Who We Are: Simone Belz: living her dream life
summit daily news
As a child in Bremerhaven, Germany, Frisco Historic Park and Museum manager Simone Belz would peek through the netting and drapes covering a Viking ship pulled from the North Sea. It sat in a local museum, “in a giant tent, in a giant room,” where it was constantly being misted to prevent drying and cracking. The ship was scheduled to acclimate from its tomb in the sea for 25 years. Belz remembers calculating in her head the year she could see it uncovered, a dream finally realized on a trip back to Germany about three years ago.
“It was a full, profound, circle museum moment, underscoring that this is what I’m dorky and passionate about,” Belz said. “Almost like a very spiritual moment.”
There was just something about museums that, as a 5-year-old, she knew she had to be involved with, but she didn’t know how.
“I just knew there was something about museums I connected with,” she said. The seed was planted, “and then you grow up and start building your skills.”
Belz moved to the United States at the age of 11; her father was in the U.S. military and was stationed at Fort Carson. Both her parents are German, Belz, who was born in Germany, is still a full German citizen.
She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she started out studying studio arts with a focus on sculpture. It was one of her sculpture teachers that suggested she take a few classes in art history.
“I feel in love with history,” she said. “I kind of had a knack for it anyway, growing up in Europe. You’re just immersed in history. The architecture, the cathedrals, the museums; I guess museums and history were just ingrained in me.”
Belz graduated with a degree in art history and museum studies. She worked at a children’s museum in Colorado Springs, where she had also interned, doing exhibits design and development. Eventually, she became more involved in the operations of the establishment before moving to Summit County, where she worked at the Columbine Gallery in Frisco. Belz is a true citizen of the High Country; “I’m very active, and a big, big skier,” she said.
But, Belz missed the museum world. After a few years, she took a job at another children’s museum in Boulder, where she worked in exhibits and operations. Yet again, she felt another draw: Belz missed the mountains. She moved back to Summit County in 2000. In 2006, she landed the historic park position.
“The planets aligned, the stars collided,” she said. She was so appreciative she was hired, so overwhelmed with joy.
“I was like, really, I get to live in the mountains now and do museum work!”
Belz is obviously smitten with her work and still so thankful for her position.
“I spring out of bed in the morning. I run to work every day,” she said. “To me, the museum is an extension of who I am. My work here is about passion. It’s about providing some wonderful place for people to have discussions, dialogue – to be educated. That is a profound experience for me to be a part of, and be able to interpret that for people.”
Belz said she loves the park itself, loves watching it change from season to season. “We’re so lucky to have a historic park that’s so well maintained,” she said. The way the museum is set up, Belz said, with its varied historical buildings, allows people to really become immersed in each exhibit. Right now, one of her favorite buildings is the log chapel, where a 16-minute video on the history of Frisco, which she helped produce, plays on a loop. She is enjoying seeing the chapel utilized more.
Currently, Belz is working to get the museum and park accredited by the American Association of Museums, of which the historic park is already a member. The process can take three to five years.
“Really, it’s making a pledge to the museum community within your state, and then also to your (local) community that you have decided to maintain and operate at such a high standard, the highest level that can be achieved, whatever your museum looks like,” she said.
There are only about 120 entities in the U.S. currently accredited by the AAM.
In her spare time, Belz enjoys cooking and wine – “I make a really good chicken saute with Thai peanut sauce” – movies, “any kind,” camping and especially hiking.
“The mountains are my spiritual connection,” she said. Belz has a motorcycle license, and can be seen riding her Vespa scooter throughout the summer, “even down to 40 or 50 degrees.”
“I’m on a really great trajectory,” she said of her place in life. “I still challenge myself, not only professionally, but also personally in ways that I can continue to grow.”
As for her future, Belz will stay in the museum world as long as she possibly can.
“I just don’t see myself in the future anywhere else than where I am. I know I will continue to work in museums until I can’t walk anymore, maybe even beyond that. I want to work in museums for the rest of my life.”
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