San José Museum of Art returns to in-person gala on September 24

Release date
  • Mildred Howard in her studio in South Berkeley, California, ca. 2017. Photo by Michael M. Santiago. Courtesy of Michael M. Santiago / San Francisco Chronicle / Polaris.

  • Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell.

    Updated September 7, 2022: The San José Museum of Art (SJMA) is returning to an in-person event for its 2022 Gala + Auction on September 24 at 5:30pm PDT. After two years of online events, the Gala celebration will be held again at the Museum, on the Circle of Palms Plaza, with an evening of art, cocktails, fine dining, live auction, entertainment, and dancing.

    This year’s patron honorees, Brook Hartzell and Tad Freese, will be recognized for their philanthropy and Tad’s outstanding leadership as a Trustee and fundraiser. Hartzell and Freese’s transformative contributions and tireless volunteerism have helped the Museum find greater financial security and propelled the amazing trajectory of SJMA’s exhibitions program and community impact for over a decade.

    Mildred Howard will be celebrated as the artist honoree. The first artist honoree was Hung Liu, Mildred’s dear friend and sister, and we remember Hung’s legacy with this honor. Howard, a Bay Area luminary, has significant work in SJMA’s permanent collection and her practice is prominently featured in 50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Permanent Collection, a free digital catalog published in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary in 2020.

    Tammy Kiely of Goldman Sachs returns for a second year as the event’s chair, 2020 Gala honoree and Freese’s past board co-president Cheryl Kiddoo chairs the auction, and Robbie Gordy returns as the live auctioneer. The auction will feature contemporary works by Bay Area and internationally acclaimed artists and gallery partners including Altman Siegel, Anglim Trimble, Blum & Poe, Catharine Clark Gallery, Dolby Chadwick Gallery Gallery Wendi Norris, Haines Gallery, Hosfelt Gallery, Jessica Silverman, Qualia Contemporary Art, Shulamit Nazarian, Traywick Contemporary, and Turner Carroll Gallery.

    A limited number of sponsorships are still available, at the $5,000 to $100,000 level, and single tickets are available at $1,000 each. Pricing of the popular after-party tickets will be $25 each (previously $100), thanks to the generosity of the gala’s Visionary sponsors.

    “Although we faced many challenges during the past few years, our virtual galas succeeded our expectations and gave us an opportunity to look at how we fundraise with imagination and ambition, said S. Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director, San José Museum of Art. “We also learned that there are some connections that can only happen in-person. Returning to an onsite Gala is a wonderful opportunity to bring our friends and supporters together again to celebrate the Museum and its impact on the San José community. The funds raised that evening will provide critical support toward our mission to become a borderless museum making world-class art and inclusive arts education accessible to visitors from throughout the Bay Area and beyond.”

    The Gala will continue to feature local Bay Area artists, entertainment, and hospitality, in line with its commitment to spotlight community partners and contribute to the ongoing economic recovery and revitalization of downtown San José. A portion of the evening’s festivities will be live-streamed, and an online silent auction will take place Thursday, September 22–Sunday, September 25. The live auction will accept bids by absentee forms, in-person paddle raises, and phone. A Fund-a-Need appeal, both online and live, will raise additional funds to support the Museum’s education, exhibition, and equity initiatives and essential operations.

    For information on how to sponsor, contact Kathleen Backus at



    Tammy Kiely, chair; Cheryl Kiddoo, auction chair; Nadia Ahmad, Glenda Dorchak, Toby Fernald, Cole Harrell, Claudia W. Hess, Lys House, Robert S. Lindo, Suzette Mahr, Yvonne Nevens, Cornelia Pendleton



    Mildred Howard is a beloved Bay Area artist, born in San Francisco in 1945 and raised in South Berkeley. Over the span of her long career, she has engaged in nuanced examinations of the history and politics of gender, race, and major contemporary issues including themes of home and belonging.

    She has received numerous awards for her critically acclaimed work, including the prestigious Lee Krasner Award in recognition of her lifetime of artistic achievement. She has also been the recipient of the Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award at San Francisco Art Institute (2018), the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists (2017), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2004/5), a fellowship from the California Arts Council (2003), and the Adaline Kent Award from San Francisco Art Institute (1991).

    Howard has exhibited throughout the United States and international art venues including Creative Time, New York; InSITE, San Diego, CA; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Museum, New York; City of Oakland, CA; and San Francisco Arts Commission and International Airport. Her works reside in the permanent collections of the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; Museum of Glass and Contemporary Art, Tacoma, WA; Oakland Museum of California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and SJMA, among others.

    As an educator and activist, Howard taught at major universities and art institutions including Stanford University, San Francisco Art Institute, Exploratorium Institute, and California College of the Arts; and lectured and served as a visiting artist at national and international universities.



    When Tad Freese accepted the invitation of Yvonne and Mike Nevens to attend his first gala at the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) in 2010, he never imagined the extraordinary creative and philanthropic journey that lay ahead. A first-time lender of art to SJMA for the exhibition of Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern and Contemporary Art from India in 2011 and a prominent collector of contemporary art, Freese placed the winning bid on a studio tour with artist Hung Liu during SJMA’s Gala Auction. That tour—the diverse people he met at SJMA—compelled him to get involved at the Museum. He soon joined SJMA’s Board of Trustees in 2011. He believed in SJMA’s mission to bring international contemporary art to Silicon Valley and in the Museum’s ability to push beyond the borders of its physical walls and engage directly with its diverse communities.

    Over the following decade, Freese enthusiastically served on the Gala Auction committee—which he chaired from 2015 through 2021—exceeding fundraising goals year over year. Beloved by the Museum’s staff and fellow Trustees for his commitment to the institution and vision for a strategic plan that would establish SJMA as an empathic, collaborative, and welcoming museum for all, Freese served as co-president of SJMA’s Board from 2017 to 2020. During his tenure, the Museum’s 50th Anniversary Gala secured a gross total of $1M in 2019 and was immediately followed by record-breaking net proceeds at SJMA’s first-ever virtual Gala in 2020. Under Freese’s leadership, the Museum retained all full-time staff members during the COVID-19 shutdown. Freese also joined SJMA’s Founders Society with a promised gift to ensure the enduring legacy of his support for the Museum. 

    On their second date, Freese brought Brook Hartzell on a day trip with the Council of 100, and she too quickly found her passion for SJMA. The couple are dedicated patrons of the arts throughout the Bay Area. Their shared commitment to the careers of women and BIPOC artists is apparent in their collecting practice and the organizations they support together. 

    Freese and Hartzell invest generously in the Museum’s general operations—where support is needed most--because they believe that SJMA is an essential resource to the South Bay community, Santa Clara County schools, and the contemporary art world at large. They have helped SJMA find greater financial security, which has allowed the upward trajectory of the Museum’s exhibitions program as well as its community impact.  

    They have contributed to the rapid growth of SJMA’s permanent collection by supporting the acquisition of works by artists including Firelei Baez, Jitish Kallat, Woody De Othello, Maria Cruz Palileo, Liliana Porter, Pae White, and Huang Yan, as well as by donating significant works from their own collection. They also support the Museum’s exhibitions through their loans of artwork as well as generous sponsorships of over ten exhibitions.


    The San José Museum of Art (SJMA) is a modern and contemporary art museum dedicated to inclusivity, new thinking, and visionary ideas. Founded in 1969 by artists and community leaders, its dynamic exhibitions, collection, and programs resonate with defining characteristics of San José and the Silicon Valley—from its rich diversity to its hallmark innovative ethos. The Museum offers lifelong learning for school children and their educators, multigenerational families, creative adults, university students and faculty, and community groups. SJMA is committed to being a borderless museum, essential to creative life throughout the diverse communities of San José and beyond. 

    SJMA is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San José, California. The Museum is open Thursday, 4–9pm, Friday, 11am–9pm, and Saturday–Sunday, 11am to 6pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and free to members, college students, youth and children ages 17 and under, and school teachers (with valid ID). For more information, call 408.271.6840 or visit 

    As of March 18, SJMA requires visitors ages 2 and older to wear a mask. We will carefully and continually monitor the efficacy of these guidelines in real time and make further adjustments as needed. For details, go to