Every day, when Jane Lavino goes into work at the National Museum of Wildlife art, she walks among paintings of elephants, polar bears, and pronghorns, a raven sculpture that evokes though-provoking questions, and a children’s play area packed with animal costumes, puppets, and art activities. These surroundings fit her perfectly. With a deep passion for art, education, and wildlife, she is well-suited for her role as the museum’s education and exhibits curator.
Lavino has worked in education for decades, teaching everything from photography and papermaking to wilderness skills. She even spent seven summers working for the National Outdoor Leadership School, leading trips into the Absaroka and Wind River mountains instilling wilderness, climbing, and map reading skills in her students.
The wildlife focus of the museum is also dear to Lavino. When she and her husband, Ed Lavino, moved to the area nearly three decades ago, they built a home in the Buffalo Valley east of Moran. They have since moved to town, but during the years they lived on the one-acre property, they relished the time they spent spotting moose, elk, deer, bison, coyotes, bears, and birds right outside their door.
Back then, Jane Lavino taught for the Teton County School District, but she eventually switched to working at the museum as youth education coordinator, developing school programs and organizing tours. Later, she became curator of education, coordinating adult programs such as lectures and films, incorporating education into exhibits, and developing self-guided tours. This year, she celebrates her 25th year with the museum.
“From the start, I always felt like this museum was a perfect match for my education and skills,” she says.
Her focus on education is evident as she walks through the museum. Visitors frequently ask her everything from the difference between a bison and a buffalo to how bronze sculptures are made, and she appreciates the opportunity to share her knowledge. She particularly enjoys chatting with visitors in the museum’s open studio.
“I love to come to open studio and spend time talking to people and getting a sense of who our visitors are,” she says. “This museum is particularly valuable for education because people are so curious.”
When she’s not working, Lavino is often focusing on her own artwork, particularly printmaking. She carefully carves blocks of rubber into birds, feathers, bears, fish, flowers, blueberries, and other nature-inspired images and creates ink compositions with them, decorating note cards, tea towels, aprons, and baby onesies with her artwork. A few times a year, she’ll sell them at small fairs and bazaars.
In the past, she taught papermaking classes for the Art Association of Jackson Hole. These days, she’s generally a student with the association, taking classes such as jewelry making and metalworking.
“I think education is important for everyone,” she says. “If you don’t keep learning new things and trying new skills, you will forget the joy of discovery in learning.”