For David Matteson, associate curator of education and outreach at the Orlando Museum of Art, visitor connection isn’t just the greatest struggle in his everyday routine; it’s also his greatest joy.
Matteson, 26, has been involved with the Orlando Museum of Art since 2014, where he volunteered with the curatorial staff to prepare for the Maya Lin exhibition. However, Matteson said that his love for art sparked years earlier in his life.
“My parents were all about arts and culture,” Matteson said. “They took me to see plays, visit the theatres and tour the museums. As a young boy, I remember being amazed at the beauty and mass of the works.”
Since then, Matteson has stayed an Orlando native, living in Thornton Park with his partner David. He attended Rollins College where he earned his undergraduate degree in 2015 in studio art and English and then graduated from Rollins again in 2018 with a technical in books art and printing.
“It is so exciting for me living in Orlando my whole life to see the growth and development of art and culture in our community over the years,” Matteson said. “It makes me proud to represent Orlando as a native.”
However, Matteson said he credits his personal growth in Orlando to the museum.
After volunteering, Matteson quickly earned an internship in the marketing department at the museum before moving up to coordinate the museum shop. Now, Matteson said he is humbled every day working in his job as associate curator.
As associate curator, Matteson gives tours of the museum, conducts lectures and oversees all the adult and community-access programs. He said that the programs are part of what makes the museum so special.
“The beauty of museum work and museum education goes so much further than a captivating piece of artwork,” Matteson said. “I get to connect with individuals from such diverse backgrounds who hold entirely different perspectives.”
From special programs for children with developmental and learning disabilities to programs that support LGBTQ youth at risk, the art museum really does have a program for everyone.
Matteson said that what he struggles most with is getting visitors to see past the frustration of looking at an abstract canvas with few colors and lines and instead helping them focus on the emotion in the work.
“What I have really fallen in love with is watching the connections form between the art and the viewer,” Matteson said. “It is not only what an artist intends in a piece but also about what part of that work speaks to the individual taking in the art.”
The connection that Matteson can sense in the work in the museum can be credited to his love for art even outside work. He said that he is always practicing observational art and that sketching every day keeps his mind occupied, as well as journaling for creativity purposes.
Although many pieces find their way into the comfort of the museum, Matteson said that he is a big fan of Richard Diebenkorn and his figurative piece Woman with Flower.
“My favorite piece of art is always changing, but there is something so intriguing about the conversations that get drawn up from this abstract piece that strays far away from the artist’s usual line of work,” Matteson said.
On top of his art and work, Matteson said he is working on a doctoral degree at the University of Central Florida in texts and technology. Matteson also serves on the boards of the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida and the Orlando Chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Recently, he was even invited to serve on the taskforce for the new Pulse Museum and Memorial.
In his free time, Matteson also involves traveling to view different museums all over the world. He said he has visited museums in Paris and London, just to name a couple. Matteson said that, in the future, he hopes to continue to grow in the museum field.
“Museums have the ability to preserve our cultural history,” Matteson said. “Even more than that, they possess the ability to connect, sometimes even without words. My goal is to make these ideas in art, culture and history accessible to everyone, regardless of their status in society.”