Today, I attended a meeting at USC Pacific Asia Museum, where I worked for almost nine years, and with which have remained in touch to varying degrees over the nine years since I left. While I was there, I gave three books to three members of the museum’s staff. They are all colleagues who began working at the museum after I left, so I haven’t had the opportunity to work closely with them. Yet, their professionalism and warmth reassure me that this museum, which I still care deeply about, is in good hands.
To Yeonsoo, who occupies my old position as curator, I gave a book called Why Asia? written by Alice Yang, a talented commentator on the Asian and Asian-American art scene. Yeonsoo joined the museum about a decade ago but we have only worked together briefly. She is one of the most modest curators I know but she recently curated one of the most beautiful and impressive exhibitions I have seen at the museum, Reshaping Tradition: Contemporary Ceramics from East Asia, which presents to the work of several extraordinary contemporary ceramics artists (http://www.pacificasiamuseum.org/_on_view/exhibitions/2015/Reshaping.aspx). It is curatorially well balanced and is also a perfect exhibition to visit with the family during the Holidays – no mean feat for a curator! Susana is the museum’s Director of Public Engagement, with her extensive background in museums and museum studies, has very wise and thoughtful ideas about how to bring people into the museum and the museum to the people. She has also been very warm and personally supportive and has encouraged me to stay involved with the museum, for which I am very grateful. To her, I gave a copy of my biography of Confucius, which she can dip into, if she chooses, to learn more about a great Chinese educator and proponent of the importance of human relationships. The third book was a guide to Chinese culture that I worked on with the education department at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana several years ago. I gave it to Michael, the new head of education at the museum, who I first met when he was an educator at the LA Zoo and then again when he worked at the Skirball Museum. I thought it might help him get his head around the vastness of Chinese culture.
I still feel nostalgic about my time at Pacific Asia Museum, as I learned so much there and enjoyed growing up professionally within its beautiful Chinese-style walls. Though I haven’t worked there for years, it still feels like one of my homes here in California. The museum has had a difficult past few years, but it seems now to be stabilizing and strengthening in many ways with the support of the University of Southern California (USC) and with its current, very impressive staff. I look forward to enjoying many more of their programs for years to come.