A ROSE BY ANY other name might smell as sweet, but what about an art museum? The California Museum of Art has been known as such since it was founded in 1982, but come this December, the facility will be baptized anew. Why mess with success after 14 years? Because, says CMA director Gay Shelton, new growth and new directions require a new, more accurate moniker.
“My best metaphor is that the name ‘California Museum of Art’ is like an ill-fitting shoe,” Shelton says with a laugh. “For one thing, it’s too big. For another, it’s not shaped quite right. … It creates this impression that we’re a huge organization with many galleries and an enormous collection of art. It sets us up to disappoint people’s expectations.”
For the record, the CMA has 2,250 feet of exhibition space. That’s not bad for a regional art museum, but it doesn’t compare to the cavernous halls of the Oakland Museum or SF MOMA. Shelton offers both those facilities as examples of organizations that could really deliver on the comprehensive collection of work that the name California Museum of Art seems to promise. So, as of December 22, the CMA will become known as the Sonoma Museum of Visual Art (or Sonoma MOVA). But don’t forget the old name just yet, because it’s still in use until the changeover date.
A new name is not the only change in store at the museum, according to Shelton. The CMA may soon acquire more gallery space and a larger budget.
“I hope that within the next five years there will be some major changes,” Shelton says.
From the October 8-14, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.