Meet the Safety Guards of the Met

Prime row (from left): Mark Andrews, Theodore Yarns, Thomas Turner, Joseph McDermott, David Aprea, and Peter Zapryluk. Second row: Oscar Zauzich, Gary Diezdeandino, Rachel Cowart, John Windbiel, Emilie Lemakis, Julie DiMurro, and Rahul Ramkisoon. Third row: Sunday Agbonlahor, Alexander Pogorelyy, Gustavo Braga, Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, Andrew Smith, and Edward Moore. Fourth row: Michael Clark, Gary John, Kris Kroll, Wilhelm Simmon, Mila Luna, and Roy Navarro. Fifth row: Adrian John, Adam Abdelrahman, Maura Falfan, Anna Wheatley, Mina Roman, and Ambrocio Salazar. Sixth row: Michael Villarosa, Maureen Shanahan, Cheryl Calloway, Maraya Lopez, Vera Qehaja, Kristina Zefi, and Leslye Saenz. Seventh row: Jessi Atwood, Jerickson Vinas Fabian, Mario Piccolino, Enver Ergun, Noel Millares, Bardha Neziraj, and Ana Tolentino. Eighth row: Ornela Asllani, Steven Hellman, Fateh Lohani, Cenon Inocent, Habibur Rahman, and Abul Sayem. Ninth row: Angelica Perez Ulerio, Katherine Barcia, Elizabeth Valdez, Alin Varela, Hisayo Dordick, Felimon Goboy, and Cindy Williams.
Picture: Frankie Alduino

For those who contact, say, a sculpture on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, possibly since you need to know what historic Greek marble appears like, you’ll set off a quiet chain of occasions. A safety guard has to inform a supervisor, who will write up an incident report, and wherever from 5 to 10 individuals will likely be notified, together with the museum’s high curator. “I want individuals realized the magnitude of this one contact,” says Regina Lombardo, head of safety, bemoaning TikTok art-touching movies. “It creates a variety of heartburn.”

With out the guards, there isn’t any Met. They not solely shield the artwork but additionally assist misplaced vacationers, work particular occasions, be certain that nobody brings in a knife, and, now, implement a masks mandate. The pandemic has been a rocky time for the museum and its frontline employees. In 2020, the Met needed to shut its doorways for 5 months, then lower or furloughed about 20 p.c of its employees, together with 120 guards. It reopened in August, and Artnet later reported that fewer guards had been working longer hours to cowl extra space for comparatively low pay, resulting in widespread disgruntlement. One guard, Louisa Lam, stated in an electronic mail that morale was at an “all-time low.”

The Met is now practically in full swing. Attendance has hit 70 p.c of its pre-pandemic ranges, with 20,000 guests in someday over Memorial Day weekend. The museum says the guards who had been laid off have been supplied their outdated jobs, however not all have returned, partly due to a decent employment market. The problem now could be to rent again up. In January, the security-guards union negotiated a brand new beginning pay of $16.50 per hour, up from $15.51. “I’m super-happy if I get the report ‘No galleries closed because of manpower,’ ” Lombardo says.

This month, I toured one exhibition that was nonetheless being arrange. Unbeknownst to most individuals exterior the museum, a staff-run worker artwork present is hosted each different yr; most of the guards are artists and have work in it. This summer time, the present will likely be open to the general public for the primary time. Emilie Lemakis, who has labored as a guard for 27 years, sat on the ground as she unrolled a big piece depicting a Met guard manufactured from recycled uniforms. “It’s from my very own assortment from through the years,” Lemakis says.

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