Humans of the U: Ann Penman

“One thing I’ve learned from my time at the U is that if you have a talent for something, you need to follow your dream. If you do, you’ll be happy.

I’ve been learning and working at the U since 1983. I initially began studying business and accounting but found I didn’t have the passion for it. So, turned to my first love: art. My grandmother and father are both artists so it may be in my blood.

Art, in all its mediums, engages and relaxes my mind in ways nothing else does and I think I’m pretty good at it. When I’m in the zone and the muses are ‘speaking to me,’ I get completely swept up and immersed in whatever painting, ceramics or sculpture project I’m working on. Hours can go by without eating or drinking and my husband says my ears turn off.

Over the past 34 years, I’ve had many jobs here at the U, from a parking lot booth attendant to a campus security officer while completing my BFA. After graduating in 1996, the chief of police recommended I become a police dispatcher and sent me to Peace Officer Standards and Training. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, as the campus alarm system coordinator, I helped with the opening of the new ER and surgical wing of the hospital. I also had a small role as part of the security protection team for President George W. Bush when he visited Utah.

In 2007, there was an opening at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to be in charge of the security team, where I could blend my job with my passion and love of art. It’s a little-known fact that the security staff at museums become well-educated about the works of art. Security guards get to know the art better than anybody else because we’re with it every day, looking at it and reading about it.

I love so many of the works of art I have had the pleasure to watch over and enjoy over the years. One of my absolute favorites that the UMFA has in their collection is a painting by one of my professors, Doug Snow, and his modern abstract style piece, ‘Desert Landscape.’  My favorite painting that has been on loan to the UMFA is Salvador Dali’s ‘The Dream.’ I am in awe of and have a deep appreciation of the works of art and of the artists that surround me every day.

I try to take a break from my work and walk around to enjoy the art at least once a day. I think it’s the best job in the whole world. It brings me such happiness to be a part of sharing and preserving the works of art for future generations.”

—Ann Penman, safety and security supervisor for the UMFA Division of Protection Services and 2004 Presidential Staff Award recipient

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.