December 10, 2020

Dearest Koret,

Photo: Dallis Willard

It’s 3:33 a.m. Three threes are definitely a sign. I am writing you today because our separation has lasted much longer than originally anticipated. For the past six years I have dedicated a lot of my energy to two museums. Three titles later, and just over two years ago, I accepted a position to work in and with you, Koret Education Center, and in service to the Education and Public Engagement departments at SFMOMA.

Photos: Left: Stella Lochman. Right: Beth LaBerge.

You’ve had many attractions — it’s difficult to decide which one I liked most, though there was nothing quite like the card catalogue, for which I have endless gratitude. For years, that big, beautiful fixture was a fitting symbol of the enduring partnership between SFMOMA and the San Francisco Public Library, the partnership that made everything happen, keeping Koret free to all and allowing for more visitors, more discourse, more energy, more love. This access has generated so much attention and care from me and my colleagues. As it turns out, an activated space needs love even in times less trafficked — just like the museum.

Photo: Petrina de Chalus

Photo: Petrina de Chalus

Photo: Amy Lange

It’s a little strange for me to write to a space — a free and temporarily non-operational piece of land within a museum. But I’ve gotten so used to defending you, I thought at the very least I’d write you directly, fully aware that you’ll never read these words. That’s my job: the reading and the people part.

Photo: Beth LaBerge

Photo: Beth LaBerge

Photo: Stella Lochman
Martin and Christo take a break from mural making with Stella.

I’ve been reflecting on the number of students and colleagues I no longer see; all the school and public guides who dedicated many hours to prep for tours that are no longer happening; the adjunct educators leading tours; the program associates conducting guide and educator workshops; and the whole team coming together to make a family day happen. I’ve been thinking about all of our Operations and A/V friends who make sure you’re equipped to function well; Frontline friends stopping by to take a break or peruse a book, as well as many staff members moving anywhere between the Lower Level and the 10th Floor, who have discovered the swift access your stairs provide; and Engineering, not sure you could ever fully operate without their help. I mean, you have a wall that lifts for goodness sake, and lighting that few understand! I even grieve the meetings to discuss your capabilities, your configuration limits, and if you’re the right look or feel for a program, event, lecture, symposia, a celebration for our guides, a memorial service, or a retreat for our departments.

Photos of Koret. Left: Stella Lochman. Right: Petrina de Chalus.

No. All I hear now is silence, quiet, which I, too, have a history of celebrating, especially the day after an at-capacity artist talk, program, movie screening, or family day, or a Thursday evening when our late hours stretch past the official 9 p.m. closing. (Those book clubbers really know how to move furniture around.) Quiet: like the stillness of our Wednesdays spent together; those hushed mornings, when I would play music or a podcast, setting the tone for my day up to be as efficient and productive as possible; trying to fit in all my administrative tasks as well as shelve books, dust shelves, wipe down tables, rearrange furniture or discuss an optimal room set up with the Ops crew. The best bread-breaking sessions happened for me on those days, with anyone who graced the space. I remain in active gratitude for those moments.

Photo: Petrina de Chalus
Mural: Colpa Press for Printed Publics

You’ve been a safe haven for me when I wasn’t quite sure where or if I fit within the museum culture. Our time together has provided me an opportunity to develop more patience and compassion toward the museum. It’s challenged how I have come to experience and understand art, artists, process, and growth. You’ve absorbed it all. To me, that absorption equates to blessings — energetic blessings! And from the looks of things, you’ve received many. As a colleague recently reminded me, Koret, you too have served as both “temple and forum”: a respite for the weary; a place where babies cry and mothers nurse; a place to gather one’s thoughts, attend a program, or revisit a book. I have witnessed magic within your walls: the magic and light of all kinds of people. While you’ve physically hosted them, I’ve done my best to support the space and its visitors with diplomacy, sensitivity, and respect.

Photos: Beth LaBerge

So, in fact, this is a letter of gratitude to you, Koret Education Center at SFMOMA, and to all of the good humans who have passed through: the educators, the artists, the engineers, the designers, the musicians, the architects, the doctors, the researchers, the new parents with their sleeping infants and walkers, the grandparents, the writers, the Drag Queen Story Hour participants, the Take Part SF model enthusiasts, Christo and his mural, the librarians, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks workers, the Fulbright and Rhodes scholars, the artists’ family members, the veterans, the mystics, and of course the students — the students of all ages, both local and international. I’ve encountered life through this space: everyday people who allowed curiosity to take over, who discovered vibrant and sometimes hidden layers of the museum through the lens of its Education and Public Engagement departments.

Photo: Beth LaBerge

Photo: Beth LaBerge

Photo: Beth LaBerge
Mural: SOTA and CCA Supergraphic

Oh Koret. It is now 1:33 p.m., another day. And while the pandemic continues to keep us apart and onsite tours and programs paused, you have shifted once again to meet the needs of our colleagues — it comforts me to know they have a safe and spacious place to breathe and rest and be. From Learning to Love You More to Printed Publics, and all the collaborations in between, I think we both know things will never be quite the same.

Photo: Stella Lochman

Until we meet again,


Comments (5)

  • Jeanne Barr says:

    Thank you Trina for reminding me of our wonderful Koret Center and You. I miss your warm and positive spirit. Looking forward to being there snd seeing you soon.

  • Robert L. Baker says:

    Thanks for such a beautiful meditation.

    You have always been a tremendous help and cheerful smile and conversation.

    I’m looking forward to coming back soon!

  • Elizabeth Aamot says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful meditation 🙏🏼

  • Nick Despota says:

    Thank you, Trina, for your observations on the ways space and people become fitted to each other: moveable walls, changing murals, migrating furniture, the traffic of floor-to-floor commuters, the relic from days when “Search” meant the Dewey decimal system, parties and workshops, whispering partners and crying babies. Your essay describes a space continuously adapted and adopted. But it also a portrait of yourself, Trina, who has seen all that, then framed what you have seen for us to look at. Even more, you’ve been integral to making it all happen.

    2021 will be a year of restoration. Count on it.

  • Elaine Dunlap says:

    To better times! ❤️❤️❤️👍

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