Her Story

Lila Staples, the museum’s once-again board president, tells the crowd “Stuart Chase [left] has ridden into town, and man, it’s just gonna really change around here.”

Peter Mounteer

Last week the Monterey Museum of Art hosted a party for women. Well, “party” might be a stretch; it was more of a ribbon-cutting reception. It had the trappings of a Thursday after-work affair: a wine station that wasn’t mobbed, art on the walls, a photo booth with goofy prop hats, attendees dressed in business casual, hors d’oeuvres on trays, polite jokes. A young woman on electric violin sang “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

But despite the mellow vibes, the occasion was the launch of a timely new initiative with a lot of verve.

Stuart Chase, the museum’s newish executive director, thanked the dignitaries in the room, then slipped and said “We appreciate the city of Miami for… ”

Miami? Oooohhhh! the crowd teased.

“It’s all downhill from here!” someone shouted. But Chase got back on message.

“We are here together to proclaim that 2018 is The Year of the Woman.”

The museum has assembled a year that features, almost exclusively, work by women. Ironically, the big Coburn Gallery in which they made the announcement is host to a solo show by a man, Hector Dionocio Mendoza. But the museum shuts down Feb. 5 to March 14 for renovations, and when it reopens it will be nearly all women the rest of the year – collections shows, special exhibitions, lectures, studio tours.

“I’ve seen a [solo] or group show focused on women [at a museum],” Chase says. “But not the entire year.”

Expect to see stuff from Ruth Bernhard, E. Charlton Fortune, Inez Storer, Malin Lager, Dorothea Lange and more, and special exhibits from the likes of Beth Van Hoesen, Joan Savo and Robin Robinson. The Winter Lecture Series features painter Elizabeth Murray, Monterey Symphony executive director Nicola Samra and author/educator LaVerne McLeod.

Chase says the #MeToo and Women’s March movements are “very important in our society,” and that MMA is in alignment. To the notion of the arts being progressive places for women to thrive, he says, “It should be but it hasn’t been. The proof is in the pudding.”

Women account for 20 percent of the MMA collection. This is due to, Chase says, a bias for men in our culture. He cites activist-artist collective The Guerrilla Girls as disruptors who wield messages like “If museums don’t show art as diverse as the cultures they claim to represent… they are just preserving the history of wealth and power.”

Will MMA be as confrontational?

“We’ve been a sleepy place,” Chase told the crowd at the ribbon-cutting. “We’re not going to be that anymore.”

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