From mom to museum volunteer • The Nob Hill Gazette

Pamela Hornik is a patron and collector. She volunteers at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center – where she sits on the Director’s Advisory Board and is an ambassador for its 2022 Museums by Moonlight gala – as well as the neighboring Anderson Collection. (Eamon Ore-Giron’s work behind her is part of a current Anderson show and is on loan from the Horniks.) | Photo courtesy of Darrow Hornik

Getting involved in the local arts community gave me a purpose and a sense of identity.

I still have my original Cantor Arts Center ID badge. In the 13 years since its publication, a lot has changed – beyond my hairstyle, which was longer and lighter at the time. I remember putting the badge around my neck for the first time and my husband, David, taking a picture of me before going out and driving the five minutes to the museum on the Stanford campus.

It was my first day as a Cantor volunteer. I didn’t realize how many doors were going to open, just sitting down at the reception there. It launched me into the art world in a most unexpected way. Much of my life is now devoted to art, including supporting exhibitions as a patron and supporting new artists as a collector.

As my four children were growing up – we lived in New York City, Half Moon Bay, and Walnut Creek before moving to Palo Alto around 2000 – we frequented local museums as a family. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, SFMOMA, de Young, Cantor. I have also chaired school trips to arts institutions, run the book fair, organized community groups, and started a mom blog. Everything I did was focused on my children.

During a school trip to Cantor with my youngest son’s class, I had a aha moment. Standing there in the gallery, in the midst of all these second graders, I felt more at peace than anywhere else. I knew that one day I wanted to work there.

In 2018, I started volunteering at Cantor every Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to greet guests and make them feel welcome. With this kind of position, you decide how much you want to get out of it. I wanted to challenge myself to learn the art and serve the public, so that was perfect. One of the most rewarding things is interacting with people who are not museum visitors. I love watching them come in, observing the neoclassical architecture and having that moment where they breathe – like, Wow look where i am.

Much of my life is now devoted to art, including supporting exhibitions as a patron and supporting new artists as a collector.

The museum played a major role in filling my days with purpose. For so many years I have been David’s wife. Or Julian, Noah, Darrow Where Beckettthe mother of. My identity and my sense of self were lost. As soon as I started volunteering, I took this time for myself. Suddenly I was no longer alone someone’s wife or mother. I was a volunteer at the museum.

Fridays at the Cantor were my ritual. No matter what happened – like people getting mad Rodin‘s Thinker was on loan to another institution – at the end of a shift I still felt good. When I was still doing the after-school pickup, I rushed out of there, thrilled and refreshed. The kids asked about my day and were really respectful of the day I was working. I think they were proud that, Hey, my mom works in a museum. (Two of my sons are now studio artists.)

After the kids got out of the house, I developed a new Friday afternoon routine: grab a turkey sandwich and soy latte from the museum cafe and come home, where I would share the sandwich with our dog, Teddy. When the cafe got rid of its turkey sandwich, I was completely bowled over. (Funny how the wackiest things get so important.)

A few years later, life would throw a much bigger curve for everyone. Shortly after the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Stanford closed its doors. I immediately missed the art and people, from visitors to curators to maintenance staff. Despite my involvement in various committees and non-profit organizations, I lost my sense of purpose. I became – and still am – slightly depressed.

Desperate to see art, David and I went to see murals in San Francisco – Michael jangthe poster for rue Clément, Chelsea wongChinatown images. I was looking for outdoor art. And then I decided to do something, so that others can safely explore the art as well.

Last fall, we collaborated with the Palo Alto Art Center on an outdoor installation of Susan o’malley‘s Advice to the community posters. We worked with Ali gass to bring The facade project at the Institute of Contemporary Art in San José. And as founding members, we are currently helping Ali launch the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco in fall 2022.

I am often asked how I became a collector. It is to be at the Cantor, immersed in art. The museum had an exhibit 12 or 13 years ago that highlighted the work of Stanford professors. I found one and bought one. This is where it all started – from that volunteer work.

It has been almost two years since I sat down at the Cantor’s reception. Lately I’ve been busy with travel (our three sons live in NYC) and art related activities (I recently saw – and loved – Paper hunt: ten years of collecting prints, drawings and photographs at Cantor). I hope to resume volunteering by the start of the new year.

The pandemic has reinforced how much Cantor means to me. While it once served as a refuge from the chaos of raising four children, it’s now part of who I am.

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About Carlos V. Mitchell

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