Message from the Director

In 1969—a tumultuous yet pivotal year packed with breakthroughs as well as profound divisiveness around the globe—a small group of San José citizens and artists gathered together to transform the city’s historic library and post office into a space to exhibit art. And so the same year Apollo 11 landed on the moon and the summer of love unfolded in San Francisco, the San José Fine Arts Gallery Association was established “to promote and encourage public interest in and support of the fine arts.” Sixteen directors were named, including Ann Marie Mix, Charlotte Wendel, and Virginia Youngblood; in 1973, the organization’s name was officially changed to San José Museum of Art

Welcome to our 50th anniversary! As a nod to our founding female leaders and a soft launch of this golden year, 2019 opened with a suite of exhibitions spotlighting visionary women artists including Jay DeFeo, Catherine Wagner, and Pae White. The revelry continued at the 50th Anniversary Gala and Auction (see the photos) on Sep 21, where Mix and former Board president and Mayor of San José, Susan Hammer, were honored alongside acclaimed artist Leo Villareal, who was given his first solo museum exhibition at SJMA in 2010.

This milestone presents the opportunity to explore the Museum’s permanent collection through shows like Almost Human: Digital Art from the Permanent Collection, opening Sep 22 and drawn entirely from the Museum’s holdings. The ethos of innovation—a core value echoed in Silicon Valley—is highlighted in work by such artists as Jim Campbell, Ian Cheng, and Alan Rath that push the boundaries of digital and developing technologies. Creativity and experimentation also provide a through line to the Museum’s education department, which provides in-school studio arts initiatives as well as museum tour-based programs to over 40,000 students annually.

SJMA also honors local history in With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino and Tommie Smith, an exhibition opening Nov 1 (Facebook First Friday allows this special opening to be free and welcoming to all) that examines the iconic moment at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City when SJSU runner Tommie Smith raised a gloved fist during his gold-medal award ceremony to protest global human-rights abuses and the civil-rights struggle in the US. This collaborative project between Smith and artist Glenn Kaino posits visual storytelling as a tool for sparking interest and engagement with issues of social justice. Opening at the same time is the first solo museum exhibition of Oakland-based artist Woody De Othello, who brings the Bay Area ceramics tradition concretely into the contemporary art world, and with a much-needed dose of humor. 

In addition to seeing these exciting exhibitions, consider joining us at one of our public programs, from Uudam Tran Nguyen’s Lunchtime Lecture on Oct 2 to a conversation on collecting with Manjari Sihare-Sutin from Sotheby’s in dialogue with SJMA Board Co-president Tad Freese and Wanda Kownacki to a series of workshops inspired by Tommie Smith’s vision to “pass the baton” of social justice to a new generation of activists. 

None of this ambitious programming would be possible without the support of our generous donors and in particular the Board of Trustees, which welcomes two new members—Kimberly Lin and Clarice Dent—as well as former trustee Glenda Dorchak

Last, but not least, a heartfelt thanks to loyal members like you—curious and enthusiastic supporters of the arts and culture here in San José. Cheers to the next 50 years of community, innovation, and excellence!


S. Sayre Batton
Oshman Executive Director