By Lial A. Jones, Mort and Marcy Friedman Director & CEO
A lot has changed in the past several months, but the Crocker Art Museum’s place in this community as a center for engagement, reflection, creativity, and healing has not.
The Crocker’s mission to promote an awareness of, and enthusiasm for, human experience through art endures, and we still measure our success by our ability to enrich the intellectual and cultural life of the communities we serve. We strive to create and sustain an environment of learning in which works of art are perceived both as objects of visual delight and as symbols of human thought.
This mission drives all of the Crocker’s activities — from the exhibitions we present and the artworks we add to the collection to the programs we offer, and the myriad ways we engage with you and others.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we see the devastating impacts of the virus on the physical and mental health of our neighbors and loved ones. Our sense of connectedness and belonging is lost, and we are often overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, loneliness, and fatigue. I see this happening everywhere around us and to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances young and old. It makes me question, How will we get through this?
Museum staff sat down in early August, soon after our July reopening was postponed, and we challenged ourselves to consider how we would fulfill the Crocker’s mission and continue to connect people in unexpected ways with art, ideas, each other, and the world around them.
Through these conversations and with feedback from members, we identified three key ways the Crocker will embody its mission in the months and the years to come. These objectives will advise our ideas, strategies, and decisions as we build a brighter future, but we can’t do this without you.
Your generous support will be crucial as we take these next steps together, and you can help the Crocker Art Museum heal this community through the power of art. Together, we will . . .
(1) Provide meaningful, inspirational, and innovative interactions with art.
Why is this important? The Crocker Art Museum exists in service to our community, and our contributions to the public good are more critical than ever. Today’s essential needs are health and safety, but also human connection, empathy, creativity, and respite, which are at the core of everything we do.
What does this look like? A slate of exhibitions in the new year that will inform and delight you, including:
• Country, City, and Sea: Dutch Romantic and Hague School Paintings from the Beekhuis Gift (opens January 24)
• Legends from Los Angeles: Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar in the Crocker Collection (opens January 24)
• Spirit Lines: Helen Hardin Etchings with works by her mother, Pablita Velarde, and daughter, Margarete Bagshaw (opens February 21)
• The Edge of Elegance: Porcelains by Elsa Rady (opens March 21)
• Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection (opens June 6)
• For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design (opens July 31)
We are also working to offer a new suite of education programs, both online and in person. We know that not everyone will have the ability or the comfort to participate in person, so we will maintain our digital and virtual offerings even when we are able to gather. We have launched virtual art classes, created video tours of current exhibitions, produced catalogues and coloring books, and are actively digitizing more of our collection — all so you and others may engage with art at home.
(2) Create inclusive environments and experiences that foster a sense of belonging for everyone in our community.
Why is this important? Diversity, equity, access, and inclusion values are embedded in the daily operations at the Crocker. We serve visitors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds with carefully selected and designed exhibitions and programs — but this is simply not enough.
As the region’s premier arts organization, it is our responsibility — and our privilege — to engage in this conversation so that we can better serve our diverse community in ways that are equitable and inclusive. Every single person walking through our doors should feel welcome, understood, and supported.
What does this look like? Through ongoing discussions with staff, board members, and community members, the Crocker has identified opportunities to advance DEAI values and principles through new public programs, internal initiatives, and operational efforts that more effectively support marginalized people inside the Museum, on our walls, and out in the community. Some of these efforts include:
• The creation of a staff-led DEAI Committee to assess and inform the development of institution-wide initiatives and hold the Museum accountable.
• Building upon decades of work to diversify our collection by increasing the number of artworks by LatinX, Black, female, and other diverse artists; and digitizing these works on our website so they are accessible to all.
• Pursuing thoughtful dialogue around DEAI issues impacting our community and the museum field through a new program series led by Crocker staff that features panelists from various cultural sectors in the region.
• Bridging the technology gap with analog art experiences, including print products and services, informative activity books, and creativity kits.
• Improving accessibility by providing ASL translation services and closed captioning to many of our digital programs in 2021, including all publicly available prerecorded programs, e.g., Curator Talks, Artist Talks, etc.
(3) Design a dynamic and sustainable future that will help ensure that Sacramento will remain a vibrant and thriving place to live, work, and play for many years to come.
Why is this important? In the 135 years since this Museum was founded, the Crocker has weathered depressions, wars, floods, and even other epidemics; together we will weather the effects of the Covid-19 health crisis. To address the financial challenges inflicted by multiple mandated shutdowns, we have built various scenarios and from them created a sustainability plan.
What does this look like? We have implemented a number of cost-saving measures, including cuts in spending, a moratorium on annual increases, hiring freezes, salary reductions for senior leadership, furloughs, and unfortunately even layoffs. While a difficult and painful process, we believe our measures were prudent and have set us up for a solvent future.
We must also invest in a sustainable revenue source today for the future. We have committed to growing our endowment as part of our Crocker Next capital campaign. Additional campaign aspects include improving collections storage and transforming Crocker Park into a multi-functional, civic art space that helps address our parking challenges and provides additional outdoor program and event space where we can safely move on from the pandemic together.
As I look at the months and the years ahead, I am confident that we are setting a path forward that will bring this community together, and that the power of art will see us through. Your support is vital as we work together to ensure our region continues to thrive, and you can show your commitment with a generous contribution.
Please consider a donation today and know that your gift supports the Crocker’s ability to extend art access and educational resources to those in the community who need it most. At a time when everyone around us is hurting, I ask you to please give generously and help our community heal through the power of art, so we can all get through this together.
Thank you in advance for your generosity, and I look forward to sharing our progress with you as we continue this work together into the new year.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and healthy holiday season.
Lial A. Jones,
Mort and Marcy Friedman Director & CEO
P.S. All gifts, large and small, are deeply valued and essential to the Museum’s success.