Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Memories from Madeleine Albright's Visit at the DAM

Note: Karen Gilkey’s job at the Denver Art Museum is to ensure events run smoothly. Here, she shares her experience in working with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she was at the DAM on April 14 for a member event for the opening of Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection. The exhibition is open through June 17.

Event Details

  • Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection sold out member conversation
  • Sharp Auditorium and green room
  • Saturday, April 14, 10:30 am–1 pm 
  • On-stage conversation, 10:30–11:30 am
  • Book signing on stage in Sharp, 11:30 am–2 pm
  • Guest leaves for 3:15 pm flight, 2 pm
  • Catering requests: pitcher of water, Sprite, black coffee, fruit, cheese and crackers

Memorable Moments

Former Secretary Albright and her assistant arrived from a breakfast event just in time to freshen up and meet some of the DAM staff preparing for her visit.  They met with the moderator of the lecture, and then it was time to walk on stage.  After about 4 months of planning, I was very excited to have this event get under way. This was the first time the museum would do a live feed for an overflow audience, so I was anxious.

The director of the museum, Christoph Heinrich, took the stage at 10:45 a.m. and introduced Albright and Dean Christopher Hill, from the University of Denver, and then Albright took the podium.  After her remarks, she sat with Hill for about a 20-minute conversation led by his questions.Next, it was time to take questions from the audience.  We had 6 questions total, ranging in subject from Kosovo to how her parents decided to move to Denver, which she said she considers home. She took a two-part question, initially getting to the first piece and then later asking to return for the second part after answering another question from the audience. It was so casual and effortless how she placed such a priority on each person’s question.  She gave insight and confidence to the listeners.

After the question-and-answer portion, attendees could have their books signed by her, meet her, and take a picture with her. I opted to get my soon-to-be married name in my copy of her book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. She remarked that she thought my last name was Gilkey, so I explained that I am engaged.  She congratulated me. Former U.S. Secretary of State Maleleine Albright congratulated me on getting engaged.

After signing more than 200 books, she was off to the airport.  I was surprised at how approachable and warm Albright was, considering her accomplishments and stature. Having her at the museum was a great experience for our members, especially me.

Image credit: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks at the Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection media preview at the Denver Art Museum on Friday, April 13, 2012. Photo by Denver Art Museum.

Karen Gilkey is the museum events and amenities facilitator in the membership department at the Denver Art Museum. Karen has been at the DAM since 2010 and her favorite artwork that has been on view here is Daniel Sprick's Release Your Plans. Karen considers event planning an artwork and is inspired by everything the museum has to offer guests.