Message from the Director

In our 50th Anniversary year, we continue to reflect on the progress that San José Museum of Art is making in effective community engagement, helping to create a more vibrant public life in San José and Silicon Valley.

As you know, the San José Museum of Art proactively and temporarily closed the Museum’s doors on March 13 for the safety of our community, visitors and staff. The following week, SJMA’s entire full-time staff pivoted to move all operations offsite after the Santa Clara County order to shelter in place on March 16th, and began the ramp up to work from home.  I am very proud of the considerate, cross-departmental collaboration that has unfolded since sheltering in place, resulting in a nimble team producing richer content online.  We hope that you engage with our website and social media channels, and please give us feedback on our Museum from Home offerings.

Last winter, we announced Hidden Heritages: San José’s Vietnamese Legacy, a two-year partnership between SJMA, Chopsticks Alley and the San José Office of Cultural Affairs that brings Vietnamese artists and community members together to share and articulate stories that reveal the contributions of Vietnamese Americans to the City. We are so grateful for major support from the California Arts Council, as artists Binh Danh, Trinh Mai and Van-Anh (Vanessa) launch workshops over two years as we re-imagine ourselves as a Museum for the audience of the future.

In February 2020, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of offering free admission to students and their teachers. Through the generosity of Yellow Chair Foundation, who renewed their support, college students now represent 20% of the general audience. All of these achievements build upon a proud history at SJMA, and we are hearing from our grateful stakeholders present and past. When we re-open, we look forward to welcoming our student audiences back to the Museum.

We received this heartfelt letter below last year, which reminded us of the impact of free Museum attendance for students and teachers and how it builds community. To Letha, and all of you who participate in SJMA programs, educational outreach, on and offsite teaching and learning – thank you.

With gratitude,


With our offices closed, our preferred method of contact is email. However, calls will be returned as soon as possible.

S. Sayre Batton
Oshman Executive Director

Dear SJMA,

I am writing in support of your recent program to offer free admission to college students and teachers. It is a benefit to the community and to individuals that has long-term impact.

The San José Museum of Art provided a welcome refuge full of mind-changing art for me when I was a student at San José State University. I went to school full-time while working full-time while in foster care. At my foster home I shared a bedroom and there were many people in the house; work and school were full of people and obligations too. I didn't have a place to clear my mind, to center myself, and to feel safe, but a friend bought a membership to SJMA for me and I stopped by several times a week to sit in the galleries and look at art.

The opportunity to sit in quiet, safe, and uplifting galleries made a world of difference to me. I was able to sort my thoughts, calm my feelings, and learn about art. SJMA has had a lasting effect on me:
I'm now an art history professor at a university. One year after my friend purchased the membership for me, SJMA offered free admission to everyone. I kept going to the museum. I told everybody else to go too.

I visit SJMA every time I am in San José and it cheers me to see such a variety of people in the galleries looking at art, taking selfies, wondering at what art has to offer. The museum has succeeded in presenting high quality shows (The House Imaginary: Show Me A Summary of the World) that feel welcoming to a diverse range of people. Other museums in the Bay Area are not offering that kind of access. Many of my classmates at SJSU did not grow up with museums and had the impression those spaces were not theirs. Free admission to students and teachers sends the message that art belongs to them too.

I sincerely hope you will be able to continue the program of free admission.
It is invaluable for a community; it creates a community.


Dr. Letha Ch'ien