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Spotlight: Tamara Lumsden Events + Catering Coordinator

Spotlight: Tamara Lumsden Events + Catering Coordinator

July 22, 2020 // by Tamara Lumsden

Meet Tamara Lumsden, MOCA's Events + Catering Coordinator. We asked her to share a bit about her path to a career in event planning, and her thoughts on how events will be different as we navigate the current public health crisis.

Tamara Lumsden Headshot

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to Jacksonville.

I was born in Manhattan, NY, however, when I was 3 months old, I moved to Trinidad and Tobago. It's a small twin island off the coast of Venezuela, where I lived with my Grandparents and older sister. That was until I turned 14 years old and relocated to Houston, Texas, to live with my mom. I moved to Florida in 2016 to start graduate school in Fort Lauderdale and be closer to family. After I completed my master's degree, I was certain that I wanted to stay in the Sunshine State and landed a job here at MOCA Jacksonville, where I started as the Events and Catering Coordinator two days after my official graduation ceremony.

When did you know you wanted to go into event planning?

Ever since I was a little girl, I enjoyed being on stage, singing, dancing and performing. It wasn't until I was in high school and I became  the  stage manager for a student-ran visual arts production, when I realized how much I loved being behind the scenes just as much as being center stage. However, when I went to college, my major was Criminal Justice. I thought I wanted to become a lawyer, but I was so wrong.

I went to a huge student-lead production on campus one evening, that the university student event planning board put together. There was one girl with a walkie talkie and clip board, giving out cues, delegating personnel and pretty much running the show. I simply just fell in love! I wanted her job, her exact job. The next semester, I interviewed and got a  position to be part of the team. It was also at that event that I saw a friend announce that she was an Event Planning Major, while giving her speech on stage. A semester later, I changed my academic track to Family and Consumer Science with an Emphasis in Event Planning. I spent 3 years on the student event planning Team, which taught me almost everything I know about events, from proposals to presentations to working with vendors and contracts. I also landed an amazing internship my senior year with En Vogue Events in Houston, TX, where I really developed my wedding planning and corporate events skills. I have been planning and executing weddings and  events ever since.

NYE Dinner Set Up

How is event planning different at an art museum than another type of venue?

In my 10 years of event planning experience, I have worked for several types of venues, including universities and as a day of coordinator for various venues. MOCA is my second commercial venue where I have been the in-house event planner. My last venue was a winery in Texas, where the priority was the wine, the vineyards and the food. At MOCA, although very similar in many ways, is different overall. For instance, art is constantly changing the space. I could be on a site visit with a client today but in 4 months the art in a particular space would be different. You also have to consider the art's safety first, whether it needs to be de-installed or if it suspends and how that affects, let's say, a dance floor. Another important factor is that the museum is a public space, so managing open hours and how event set up may affect the visitor experience, is a common conversation in our operations meeting. A lot of other venues are solely for event purposes and do not typically have to consider these factors but as a specialty venue, these are always a focal point.

What about MOCA makes it a unique space for events?

Clients who are interested in a museum as a venue usually have an appreciation for art and understand that exhibitions change, so in that way the art makes it unique. MOCA has several floors and multiple rooms, which can host groups from as small as 6 all the way up to 600 guests. It has the ability to transform from a New Year's Eve Gala for hundreds to a corporate networking event among colleagues. MOCA is also all inclusive, so the venue not only comes with on-site catering but also with an in-house event or wedding planner - making it a one stop shop for our guests.

If you have one piece of advice for readers on how to plan a fantastic event, what would it be?

I would say that knowing your budget is the MOST important when planning a fantastic event. The budget determines, how many people you can invite, which affects where you can have the event as well. Budget also determines if you should do heavy appetizers instead of a sit-down dinner, or if you can afford an open bar versus a cash bar. Similarly, knowing your budget also helps with determining if we can afford to outsource vendors, or if this is a DIY event. When planners ask, “What's your budget?” its not to see how best they can max it out, but really to gauge what kind of event, we are planning to host.  

NYE Lobby Set Up

Events have changed due to the pandemic. What are somethings people need to consider in adapting their events in this difficult time?

Clients need to be flexible. Right now, the entire event and hospitality industry are researching and dialoguing on best practices to still deliver an amazing event while implementing social distancing and other health and safety precautions provided by the CDC. Clients may now see things on their invoices like cleaning or maintenances fees, to cover the staff that are in place to sanitize high touch areas frequently throughout event like door handles, elevator buttons, etc.  Staff will now be working events with masks on as part of their uniform and just like grocery stores, venues will be outlining social distance squares in buffet and/or bar lines to encourage guests to stand 6 ft. apart.

Due to precautions, some events may see a decline in guest count, however, there will be opportunities to explore hybrid events. For instance, MOCA will be launching our Virtual Hybrid Event packages that cater to our brides, our corporate clients and even those who just want to celebrate their birthday in the safety and comfort of their homes. We are excited to add these features to our repertoire and provide a unique virtual MOCA experience!


MOCA has traditional, virtual and hybrid packages available. For more information email Tamara Lumsden at





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