A Tribute to Al Salm

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SEGD and the museum exhibition community lost a dedicated advocate for excellence in design and fabrication this past month, Al Salm. Al Salm (1968–2021) a well-loved and much respected member of the SEGD passed away on May 5, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. Al served as president of CREO Exhibits, a division of CREO Industrial Arts, a custom fabricator located outside Seattle, Washington. As the division’s leader, Al was responsible for facilitating exhibit-related projects for museums, cultural centers, zoos and aquariums.

Al forged partnerships and collaborations with many SEGD members. And even those members who hadn’t worked directly with Al, might have known him from SEGD presentations, including a virtual tour of the new US Olympic and Paralympic Museum presented last summer during SEGD’s 2020 Exhibition + Experience Summit.

A tribute to Al as team leader:
Patrick Angelel, Principal, CREO Industrial Arts
“Al was a joy to work with and just the right guy to lead our expansion into the Exhibits market. He had a natural ability to motivate a team—and did so with enthusiasm and optimism—tempered with just enough pragmatism to make sure we didn’t get too far out over our skis. He pushed everyone on the team to think creatively and worked tirelessly to make sure we delivered for our clients. He had a sincerity about him that inspired trust, and that trust led potential employees to want to join our team, and clients to put their faith in CRĒO to produce their projects.”

Some of Al’s best-known clients and high-profile projects include:

  • US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Washington State History Museum, WA
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, WA
  • International Spy Museum, Washington DC
  • Museum of History & Industry, Seattle, WA
  • College Football Hall of Fame, Atlanta, GA
  • National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement (The Mob Museum), Las Vegas, NV
  • Cody Firearms Museum, Cody, WY
  • International Bluegrass Museum, Owensboro, KY
  • Bob Dylan Center, Tulsa, OK (Opening Spring 2022)

Here, paying tribute to Al, are some of those who worked closely with him:

A tribute to Al a client partner:
Patrick Gallagher, Principal, Gallagher & Associates
“Al was a partner for us at Gallagher & Associates on my projects, including the recently opened US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, where Al worked tirelessly through the last stages of the illness that took his life. His commitment to the museum industry was genuine and his personal dedication to making sure the client always received more than the contract required made Al a friend to everyone he worked with. He will certainly be remembered and missed at G&A.”

A tribute to Al as client advocate:
Mary Olson, Senior Project Manager, CREO Exhibits
“What clients loved about Al was that when Al sat across the table from you, he wasn’t sitting across the table from you. Clients always felt like he was part of the client team, guiding the project with an eye towards what would be best for the client and the project. It felt like he was already an advocate for the museum, and that attitude informed everything.”

A tribute to Al as client collaborator:
Jacqueline Eyl, Director of Youth Education, Exhibition and Programs, International Spy Museum
“Al’s good nature, friendly smile and affable demeanor made working with him such a joy. He will be sorely missed by everyone whose life was fortunate to be touched by him.”

A tribute to Al as perpetual optimist:
Jon Garcia, Technical Design Manager, CREO Exhibits
“There are so many things I admired about Al, and I often described him as the perpetual optimist—someone who refused to settle, take no for an answer, or give up on a project or a person. He was relentlessly pushing projects forward because of his enthusiasm and love for the industry. It always seemed like he genuinely cared about whatever was in front of him.  It’s all these qualities that I think made clients want to work with him, he made them feel like their project was the most important thing in the world to him, and that he would do everything to make sure it was a success.”

Jonathan Ullman, President & CEO, National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement (The Mob Museum)
“I had the opportunity to work with Al on two major projects, and I will always remember him as a tremendous spirit. I was first drawn to Al by his incredible passion.  His love for his craft was unmistakable. Over time, I came to know Al for his extraordinary thoughtfulness and positivity – always full of warmth, kindness, and laughter. It was a great pleasure and privilege to be in Al’s company. He was truly one of a kind.”