The Crocker comeback: Art’s inspiring appeal on full display as the city’s historic museum comes back to life

The Crocker Art Museum is open to the public again. Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

Kids’ summer camps, ‘Louis Comfort Tiffany’ exhibit & ‘For America’ showing all on the horizon

Sacramento’s dedicated art community leaned on virtual experiences to connect with audiences during a time when in-person entertainment just wasn’t safe. For the Crocker Art Museum, virtual gallery tours, online painting classes and even quick art-of-the-day posts on social media became creative outlets for those stuck at home, as well as the docents and stewards of art history based at the museum. 

Online art experiences became a way to connect with others and explore new creative avenues as the world waited for life to return to a certain level of normalcy.

Now, the Crocker Art Museum, which reopened to the public on April 8 with timed ticket entries, mask requirements, and other precautions, looks forward to jumpstarting its summer art camps for kids and highlighting a handful of new exhibitions. 

The Crocker Art Museum has sculptures and paintings by California masters. Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

 “I think that people who were engaging with museums actually started doing it more often from home because they could go to a lecture in New Orleans one day, and then a tour in New York the next,” says assistant director of education, Mallorie Marsh. 

 Marsh adds that the Crocker Art Museum will continue to offer virtual and in-person art classes, which will run simultaneously, since the staff understands that some folks just might not be ready to dive back into social norms. But for those who are, the Crocker’s educational team and all its docents, are eager to share their knowledge and interact with the community through art.

“Because of the deprivation over the last year, we do see a lot of excitement for people wanting to come and just be in the space and experience things in person,” notes Marsh. “I do think that people are going to be excited for a while about coming back into the museum and breathing it all in.”

The Crocker’s first session of summer art camps for kids begins June 21 in the museum’s new shaded outdoor studio located in its courtyard. Learning experiences include art projects that encourage kids to explore animals, adventures and nature, in addition to fun gallery lessons and tours of the museum’s latest exhibits such as the Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection and For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design

Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

“I’m really excited about seeing kids back at the museum,” says Marsh. “They all wear matching shirts, and they’re going to go on their little tours. I’m just really excited to have that energy back in the space and back in the courtyard and in the galleries.”

Besides the kid’s camps, the Crocker also has a variety of family programs that include creating one’s very own stained glass art piece, paired with a tour of the new Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibit, a combo experience to spark creativity. There will also be socially distanced family portrait classes with a peek at the upcoming For America exhibit that opens on July 3.

“People flourished in the online studio setting, but getting people back together and communing and being able to vibe off of each other when they make something, is really important,” Marsh explains. “We’re seeing a lot of traction with our in-person classes for adults and we’re really excited to see people come back into the space to make art.”

Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

As a resident docent at the Crocker for the last three years, Antoinette Alba says during the pandemic she hosted virtual mini-tours through the museum’s empty galleries on her personal Instagram page to keep the community engaged and provide something positive for people to see in their social media feeds. 

For Alba, art is to be shared and enjoyed by everyone; and any chance she gets to speak about art history or spark a conversation surrounding an artist or the medium used to create a piece, is just one more perk of the job.

“My favorite piece is actually the Lady Ethel Mary Crocker portrait, which is very beautiful, and her expression is very friendly,” Alba says. “I like the painter’s style. So, I will always make an effort to see that when I’m there.”

Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

Alba is just one of 140 docents at the Crocker who volunteer their time leading tours and geeking-out with the public about the latest exhibit housed in the 145,000-square-foot space. And although there is a lot of ground to cover when visiting the museum, Alba says the collections are broad enough that many people find themselves drawn to different areas. One of those spots just might be where you’ll find Alba, waiting to share her perspective and point you in the direction of your new favorite exhibit.

 “There are a lot of perceptions and barriers to art and art spaces. Many people perceive art as sort of an uppity-type of activity, or only people with knowledge and understanding can really engage with art,” Alba observes. “I really believe that to be untrue and one of the things I love to do is try to make it more accessible. You don’t necessarily have to have a background in art to be able to talk about art, which is exciting.”

The Crocker Art Museum is two Victorian-era buildings connected by a modern gallery. Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

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