The next time you settle into the couch in the Impressionism Gallery to study Monet’s Water Lilies, give a thought to Susan Schofield, a Honolulu Museum of Art Fellow and great friend who funded the purchase of the stylish Design Within Reach furniture located throughout the European and American galleries. The museum was saddened last week to learn of her passing in October.
Greatly supportive of European and American art curator Theresa Papanikolas’s work and department, Susan liked her philanthropy to have visible and tangible results. “She was the first person I thought of when it came time to populate our European galleries with furniture for our visitors,” remembers Theresa, “and she proved herself an unstinting donor and an excellent collaborator. She and I joined forces as co-curators of gallery seating, and she brought her exquisite taste to bear on each and every decision. One of my fondest memories of the process was when we came up with the brilliant idea of repurposing a rather outdated pouf that had been sitting in the museum’s basement. Susan enlisted the help of her designer, who showed us samples of gorgeous fabric—too many to choose from! Now that old pouf sits in purple brocade splendor in the midst of seventeenth-century masterpieces.”
For deputy director Hathaway Jakobsen, “Susan was generous, extremely quick witted, and very supportive of female leadership.” “When I started working at the museum in 2013, she made an immediate impression on me. She encouraged me not to be afraid to take risks as I embarked on forming a new department for the museum. She said, ‘Ask for forgiveness later, just do it!’ I feel blessed to have known Susan, even for such a short time. She will be missed.”
A successful American Express executive (with a fine arts degree in addition to an NYU MBA in international finance) whose career took her around the world to such locales as Chile and Hong Kong, Susan retired to Hawai‘i in 2006, and made the museum part of her life.
“I first saw the Arts of Hawai‘i Gallery in 2001,” Susan told museum development officer Ching Jen Lum in 2014. “It was my first introduction to Hawaiiana art and I loved it. It had a feeling of being on the verge of discovery.”
She described HoMA as a “lovely setting for quiet contemplation. The courtyards have an indoor/outdoor feel that is very suited to the lifestyle and climate of Hawai‘i.” Her favorite part of the museum were the Asian galleries—and she gravitated to the Guanyin statue. Susan, always elegant with her trademark pulled-back blond hair and flared-skirt dresses will be greatly missed in the galleries and at museum events.