Anna Hammond: You are the lead security guard for the Yale University Art Gallery and now in your spare time you are studying to be a Gallery instructor. Tell me about this.
: I came from Peru in 1992 and had had many different kinds of jobs. I had training as a police officer so it was a good background to be a security guard. When I started at the Gallery, I noticed that everyone comes to security for information. I wanted to be able to tell people about the collection and I especially wanted to be able to tell Spanish-speaking visitors about it in Spanish. So I asked the education department if I could train with them and they said yes.
AH: You told me you’re developing a program for the rest of the guards?
Yes, I wanted to train the other guards so that they could be a better help to the public. So, while I am studying with the education department here about the collection, I am developing a training program for all of the guards to learn information that is more accurate, more reliable, and more trusted. The information you give to the public is more important than anything because they trust you and you have to honor that.
AH: You do ice carving in your spare time. How did you come to do that?
: My parents used to work with wood. My father was a farmer, and he also made chairs, tables, everything. My mother would cane and decorate them. I started carving pencils with little faces on them to make extra money. And then I started making shoes and that was a little better. When I came to the U.S., I saw somebody carving ice and I liked it so I took a course. Ice is totally different because you have to be quick. You have to be more careful. You can not glue. You can not put together one piece of wrong carving. That’s it; it’s ruined completely. You have to learn. I think it’s a lot like the paintings I look at when I’m working as a guard. Some of them were made by people that didn’t have any training and you see the difference. My ice was like that at the beginning. Now it’s better.
AH: So have you ever carved anything that was inspired by a work here?
Yes. For a wedding the couple asked me for something with two shells. It was for shrimp cocktail, clams. I remembered I saw a fish on a plate in the American galleries that is glazed ceramic, and its tail is up. I took a few pictures and brought them to the icehouse. I changed it a little and carved two shells on the tail to hold the food. They loved it.
Alberto Noriega spoke with Anna Hammond on June 11, 2004.