An colorful interlocking 1,500-foot-long “ribbon” of foam links, woven through the canopy and wrapped around the entrance, was untied, rather than cut, by faculty, staff, alumni, donors, students and artists as UC Davis celebrated the opening of the Jan and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art on Sunday.
Lisa Rybovich Crallé, who earned her master’s degree in fine arts in studio art from UC Davis in 2011, designed the giant ribbon, and members of the public decorated its links at community events in Davis, Sacramento and Napa.
A dream of 60 years came true, said the museum’s founding director Rachel Teagel, when Jan and Maria Manetti Shrem’s $10 million gift allowed the campus to go forward with the project.
The design, created by was inspired by the university’s “historical legacy as well as its deep connection to the land.
An 80,000-square-foot “grand canopy” extends over the new 30,000-square-foot museum, designed by the architectural ﬁrms of SO–IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, who said they were inspired by the Central Valley setting of the university.
The canopy is created from a patchwork of triangular beams “that will ﬁlter the light and temper the hot sun of the Central Valley,” the architects noted in a press release. “Like the tree canopy that covers the campus, the Roe Grand Canopy modulates a dynamic ﬂow of light, constantly changing throughout the day and season, and unites a portfolio of indoor and outdoor rooms into one immersive experience.
“Our architecture is open and permeable so that we can reach out to open minds with open arms. We want people to experience art in every way possible — seeing it, and in some cases touching and interacting with it,” Teagle said.
The museum complies with the UC sustainability policy to strive to attain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification and outperform California’s energy efficiency code by 30 percent. Features include the all-LED lighting systems in the art-display and exterior areas and occupancy-controlled LED gallery lighting, which also helps protect art from light when galleries are not in use.
“We are thrilled to add this remarkable new facility to our campus,” said interim UC Davis Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter. “Students, faculty, staff and the public all will be able to enjoy our rich art legacy and history at UC Davis in a gorgeous and inviting building at the gateway to our campus. Our new museum stresses education first and foremost, with classrooms, a working studio for students and other resources near the entrance where all can see and enjoy for generations to come. This is another proud moment for our campus and we are grateful to Jan and Maria for their generosity and commitment to the arts.”
Maria Manetti Shrem paid tribute to her friend, the late Margrit Mondavi, as she explained how she and her husband had decided to support the museum.
“I did not know very much about UC Davis, but Margrit cared about it very much,” she said. “And she loved art.”
Jan Shrem, the founder of Clos Pegase winery in Calistoga, had taken wine-making classes there but she had never visited until Mondavi, who had also contributed to the museum project, persuaded them to visit the campus. “I have become very fond of it,” Manetti Shrem said.
Visitors enter a glass lobby leading to a central courtyard, which opens to the sky, and to three pavilions designed to accommodate exhibitions, art making, and classrooms and operations. Within the exhibitions pavilion are five galleries.
One-third of the space is dedicated to educational programming. In addition to an indoor/outdoor art studio, the museum has a 125-seat lecture hall/community education room and a collections classroom. Concrete walls double as viewing surfaces for projected artwork and other uses, setting the stage for after-hours programming
The Manetti Shrem Museum opens with four inaugural exhibitions. The largest, “Out Our Way,” features 240 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints drawn from the collections of major museums and private collections nationwide, as well as from the UC Davis Fine Arts Collection.
Represented in “Out Our Way” are Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, William T. Wiley, Roy De Forest, Roland Petersen, Manuel Neri, Ralph Johnson, Ruth Horsting, Daniel Shapiro, Tio Giambruni, Jane Garritson and John Baxter — artists hired as professors by Richard Nelson, the founding chair of the UC Davis art department, during his tenure (1952-70).
Additional exhibitions include “Hoof & Foot: A Field Study,” a site-specific multichannel video commission by Bay Area artist Chris Sollars; “A Pot for a Latch,” a participatory installation by the Mexico City-based artist Pia Camil and “Museum as Process,”an exhibition on the architecture and making of the new museum organized by SO–IL.
In addition to the opening exhibitions, three artists’ projects invite visitor participation: Yoko Ono, Wish Trees for Peace, 1996–2016; Sandra Shannonhouse, “Copper Cage and Rosemary Place,” 1994 and William T. Wiley, “Gong,” 1986.
The Arneson, Neri and Thiebaud families are among the most generous benefactors of museum’s Fine Arts Collection, in addition to other art works donated by the first-generation faculty. These gifts are a small proportion of the 5,000-plus objects that comprise the collection. Established in 1971, the Fine Arts Collection was founded with old master prints and objects to be studied in art and art history classes. The collection has since grown to be encyclopedic and diverse in scope.
Because of the generous benefactors, admission to the museum is free.
“The museum is a combination of art presentation and art education. It will fulfill open minds and lift the souls of everyone who visits,” said Maria Manetti Shrem. “Its location at the great UC Davis with 36,000 students will give everyone access to art for a lifetime of inspiration and learning.”
“Our hopes and dream are to transmit to others what we ourselves have a passion for,” added Jan Shrem. “We are happy that the museum is free. Any student, or anyone, can go in and enrich his or her life.”