Maybe you’re a fan of the museum. Maybe you’re a member. Maybe you come to every ARTafterDARK, to most of our film festival and exhibition openings. Maybe you even bought a print from the Museum Shop that’s hanging in your house. If so, please know that we love and appreciate you, and that you’re very good looking.
But did you move here from the mainland and choose to reside in the Admiral Thomas apartment building just so you could live next to the museum? Do you consider the saddest day of the week to be Monday, not because of the reason we all do, but because that is the one day a week the museum is closed? Do you mark up your members’ magazine with so much red ink that it looks like a college term paper—to make the sure you don’t miss a tour or event?
Meet museum superfan Geri Ferrere Chan. Since 2010 Chan has been making pilgrimages to Hawai‘i from the Bay Area multiple times a year, often to attend the museum’s monthly art bash ARTafterDARK. She first met director Sean O’Harrow at Spalding House while she was visiting HoMA SELECT (on view through June 25), which is where we first heard her story. “She is the epitome of the effect we hope to have on our visitors,” says O’Harrow. “It would be great if everybody was like Geri. She is a HoMA superuser!”
We had to learn more about our superuser, so we sat down with Chan over lunch at the Museum Café. Before moving to Hawai‘i, she worked with her now ex-husband on building a business in Piedmont, California, and was involved in philanthropic efforts at art institutions in San Francisco, most notably the Asian Art Museum. After going through a divorce, Chan was left wondering where to begin, as she puts it, “Part Two” of her life, and knew immediately that the museum needed to be a part of it.
“I love this museum, it’s good for my mind and soul,” reflected Chan. “Any time I go through something negative in life, like divorce, I feel like I can neutralize it by coming here. Which I do at least three times a week.”
Chan explained that visiting the museum so frequently has influenced her artistic interests. “I’ve always been a fan of Impressionism, so I love Monet’s Water Lilies. But recently I’ve started to become interested in installation art, like Kaili Chun and Hongtao Zhou’s Net_work from Artists of Hawai‘i 2017.”
In her time with the Asian Art Museum, Chan helped raise thousands of dollars for their Filipino art collection, which she explained was of particular importance to her as a Filipina-American. “I was so surprised to see how big the Arts of the Philippines Gallery was here—it’s huge!” said Chan. “I love the fact that it’s so gigantic! I hope that the Filipino community here is able to come out and enjoy it.” She’s also coming to see the films in the current Filipino Film Festival.
“Another reason I love this place so much is the history of Anna Rice Cooke,” said Chan, who nearly recited Cooke’s dedication statement from memory. “This place is so different and unique. It has a comfortable, welcoming feeling. The tour and talk story, for example, is more than a docent leading you through a gallery—you actually get to sit and talk with a group afterwards, you feel like family, and you feel the aloha spirit.”
As O’Harrow and Chan finished their meals, Chan shared that she is willing to do whatever it takes to bring more attention to the museum. “Send me out on field trips, I’ll talk to people and bring them here! I want more people to be able to enjoy this place.”
Pictured above: Chan with museum director Sean O’Harrow