Gaynell Brady’s office perfectly reflects this Louisiana State Museum employee’s personality. It is a bright, sunshine yellow. On the walls and on her desk are a variety of smiling Disney characters and the view from her Presbytere window looks out over historic Jackson Square and the mighty Mississippi River.
Gaynell started out at the museum as an intern. Through passion – and the ability to increase the museum’s attendance – she worked her way up to her current position. She is now the K-12 Educator. She loves what she does.
“It is important to me that everyone knows that this is their museum,” she says. “It’s affordable and most of its programs are free. Everything we do here is for the city and its residents.” She cites Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond, which is currently on display, as an example. “Not only is this exhibit important for the tourists who come, but we know that it is also important to the residents because it offers a sense of self and belonging.”
When she was quite young her parents took her to the Old U.S. Mint and New Orleans Museum of Art. She thinks her love of museums started with those early visits.
And though she started college in pre-med, she soon switched to history because of her affinity for the subject. Then, in 2003, an issue of Gambit changed her life. It was a “40 under 40” feature; Redell Hearn from Southern University at New Orleans was one of the group. Hearn, at that time, was the director of the Master of Arts in Museum Studies program at Southern University at New Orleans.
“I just knew that’s want I wanted to do,” she says.
In January 2004 Gaynell enrolled in the program. She went every semester without a break. Katrina couldn’t stop her; she continued all of her classes online. Even having a baby didn’t sway her from reaching her goal as fast as she could. “I brought my computer and books with me to the hospital so I could study while I recuperated from a C-section.”
She was the first in her family to receive a master’s degree. Her sister, who drowned during Katrina, had promised to pay for her cap and gown. “I used that drive to finish my degree,” she says. “I just couldn’t let her down.”
Gaynell is just as passionate about her volunteer efforts. She gives much of her free time to the efforts of the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund headed by Nakita Shavers. Recently, she’s been very busy with its 3rdAnnual Back-to-School Extravaganza, which will be held on August 20,1-5 pm at the Treme Community Center. The event is a free school supply giveaway and will also include food, music, entertainment, health screenings, and much more.
“Museums are not boring,” Gaynell says with passion and boundless energy. “Everyone in New Orleans carries with them a piece of this museum.”
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