Enchanted evening for San Jose Museum of Art’s gala auction

The San Jose Museum of Art Gala Auction was a glittering affair Saturday night, filling the outdoor Circle of Palms with more than 300 guests and using the museum itself as the venue for an energy-filled after-party.

The evening’s honorees — Bay Area artist Enrique Chagoya and patrons Evelyn and Rick Neely — have longtime connections to the museum that emphasize its role as a place that opens its doors to Bay Area artists, and art lovers, of all sorts.

“My relationship with the San Jose Museum of Art has been very rich over time,” said Chagoya, whose work was first shown there in 1997 as part of the Eureka Fellow Awards Exhibition. “Of all the museums, I think the San Jose museum is one of the ones that cares the most about local artists and the community.”

Bay Area-based artist Enrique Chagoya was honored at the San Jose Museum of Art’s 2023 Gala Auction at the Circle of Palms in downtown San Jose on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

The Neelys became members of the museum in 1994, shortly after seeing its first collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994. Evelyn subsequently became a docent and gallery teacher, volunteering her time for the next 26 years and eventually serving on the board of trustees — first as a docent representative — and later as a regular member. The couple also has supported several exhibitions, and Evelyn Neely led the charge to raise money for the digital publication, “50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Collection,” to celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary.

Patrons Evelyn Neely, left, and Rick Neely were honored at the San Jose Museum of Art's 2023 Gala Auction at the Circle of Palms in downtown San Jose on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)
Patrons Evelyn Neely, left, and Rick Neely were honored at the San Jose Museum of Art’s 2023 Gala Auction at the Circle of Palms in downtown San Jose on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

Even San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan praised the museum’s accessibility to the community. Conceding that art wasn’t a big part of his life growing up in Watsonville, he recalled visiting the museum in 2008, when he was teaching middle school in San Jose, and being entranced by an exhibition of etchings by Francisco Goya. Mahan said he spent more than two hours at the museum and that docents even let him hang around a bit as they were closing down.

“It was one of the first times in my life that works of art stopped me in my tracks,” he said.

Maybe some of the museum’s current exhibitions — including work by Yolanda López, Liliana Porter and Sadie Barnette — will stop you in your tracks, too. Check out what’s currently up and coming soon at www.sjmusart.org.

CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: The third annual Mosaic America festival is this Saturday and Sunday at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, and it’ll again be a showcase for the cultural and artistic offerings from the diverse communities that call the Santa Clara Valley home. That includes performances by San Jose Junior Taiko, Opera San Jose, the New Ballet, Los Lupeños and Viet Steps, Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble, the San Jose School of Highland Dancing and Starzz Bollywood, just to name a very few.

There also will be artist-led workshops and an art exhibit, “An American Mosaic,” featuring work by artists in and around San Jose curated by Works/San Jose Executive Director Joe Miller and co-presented by Works and the School of Arts and Culture. The festival, which received the Creative Impact Award at last year’s Cornerstone of the Arts ceremony in San Jose, runs from 3 to 9 p.m. each day, and admission is free. The schedule and more information is available at www.mosaicfestival.org.

“Our goal is to inspire people at the grassroots level to be less hesitant about engaging with diversity and start forging deep roots to places and the people that make up our neighborhood,” said Priya Das, Mosaic America co-founder and chief programming officer. “The festival is a celebration of our year-round work of collaborations culminating in a celebration.”

TALKING BARBIE: U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren was back in San Jose for the weekend and introduced the premiere screening of “Barbie” at the Tech Interactive’s IMAX Dome theater on Friday. Lofgren was seeing the movie for the first time — she’s been a little busy in Washington, D.C. — but noted that she didn’t grow up with Barbie and hadn’t planned to get the doll for her daughter, either, when she was a girl.

But Lofgren’s sister-in-law gave her a “Dr. Barbie” as a gift and that opened the floodgates — and prompted Lofgren to change her mind about the doll. “It turned out, it did not ruin my daughter and she went on to have a happy successful life and a good professional career,” Lofgren said, rattling off the positive influences of Firefighter Barbie, Marine Biologist Barbie and even President Barbie.”The girls playing with these dolls, they could do anything,” she said. “Of course, it’s not the dolls that make things happen; it’s us, the people.”

“Barbie,” which includes a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage after the credits, wraps up its engagement at the Tech this week with showings on Wednesday and Thursday.

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