PRO-File: Institutional Member

September 11, 2017

Name: Patricia Sampson: A Volunteer with Passion  — who believes in Fate

Job Title: Manager of Retail Shop and Visual Merchandising

Institution: High Museum of Art

Location: Atlanta, GA

Interviewed by: Laura Murphy, Preservation Society of Newport County

What path brought you to your job?

I grew up in Harlem, NY. There I would escape to the Museum of the City of New York located on 5th Avenue.   Admission was free then, and I often found myself walking around there.  I was in awe of what I could learn about my city!  I majored in Fashion Merchandising at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. My degree brought me to Atlanta, GA  where  I found a job in the for-profit world in Birmingham with an independent retailer, Parisian.  At Parisian I began my buying career by purchasing swimwear, intimate apparel, ladies clothing lines, and menswear.  When Parisian was purchased by Sachs, I found myself out of a job.  My goal was to leave Birmingham and head back to Atlanta where I had family.  I applied at the High Museum, but did not hear back and pretty much forgot about it.  In the meantime, Sachs offered me a position, but I would have to remain in Birmingham.  That day I made the decision to decline the position.  Later that same day the High called and offered me the job!  This was the beginning of my belief in FATE…

When did your involvement with MSA start and where is it going?

By taking the job at the High, I was now stepping into the world of nonprofit retail.  I knew that I had a lot to learn and made the decision to attend my first MSA Conference, which was being held in Denver that year.  At that first conference I had no clue that there were this many people who were doing the same retail job in the nonprofit world that I was.  My first impression of MSA?  “WOW…  COOL, look at all these people so passionate about their jobs and MSA!!  I need to get involved!”

I didn’t get involved right away, but did take some steps by offering MSA members free admission to the High when they were in Atlanta attending a trade show, just by showing their trade show badges.  For local Chapter meetings, I offered the museum as a venue.  At that point, I became involved and served at the local Chapter level.  When I was a Chapter officer, I met the Director of AmericasMart, Albert Maslia, with whom I talked up museum stores and how AmericasMart could get involved with MSA.  He became very passionate about this idea of coordinating something at AmericasMart with MSA.  I passed this information on to Jama Rice, the Executive Director of MSA at the time, and together they planned the first MSA Meet and Greet Breakfast.  FATE again plays a role, as Jama already knew him from the past and the relationship with MSA and the MART has continued to grow! I was really pleased that the National Conference came to Atlanta and I was able to welcome hundreds of my MSA colleagues and friends at the High. FATE strikes again…Stuart Hata contacts me to lead a tour at the Las Vegas Market in January of 2017. My expanding role as a volunteer continues to take shape.

What will be your contribution to MSA in the future?

I feel that my MSA volunteer career has truly begun!    I have a strong desire to be part of MSA as we move forward with our strategic planning.  At the National level, I have served on the Chapter Policy and Procedure committee, where I read, edited and contributed to the updated manual.  I currently serve on the Advocacy committee, on the Outreach subcommittee.  When the Chair is looking for someone to take on a task, I always say YES.

What has volunteering for MSA done for Patricia?

It has been a real learning experience, both professionally and personally.  I try to challenge myself and target some of my weaknesses: I try to focus on strategic thinking.  I am happy to accept serving on multiple committees.  I may SEEM quiet —  but in truth I am  listening, learning, and absorbing : “WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT!?!?”  I have been learning so much on policy writing that after a conference call, I usually go on Google to learn more about it. It has really been a great learning experience for me.  I never thought I could do any of this BUT I CAN!  It is so great to have your opinions valued and I really think that I do have something to contribute.

What advice would you give to new MSA Members?

My advice to someone who wants to volunteer with MSA is to start small and start where you are. Starting at the local level, where I welcomed MSA members to the Museum when in town, initially made me feel that my goal was fulfilled and that I was contributing to my fellow colleagues.  I never thought that I could serve or do anything!  I got to know people, I watched things happen and I wanted to be part of it!  And when you do, you feel a part of the organization.  Not everyone may be involved but if people get involved at the chapter level, the state or region will start the connection for them.

I like serving on committees and working with my Chapter. That is where I feel that I am a true advocate for MSA.

What other associations/activites have helped to contribute to your success?

I love being a part of my Church volley ball team.  I used to play in the past and I developed a love for the game, but then I joined the Church team in Birmingham and I felt like I was getting ready to compete in the Olympics!  I kept playing when I returned to Atlanta, but due to some pulled ligaments I have had to retire from the sport.

My real hobby is cooking.  I start with a recipe and then I like to get a little creative!  Maybe this is where my new strategic skills in editing and learning come into play on the homefront! My favorite recipe to serve guests is seared salmon salad with small red potatoes, carrots, beets, peppers and mixed lettuce —  all served family style. (Note from Interviewer Murphy:   YUM. I will be looking for my invitation.)

What is the next step with MSA and balancing your career?

I am still so motivated to volunteer with MSA, whatever way I can. I want to stay open-minded and contribute to MSA’s successful future – and my own!


Patricia A. Sampson is the Manager of Museum Shops and Visual Merchandising at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA. She has been at the High Museum for 11 years, and has been an active member of MSA for 10 years. sampson_headshot


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