “non-access” audiences as well. While we try to cater to as many people as possible, our primary access offerings are for those with Alzheimer’s/dementia, autism (and other neurodivergent disorders), intellectual disabilities, and low/no vision and all of their care partners.
Currently, the Carter’s education programs are integrating universal design into audiences across the board with my help. Art and helping those with special needs has always been my passion; I’ve been lucky enough to get to do both for a living.
What are your favorite memories of your time at DU?
I have so many wonderful memories from my time at DU, both in and out of the classroom. I was a teaching assistant in the slide library, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I met some of my closest friends through my program. My favorite professor was Dada and Surrealist professor, Dr. M.E. Warlick; she was such a cool and smart soul. Also, I absolutely loved taking Dr. Pete Hassrick’s Western Art class.
What advice would you give to new and current students?
Make sure you are continuing on an education path that you actually love doing. Use your past and present experiences and interests to make your presence one that cannot be replaced in a work setting.