San Jose Museum of Art
The San Jose Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection of works from West Coast artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. There is a historic wing that was originally built in 1892 for the San Jose Post Office which was used for until 1937. From 1937 to 1969, the building was used as the City of San Jose Public Library. It was acquired by the Fine Arts Gallery Association and the new wing of the museum opened in 1991. This is one of the only museums to focus on West Coast artists. The San José Museum of Art is the largest provider of arts education in Santa Clara County, serving over 45,000 children per year. The permanent collection focuses on contemporary art by US West Coast artists, with a growing emphasis on art of the Pacific Rim. The collection includes more than 2,600 artworks in a variety of media including sculpture, paintings, prints, digital media, photographs, and drawings. Founded in 1969 by a group of artists, the art museum was first known as the Civic Art Gallery. Ann Marie Mix and Susan Hammer were co-founding trustees of the museum. The group sought to save a historic structure slated for demolition and to revitalize it as a community art gallery. The early arts organization was referred to as a “gallery” prior to the establishment of a permanent collection of artwork. In 1974, it was renamed the San Jose Museum of Art.
The museum established a partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994. Information about each exhibition was published for visitors in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese, reflecting the diversity of patrons in San Jose in the 1990s. By 1997, the museum had acquired a collection of approximately one thousand pieces of contemporary art, mostly works on paper. Susan Krane, executive director from 2008 through January 2017, continued to grow the collection in size and stature. Krane was succeeded by Susan Sayre Batton as executive director in April 2017. By 2019, after 50 years of operation, the SJMA had acquired a permanent collection with 2,600 objects.
The museum’s 33,000-square-foot historic wing was originally designed by federal architect Willoughby J. Edbrooke. Built from local Greystone Quarry sandstone in 1892, the structure was designed to serve as the main post office for the city of San Jose. It is an example of the Richardsonian Romanesque architecture style. The original steeple and clock tower were damaged in the 1906 earthquake. From 1937 to 1969 the historic wing served as the city of San Jose’s library. The building was then converted by the Fine Arts Gallery Association, a group of community members and San Jose State University art professors, who then reopened it as the Civic Art Gallery. In 1972 the building was named a California Historical Landmark (#854), and in 1973 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A 45,000-square-foot modern addition known as the “New Wing”, designed by architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to house the majority of the exhibition space, was opened to the public in 1991.Robinson, Mills & Williams oversaw the interior design of the new addition. The San Jose Museum of Art underwent a major seismic retrofitting in the late 1990s, at which time the building interiors were further modified and reintegrated to serve as a contemporary art gallery and exhibition space. In 1997, the museum reopened after the historic wing of the building had undergone a remodel for two and half years.