Message from the Director
The daily tide of email recently brought to my inbox a couple of heartwarming surprises: two unprompted expressions of love—yes, “love”—for the Museum, tucked within regular work communications. They felt like Valentines from out of the blue. I gladly shared them around the office and then decided to contact the senders (as well as two other longtime members) to learn more about what it means to each of them to connect so very personally and affectionately with SJMA.
These days, the idea of “place-making” is a constant buzzword in the cultural sector, as we all search for ways to build the connective tissue of our communities: the focus is on street life and new interventions rather than “old” organizations such as museums. Yet the warm messages that landed in my inbox—like so many of the comments visitors leave in the galleries—show that SJMA is, indeed, precisely a place people have made their own; a communal crossroads. What does it mean to grow up with a museum over the years, to “love” a museum? What is it, for these particular people of very different generations, that makes the museum so much more than an institution and gives its lifeblood?
Dalia Rawson took art classes in the basement of SJMA when she was five or six years old; to this day, she remembers the details of the art-making projects. “I drew a crazy-looking jumping ballerina; I always drew ballerinas,” says Rawson, who is now the school director and trainee program director at Ballet San Jose. “I remember feeling scared and a little bit thrilled that doing something different than what everyone else was doing might be ok.” Her drawing—so unlike the meticulous work of the other kids—ended up in the Museum’s newsletter! Many years later, she and her fiancé (a software engineer) held their wedding at SJMA, amid an exhibition of digital art. “Every time I visit the museum, I leave feeling rejuvenated and inspired…. Art can shift your thinking. When you experience art it can make you look at your own work differently, opening up new avenues of thought, changing your perspective, and leading to your next great idea. I would love to see a Silicon Valley where the great minds in our area are…challenged by art of all disciplines every day and to see where that takes us.”
Now a sophomore at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, Isabel Fry grew up in England and Silicon Valley—perhaps for her a parallel for the juxtaposition of SJMA’s historic building and the new wing, which she loves. Fry finds the Museum is “the perfect size; not overwhelming but big enough to get an in-depth view…. SJMA feels very interactive and personal.” At the opening of Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage, Fry was amazed to be in the presence of the legendary photographer whose work she knew well from reading Vogue. For the costume challenge of ArtRage last summer, in conjunction with the exhibition Legacy, Fry dressed in 1960s fashion and makeup. She has decided to be an artist/designer “because it’s an act of storytelling.” Fry says, “SJMA always makes me consider my beliefs about art. I remember my most recent visit left me pondering what makes something art. As a creative person, this took me by surprise and I spent the rest of the night talking with my mum about what art is. I love how diverse the exhibitions are. I always know that I will find inspiration in something I see…. Art is so vital to society because it is the emotion of the world.”
Print collectors Charles and Norma Schlossman have been members of SJMA since the 1970s: Norma was a docent, then returned to school to earn a masters’ degree in art history, and Charles was a long-time board member of the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. On one particularly memorable weekend family visit to SJMA well over a decade ago, they heard curious strains of music coming from upstairs, “…definitely opera and then identifiably Puccini. We followed the sound, climbed the stairs to the second floor, and came upon Gronk working on a huge mural…. The Puccini was coming from his boom box. We watched Gronk work. When he became aware of our presence, he stopped painting and the spent the next 20 or 30 minutes talking with us about growing up in Los Angeles, his art, how he got the name Gronk, and his performances with the Kronos Quartet,” wherein his arm movements while painting were electronically linked into the performance. This kind of meaningful encounter with the artist—and personal insight into the creative process—is very much now integrated into SJMA’s programs and personality as a Museum.
We’ve celebrated SJMA’s forty-fifth-anniversary year with stellar exhibitions, a gala, and many members’ events, but stories such as these reveal the personal impact the Museum has on people’s lives, hearts, and minds. Thank you for making SJMA the place it is today.
Oshman Executive Director
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