Message from the Director

Yvonne Nevens, Hung Liu, and Mike Nevens.
Drew Altizer Photography.

There are many people behind the scenes at the San Jose Museum of Art who make things happen, from the most mundane details of daily operations to the highest levels of community advocacy. For twenty-three years, Mike Nevens has been one of those rare individuals who have worked across the broad spectrum of effort that it takes for an institution to evolve, grow, and thrive. Mike is now rotating off of the board of trustees, on which he has served since 1992, just after the opening of the long-awaited new wing.

He also served a total of three terms at the helm as president, in 1994–96, 2009–11, and 2011–13—through booms and recessions and successes and surprises of all kinds. Mike continues to be a supporter, generous patron, and counselor on many levels, yet this is an occasion to thank him for the depth and impact of his stalwart support and for his neverending belief in SJMA’s ambitious future. The staff and I—and the many staff members and directors who preceded us—count ourselves lucky to have had his wisdom on call for many situations; his persuasive voice at the table; and his steady leadership on the Museum’s governing board.

Two decades on a nonprofit board translates into too many anecdotes from the trenches to recount. In my tenure alone, Mike was a powerful advocate for the Museum and other downtown cultural organizations when we needed to preserve city support for our facilities. By claiming high respect as a thought-leader and business consultant, Mike gained the ear of city officials and successfully made the case for continued civic investment based on the important (and heretofore underappreciated) economic impact of arts and culture in downtown San Jose. His persuasiveness helped SJMA and several peer organizations sustain important programs during the downturn.

Mike has never been too busy to pitch in with the most atypical of logistical needs. To give but one example, he, along with city officials, helped us make the connections necessary to borrow two arrays of the latest flat-screen display technology from Samsung for the exhibition Beta Space: Diana Thater. Without his assistance, we would not have been able to present the extraordinary digital animations of the Milky Way that mesmerized every visitor to the exhibition. Mike and his wife Yvonne have unending enthusiasm for new art and new ideas: they have long supported curatorial research and development of exhibitions at very early stages and have hosted countless events, gala tables, dinners at their home, and baseball outings to cultivate support and new friends for the Museum. We are fortunate that Yvonne continues on as chair of the Director’s Council. They are supporters of the rarest sort.

Mike once explained his belief in art by saying that, for him, art is like the opposable thumb: it is key to what makes us human and to what makes society meaningful. On behalf of thestaff, past and present, I thank Mike for all he has done to advance SJMA’s public purpose and professionalism.

Susan Krane
Oshman Executive Director