Arts & Theater

Crowds pack UC Davis’ new art museum on opening day

The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis opened Sunday to a crowd eager to enter the $30 million building, which includes an outdoor space covered by a sprawling aluminum canopy.

More than 500 people gathered before the noon opening. Many gazed up at the canopy, whose slatted roof filters the bright Central Valley sunlight. They included a healthy number of artists, poets and musicians, along with students and UC Davis staff and faculty.

“There’s a lot of light; you have a sense of being inside and out,” said former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

Katehi, who stepped down from her post in August under pressure from UC President Janet Napolitano, said the idea for a new art museum and education building arose soon after she became chancellor in 2009. The museum includes not only galleries but also classrooms and an art studio.

“Not only do you see art, you learn how to make art,” Katehi said. “It’s a place of learning.”

Admission is free, a fact that delighted several in the crowd who noted that art museums in San Francisco and New York often charge $25 or more for adults.

“How do you expect people to appreciate art if it isn’t affordable,” said Janet Sakata of Sacramento, who came to the opening with brush painter Mariko Kawamura.

“I think it’s a beautiful building,” Kawamura said, as they awaited the noon cutting of the ribbon, which wasn’t actually a ribbon but an interlocking chain of colorful rings – held together with a string – reflecting the museum’s motto, “Art Wide Open.”

The 500 rings were painted by community members of all ages, said Pat Rybovich, whose daughter, Vallejo artist Lisa Rybovich Crallé, created the rings out of insulation for pipes, covered in canvas.

The museum was built in part with $2 million in seed money from Margrit Mondavi. In 2011, art lovers Jan Shrem, former owner of Clos Pegase Winery, and his wife, Maria Manetti Shrem, donated $10 million for naming rights. The museum was designed by architectural firms SO-IL of Brooklyn and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of San Francisco.

The Shrem museum is the latest addition to a complex of cultural structures at UC Davis that includes the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences.

“It’s grand, it’s ambitious, it’s majestic and it’s our first world-class museum,” said UC Davis Poet Laureate Andy Jones.

Interim Provost Kenneth C. Burtis said the museum reflects UC Davis’ continued growth beyond its agricultural roots. “It reflects our evolution from an ag school with cows on campus to one with strong sciences and now arts,” he said. “We still have cows in the middle of campus, and now we have a museum worthy of New York and San Francisco.”

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini

Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

Where: 254 Old Davis Road

Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; noon to 10 p.m. Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Mondays.


Related stories from Sacramento Bee