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Arts education pays off with Denver museum job for alum Messenheimer

“Every day really is a new experience," Micah Messenheimer says of his job at the Denver Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Micah Messenheimer

Living proof. That’s what you could call Micah Messenheimer (MA ’10, MLIS ’10). Living proof that there is life – and work — after studying the arts in college.

But even he admits the road can be rough.

“I think most students who enter the arts do it out of passion, and they need that to keep a career going, especially after they graduate. It can be a difficult transition,” Messenheimer says.

Art captured Messenheimer’s imagination growing up in Ohio during school field trips to museums. He headed to Ball State University as an architecture major but switched to photography. After earning an MFA in photography at San Francisco State University, he worked in a commercial art gallery.

But he soon realized he had more interest in exhibitions and working with artists than he did in art sales and marketing.

To prep himself for that career, he chose the University of Denver’s dual degree program, where he earned a master’s in art history and museum studies and a master’s in library and information science.

“I really appreciated the emphasis on internships,” says Messenheimer, who interned at the Colorado History Museum and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) while at DU. “I really think that’s essential — you have to be active in the field to learn the skills you need.”

Today Messenheimer, 36, works full time at the Denver Art Museum as a curatorial assistant, handling collections, research, exhibits, image rights and advisory board coordination.

“Every day really is a new experience because the job is broad. In general, I work as the main contact in curatorial to all the other departments at DAM,” he says. “I enjoy getting to work so closely with the art — putting up a show from start to finish, working with a crew to get it on the walls. From collections and selecting pieces to bringing in work on loan, it’s all great.”

One highlight, he says, was helping with the Robert Adams photography exhibit that ended in January. “It was a retrospective of his entire career. He really created a new awareness of landscape … he turned the old way of looking at landscapes on its head, and [the exhibit showed] us how human activity can impact the land.”

Another part of Messenheimer’s job involves educational programs, and he has one coming up at 4 p.m. April 6 at DAM. He’ll discuss Sleight of Hand, a temporary exhibit that features contemporary sculptures and images made from embroidery, quilting, weaving, netting, crochet and coiling. The event is free with general admission and no reservations are needed. For information, call 720-913-0130 or visit

Messenheimer’s advice to students interested in pursuing the arts: “Be open to unexpected opportunities and use your creativity to build a career that maybe doesn’t offer the greatest financial rewards, but it lets you to do what you love every day.”

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