Mary Jo Mueller, 21 June 1950–18 April 2021, peacefully and comfortably, without any pain she has left us. A community celebration will be held on Juneteenth of this year.
Her soft, gentle voice, her radiant smile, her slender silhouette, her slight leaning toward me to hear me when I spoke, this is the elegance of Jo Mueller that lives on in my heart and in my mind. Of course there is her art, as well, in all the ways she made her art. Her creative style personifies joyful elegance whether for growing Joplin’s George A. Spiva Center for the Arts into a regional powerhouse and pilgrimage destination or as the exquisitely gifted artist who crafted tiny masterpieces for artCentral’s Small Works | Great Wonders fundraising Silent Auction.
What an inspiration to know and work with Jo up close and personal.
From our first acquaintance, I looked to Jo as my mentoring big sister in our worlds of managing non-profit art organizations. The very first week I sat at my upstairs office desk in Hyde House I received a thoughtfully penned note from Jo. She congratulated me on my new position, wished me well and encouraged me to reach out to her if she could help in any way.
I did reach out to her for help as I learned how to fulfill my role as artCentral’s executive director-curator. Jo always responded with thoughtful, positive, gracious kindness, wise counsel and continued encouragement. When I asked her how she became so comfortable speaking in public and particularly at Spiva opening receptions, she told me her gifted partner, Don Ayers, was her go-to teacher and coach. Her love, respect and admiration for Don, and their supportive relationship, set the bar high for the man I would meet and marry.
Just weeks ago emails flew through the cyberspace between Jo and me. Our conference calls vibrated with exciting exhibition plans in the making, as together with Lori Marble we began conceiving Jo’s and Lori’s P-I-E-C-E-D TOGETHER duet exhibition to fill the walls of Hyde House for this coming October and November into December. Now is too soon to understand how Lori and I will go on without Jo’s presence, but when the time is right, I know for certain Jo’s loving, guiding spirit will be with us as we carry on our creative conversation already begun.
The Colorado Christian University in Denver awarded Jo a B.S. in organizational management. Over much of her career, Jo demonstrated a passion for the arts and the business of art, filling management positions in film, dance, theater, and visual arts organizations. She directed Spiva from 2003 until her retirement in 2016. Before and between those earnest/arduous not-for-profit adventures, she worked as a telephone installer, completed a year of dental school, and twice indulged her inner Martha Stewart as a bed and breakfast innkeeper in the Northwest.
Jo was recognized numerous times for her accomplishments at Spiva and in 2016 received the prestigious statewide Leadership in the Arts award from the Missouri Arts Council. She served on the board of directors for Connect2Culture and enjoyed memberships in artCentral, Joplin Regional Artists Coalition, Spiva Center for the Arts, and Crystal Bridges.
Jo’s art is held in private collections and has been shown locally in solo and group exhibitions. Mark your calendars now for P-I-E-C-E-D TOGETHER, Jo’s and Lori Marble’s October, November into December exhibition at artCentral. Come see and celebrate the vibrant beauty of these two elegant artist friends.
The Philip Ledbetter: PAINT in MOTION exhibition continues at Hyde House through May 15!