The Code of a 21st Century Museum as Lived and Labored by the DeYoung’s Coordinator of Public Programs

davidhockneyPhoto of David Hockney’s drawings in the DeYoung’s 2013 A Bigger Exhibition

There’s been a code written. What does a 21st century museum want to be?

As transmuted by Renee Baldocchi, Coordinator of Public Programs at the DeYoung Museum, a 21st century museum aims to have audience engagement, create collaborative partnerships, spread information in a multi-directional manner, encourage purposeful learning outcomes, enhance knowledge, and stay open to what is new.

Baldocchi began her visit with the Poppy’s Professional Development Track with questions. First, each member was asked to introduce themselves and then each individual presented a question that they wanted Baldocchi to explore or explain. Baldocchi kept the questions in her memory as she told us a brief history of her involvement with the DeYoung, pieces of the museum’s own shaky history, and how the work she’s been doing honors what the museum aims to be.

In 1991, Baldocchi began working at the DeYoung, bringing supplies to people and answering phones. It was a boring job, yet she knew everyone and that is how opportunities began to arise. She was constantly following her intuition and asking herself, “Do I love doing this?”

carloabruzzeseA sneak peak of artwork by October 2015 DeYoung Artist in Residence Carlo Abruzzese

After a late century earthquake in SF, the museum’s foundation was shakey, too,  because it could not get the support it needed to fund itself through public bonds. Most people just did not feel connected enough to the museum to want to fund it. Therefore, its rebuilding was funded privately. In 2005, the DeYoung debuted in a new building.

Getting fired for her radical attempts to get a nontraditional demographic into the museum, Baldocchi’s role was turbulent. She even produced an installation in which the public was asked to share their opinions about the museum.

In 2006, during a Community Day headed by Baldocchi, the director of the museum saw the beauty of bringing a nontraditional crowd into the museum and began to pursue money to fund community-based projects. In 2007, the museum was awarded two big grants and was able to establish Friday Nights at the DeYoung and the Artist Studio Series. Through these grants and under the guidance of Baldocchi, artists were commissioned for new work and many new voices began to enter the museum. Multiple advisory boards that still stand were developed to grow the museum’s perspective.

What first didn’t have space at the museum— Public Programming— now has a team working towards nourishing it. One of the greatest successes of this team is the ongoing Friday night at the De Young series, which are “for inspiration,” Baldocchi says. For her, Friday nights are about blurring the lines of the community and the artist and there is often live art-making.

The Artist Studio at the DeYoung is open Wednesday through Sunday. A grant has given artists such as Shawn Feeney space to work, a venue to show their completed work, and usually a connection to venues outside of the DeYoung to share their work. It is like “Miracle Grow” for artists, as one ex-artist in residence raved.

shawnfeeneyShawn Feeney’s mural showcased in the DeYoung’s Kimball Gallery

Nontraditional programming is also what keeps the museum alive. During the Keith Haring exhibit opening, street artist Rigo 23 was commissioned for a piece. He invited dancers to his art-making and, with the walls of the DeYoung in the background, the scene turned into a nontraditional street performance – an exuberant example of blurring the lines between what is considered high and low class art, between artist and audience.

By producing engaging events through series such as Friday Nights or with the Artist Studio, Baldocchi and her team’s work is dedicated to honoring the code of a 21st century museum.

Aleksandra Bril, Red Poppy Art House Writer