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Keeping It Creative: Staff Projects During Shelter in Place

by , December 2020

During the long months of closure and shelter-in-place, some SFMOMA staff have been taking their creativity to the next level (in addition to working remotely!). Here are just a handful.


Michelle Sindha Thomas, Translations: Zipporah, 2020

Michelle Thomas, Project Manager, Design + Creative Initiatives, had a watercolor selected for The de Young Open, a juried exhibition of Bay Area artists. “I see the exhibition theme ‘On the Edge’ as a comment on our collective state of mind,” says Thomas, an accomplished watercolorist. “The painting depicts the historical, bi-cultural Moses and Zipporah as a modern couple where a strong, emotional man draws strength from an equally strong, dynamic woman in a time of deep uncertainty.” Read more about her art in a piece she wrote for SFMOMA’s Open Space online and live platform.


Louis Vargas, Assistant Registrar, Painting + Sculpture, is among the five staff members (and counting!) who welcomed a baby, perhaps the ultimate creative endeavor, during the museum’s closure. “Shelter in place has been overwhelming,” says Vargas. “But I’m fortunate to be spending it with my newborn son, watching him grow day by day.”


Paula De Cristofaro, Conservation, Paintings, has taken on the care and nurturing of the public garden near her home through the City of Oakland’s Adopt-a-Spot program. “Working in the garden is perfect after a day at the computer and it gives me a chance to say hi to neighbors and friends at a safe distance,” she says. “It’s my community service.”


James Gouldthorpe, COVID Artifact 20, 2020; courtesy the artist; © James Gouldthorpe

James Gouldthorpe, Senior Museum Preparator, Conservation, posts daily Instagram images from his painting series Covid Artifacts, which will be featured in SFMOMA’s new exhibition Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis. “Covid Artifacts documents the objects, people, and places that have suddenly become infused with cultural relevance due to the pandemic. Each artifact illustrates a page in the global pandemic narrative.”


Mia Paschal, Member Services Assistant, will have her poetry published in the Copenhagen Review and the city of Kiel, Germany, has commissioned her to create a multimedia artwork celebrating its sister city relationship with San Francisco. A resident in the Brown-Handler Writers Residency program, Paschal is also writing a play about Denmark’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. She even managed to do a few performance readings of the work in progress — via Zoom, of course.


Megan Brian, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Education and Community Engagement, has sewn over 500 cloth masks for vulnerable community members. “When resources ran dry, I put out a call to local artists who supplied me with elastic and fabric and connections to care organizations. I wrote about this in SFMOMA’s Open Space online and live platform.”


Fuzz E. Grant, Onsite Membership Assistant, is inspired by how nature and animals have thrived during the pandemic, reclaiming spaces without human interference. “I’ve been making sculptures of Disapproving Bunnies to remind humans that there is another world apart from their own, a world where animals are watching.”


MAAKE Magazine, Issue 11.

Tanya Gayer, Exhibitions Coordinator, curated MAAKE Magazine’s Issue 11 on the theme “take care of each other,” a phrase her mother, who passed away this year, would say to loved ones in parting. “I had no idea my work with MAAKE in 2020 would become such a valuable marker in my personal history. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to look inward with this project.”


Kristen Sard, Sand Landscape, 2020, © Kristen Sard

Kristen Sard, Onsite Membership Assistant, creates viscerally provocative environments for her figurative photography. Shelter in place inspired a dark setting focused on caves and sand. “I used dripped black sand collected at Ocean Beach and stitched individual photos together to create the landscape.”


Cristina Chan

Cristina Chan

Cristina Chan is the assistant managing editor at SFMOMA.
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