Mia is Inclusion

When Pieter Valk travels, he follows his stomach. On a recent trip to the Twin Cities, the Nashville resident and his friends ate their way across town. So when a local contact told him that Mia was a must-visit, he took a tasting-sampler approach. “I want to be a person who enjoys art,” he says. “It’s like learning to like coffee, or whiskey, or sushi. It’s something I’m not used to enjoying.”

Valk is a clinical mental health counselor and runs a nonprofit focused on LGBTQI issues. He has little patience for pretense, which had spoiled previous visits to art museums— visitors, left to their own devices, pretending to know more than they did. “I was definitely trying to avoid that,” he says.

Mia was different. He took a self-guided audio tour that would literally speak to him. “For me, sixty seconds from an expert really help provide some grounding,” he says. “It gave me something concrete as a jumping- off point to explore the piece myself.”

He found himself intrigued by paintings of celibate people—desert monks and cave ascetics. “Being gay and Christian, I’ve often wondered how Christians across the ages have made sense of their sexualities,” he says. The art, made much later than the scenes they depicted, got him thinking about how ideas are communicated across time. “How much are these depictions shaping how we see things today?” he asks.

Valk spent two and a half hours in the galleries, an experience that honed his palate for future visits to art museums. “Art is here to inspire us,” he says. “I needed to discover what parts I personally found sweet or salty. But sometimes our taste buds don’t know what to look for. That’s why I needed an expert to guide my visual tastebuds.”

He won’t be so tentative next time. “I now have greater confidence that I can enjoy it,” he says. “That it’s worth it.”