Meet Marriah Thornock, Executive Director of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. With a little over a year under her belt, we talked to Marriah about how she sees the museum developing as a community connector, where she prefers to catch a sunset in town, and much more.
What brought you to this role?
“I started at the Museum in 2013. My passion and love is for arts and culture, particularly for the impact that arts and culture can have on community. I joined the Museum as the Volunteer and Membership Coordinator, which allowed me to get to know the people that supported the Museum. I then transitioned into Operations for several years. This was an excellent opportunity to understand the various functions of the Museum and the interchange and collaboration that needs to happen to help the Museum run effectively. I took on the role of the Executive Director last summer. I love this transition, being out in the community, representing and supporting the growth and development of the Museum.”
What do you hope to bring to the Wenatchee community through the Museum?
“While museums can play many roles in a community, I think it will be necessary for this Museum to play the role of community connector. I encourage everyone to come through our exhibits and have a traditional museum experience. But I hope we are also the place you come to for lifetime learning through our classes, tours, and lectures. I love seeing families that come and play with other families regularly in our children's activity center, Coyote's Corner. And I hope our cultural festivals are essential annual events for the community, celebrating our unique regional culture and heritage.”
What does it mean to you to be a leader in the Wenatchee Valley community?
“My previous role as Director of Operations focused on developing internal strength in the organization. Becoming the Executive Director, I am also focused on external collaborations that can help strengthen all of our community organizations. But looking at and supporting arts, heritage, and culture throughout North Central Washington, I hope that I can help build and collaborate with others doing the same work. The Wenatchee Valley community needs a collaborative approach. I don't just want to see a strong Museum in Wenatchee. I hope we have a network of solid museums up and down the Columbia River. I also want more than just strong arts and cultural programming at the museum. I want our programming to be a part of a strong arts and cultural community throughout the Wenatchee Valley. Being a leader in the Wenatchee Valley means having a community-wide view and focus.”
How have you seen the valley grow in the past ten years? How do you hope to see it grow in the next 10?
“I have been amazed by some of the changes that have come to Wenatchee over the last decade and how critical those changes have been to the fabric of the community. This change has been valley wide and can be seen in the number of mountain trails developed, the growth of the loop, the development of our parks, and the establishment of Pybus. None of these were here or were just being developed ten years ago, and now I can't imagine Wenatchee without them. I hope that this community building continues. I hope that we continue to see well-planned community-minded growth. When it is done with our community in mind and in collaboration with a broader strategic community plan, they will become a part of the community fabric and a community asset almost immediately.”
What's your favorite exhibit right now?
“We have recently re-designed and made updates to our Apple Industry exhibit. Our exhibits curator did an excellent job of creating a very experiential exhibit. There are beautiful large-scale photos of historic orchards; the area on the packing and warehouse feels like you are walking into a historic warehouse, but it has just enough new technology in it to educate people on not only historic packing facilities but our modern ones, which I don't think many people get to see. She has also introduced technology meaningfully, so people who want to dive deeper into the subject can. And we have interactive elements that will engage young kids. These more experiential exhibits are a good look at the future of the Museum.”
How do you decide what to showcase in the Museum? What goes into curating an exhibit?
“Our exhibit calendar is planned three to five years out. While one exhibit is on display, we are building the next exhibit and researching and writing future exhibits. Sometimes our exhibit schedule is driven by upcoming anniversaries, topics that are starting to emerge as crucial to the community, or opportunities to bring in a traveling exhibit. But we are always looking at the more extensive history and heritage of North Central Washington and the Wenatchee Valley, evaluating what untold stories need to be highlighted.”
What's your favorite place in town for:
Food + Drinks: “I am getting hungry just thinking of all my favorites! But right now, mainly because it is summer and I love outdoor eating, either a Negroni and the Beet and Arugula Salad at Fire on their patio with a view of the river or the garden at Shakti's enjoying a Gimlet and their Crab Cake Twilight Dinner.”
Sunset/Sunrise: “My favorite sunset has to be getting in the last run at Mission Ridge on Upper Chak Chak. I think that is the best view in the valley. My favorite sunrise is on my back porch with my first cup of coffee.”