We want to take a moment to acknowledge that, pre-pandemic, we had expected to unveil the transformed Asian Art Museum to the world this week, launching a new era of art, ideas, and experiences.
This unveiling would have been a vision fulfilled and a celebration of many years and countless hours of incredible work. It is painful to experience the gap between where we thought we would be and the very different place we find ourselves today.
We find ourselves reflecting on this gap frequently, and despite the moments of staggering disbelief that this is our new reality — one filled with sadness, uncertainty, and fear for the longevity of the arts — we also find ourselves filled with awe for everyone we work with, starting with our own museum family. The resilience, the tenacity, and the unbridled enthusiasm and creativity of the museum staff, board, and supporters of all kinds — in the face of an overwhelming situation — are never less than inspiring.
We had planned to celebrate our years-in-the-making transformation with a wonderful gala, saluting all who generously offered their support to the For All campaign. Instead, we are championing a Sustainer Fund that will provide much-needed resources to keep us moving forward.
Today, we would have hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor and hundreds of attendees. Now, we have launched our virtual museum and we just participated in a virtual Community Conversation with Mayor Breed to support Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
We had planned to offer free admission — thanks to Target — for thousands during an opening weekend. In the new virtual museum world, our dynamic, problem-solving staff has found new ways to engage our audiences online with digital programming and educational content that continues to enrich lives with music, food, mindfulness, and, of course, with art.
While our doors remain closed to the public, we are still giving back: we have donated hundreds of N95 masks to those on the frontlines, hundreds of tote bags to help feed those in need, and hundreds of hours as disaster service workers, besides offering the community a rich array of virtual programs.
We have met and surmounted challenges before in our history and we will again. We want to say a special thanks to our board for empowering the staff to think resourcefully about how to confront today’s challenges, to all donors for sustaining the museum during this unprecedented crisis, and to our staff for demonstrating how to remain nimble and innovative in the face of ongoing crisis.
Every individual and organization needs a North Star, particularly in the moment of crisis. We have our North Star — a transformed museum for our community and for the world, and we are confident we will reach it despite the tremendous challenge. We will be steadfast in carrying out our mission, guided by the vision of making Asian art and culture essential to everyone. This is a time of crisis; this is a time for invention.
Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO