Last Tuesday, I attended the media preview for the new wing of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum. A press pass has always sounded like a grown-up and magical device to me, so I jumped at the chance to use Davis Life Magazine’s press pass to attend the preview. I was so nervous that I would get stuck in traffic or have trouble parking that I arrived a full forty minutes early. As I waited for the doors to open, I walked around the building, admiring the clean lines of the modern-looking new wing, as well as the seamless way it connects to the classic beauty of the old Crocker Museum and mansion. When I entered the reception hall of the museum and received my Davis Life Magazine name tag and press kit (!), I was awed by the airy, light-filled space, strategically filled with paintings and sculptures.
We were welcomed by friendly staff and a delicious buffet of pastries, coffee, and juice (witness the magic of the press pass), and then taken on a tour of the museum by the director, Lial Jones, and one of the head architects, Gerald Gendreau. Before the new wing was built, the museum consisted of the beautiful-but-limited gallery founded by the Crocker family in 1885, and the museum staff of 45 were forced to work elbow-to-elbow in one office. Now, the 125,000-square-foot Teel Family Pavilion, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, adds much more office space, an education center, and more space for art; 40% of the new wing’s art content is new or has not been seen by the public for 80 years.
Both the new and the old content of the Crocker astounded me. As a mid-sized museum, the Crocker focuses on specific periods rather than providing a broad sweep of all of art history, allowing the visitor to gain a depth of knowledge in certain areas. Examples of these focal points include the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit, American Impressionism, and the international ceramics collection. I was especially impressed and pleased with the modern art galleries in the new wing and the way that mediums were mixed, with oil paintings, fiberglass sculptures, and electronic pieces displayed side-by-side.
One of the main goals of the new wing is to welcome the Sacramento-area community and to let visitors share in the process of the creation and the display of art. For this reason, anyone can come into the museum and use the free WiFi provided in the reception area, visitors can witness the preparation and restoration of artwork through large windows that look into the Conservation Laboratory, and the Crocker Café, run by the owners of Muvaney’s Building and Loan Restaurant, is open to the public.
After a wonderful lunch buffet at the Crocker Café, we were allowed to wander the museum, taking pictures and interviewing the curators. Although I experienced severe camera-envy as I clicked my little silver point-and-shoot digital camera and the reporter next to me hefted a black behemoth with a lens the length of my arm, I immensely enjoyed my self-guided tour around the museum. It was a dream come true: I was very nearly alone in a great museum, and the entire staff was at my disposal for questions (magic!). When I wandered into the Education Center, I found the Manager of Experiential Learning, Emma Moore, who was more than happy to tell me what she thought of the wing. Moore says that the new wing “has all the elements of art that you could want. It has texture, it’s dynamic, it has pattern. And I just can’t resist all the jaws dropping when they walk into the museum.” The full interview is below:
The Crocker Art Museum will hold its grand opening of the new Teel Family Pavilion this Saturday, October 10th, from 10 am until 10 pm. Special exhibits include Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming, Tomorrow’s Legacies: Gifts Celebrating the Next 125 Years, A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum, and The Vases and Beyond, in addition to free public performances and activities for visitors of all ages. Admission is free for members, $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $5 for children ages 7-17, and free for children under 6 years old. It is located at 216 O Street, Sacramento.