It’s gratifying getting to know visitors in the galleries and at events. Museum staff love it when we see familiar faces—members who make the museum their own. Roberta Schmitz, who has been a museum member since 1999, is a perfect example. A librarian in the Hawai‘i State Public Library System, mother of a son and a daughter who are both in college on the mainland, and avid cyclist, she shared her thoughts on being a part of the Honolulu Museum of Art ohana. Interview by Ching Jen Lum.
What is your favorite Honolulu Museum of Art memory?
When my son was seven, he had one of the winning pieces in MOA Hawaiʻi’s annual painting contest exhibition Beauty Through the Eyes of Our Children, held in the Honolulu Museum of Art School gallery. We were so proud of him, that his art work was being displayed in a major art institution. It was a huge deal. There was an opening reception with flower arrangements, they handed out the awards, and the pictures were framed and on display, so it was a big family moment for us.
How does the museum figure in your life?
People come to the library and that’s their place to go. It’s their place to relax, calm down, to get away, or cool off, and that’s what the museum is for me. I remember being out running errands and I would just say, “Let’s just go to the Academy of Arts,” to take a break and calm down, before resuming our day. There was an opening reception that I went to recently and I didn’t even go into the galleries. I just sat in the café area with a glass of wine and some cheese and people watched in this perfect location. I had decided I could come and see the exhibition later—why not, I’m a member, I can come any time and not rush my way through it. I love that feeling of respite and having the ability to come as often as I please!
Do you have a favorite work of art at the museum?
I like the European wing because I am of European descent and also have a history background. But I’m grateful for the exhibitions and opening receptions that get me into the galleries to see different kinds of art.
What do you think the museum brings to the community?
This place is a leveler of everything—even if you don’t know you like art or need art, it’s here, there’s something you could relate to. For example, the Honolulu Surf Film Festival brought in a huge crowd and it’s not the crowd that you usually see or assume would be here. And ARTafterDARK brings in a younger audience. I used to be considered one of the younger people in the crowd but now I’m one of the older people and that’s awesome! The museum is bringing in a diversity of people and is inclusive of everyone.
The way you’ve modified your memberships has made a significant impact I think. The fact that Basic level membership is only $25 and children under 17 have free admission has allowed my daughter to come with her friends to the museum. She said to me, “I don’t know if all my friends are members,” and I told her, “You don’t have to [be a member], now you can just go!” And they came and checked out ARTafterDARK.
I think the museum director, Stephan Jost, has done a great job with the merger of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum. I especially like that he is not afraid to try new things, discuss new ideas, and bring new artists to the forefront. As a whole, I think the museum is not afraid to go big, to look at what other museums around the country and the world are doing and incorporating some form of those practices and artists here in Honolulu.
What do you appreciate about your museum membership?
That you folks keep me informed of everything, it could not possibly be easier to know what’s going on—the emails, the invitations, all your communication channels have been good and clear. I don’t want to miss anything!
What would be one suggestion you have for the museum and why?
I would suggest more bike racks and maybe even valet bike service! It would mean that a major local institution recognizes that people in Honolulu ride their bikes and that you will accommodate museum goers who are bike riders. It would encourage others perhaps to consider biking or use alternative transportation to get to the museum and around Honolulu. You would send a message to the community that bike access and use is important.
Want to join in on the fun with Roberta?
Become a member online.