Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento

Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento California

As co-organizer for the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and lead organizer for WordCamp Sacramento 2016, a conference centered around WordPress for WordPress users of all skill levels, it was up to me to find a venue for the conference. It was tough going. I toured many venues over several months, including the Crocker Art Museum.

I hadn’t visited the Crocker since college, and before that not since a fifth grade field trip.

I remembered being in awe of the painting and artwork, intrigued by the more modern pieces, and impressed with the sculptures. I remembered walking in the front doors of the old historic mansion near Sacramento’s waterfront and eating our picnic lunch in the grassy park next to the museum. I didn’t remember any specifics, and the Teel Family Pavilion didn’t exist when I visited last.

When I stepped into the entrance of the Teel Family Pavilion with a Chihuly glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling above me and a large, light-filled atrium in front of me, I knew I had to come back with Brian and the kids to experience the museum again as an adult.

With the rainy, dreary weather thwarting our original plans to visit Railtown 1897 in Historic Jamestown on Mother’s Day weekend, we decided to spend the day inside visiting the Crocker Art Museum and the California Museum.

The Crocker Art Museum

Established in 1885, The Crocker Art Museum was the first public art museum founded in the Western United States. Now one of the leading art museums in California, the Crocker — previously known as the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery — is the only museum in the Sacramento region accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

While I was a little disappointed that the historic mansion’s front doors are no longer open, I was impressed with the museum’s expansion. There is so much more to see and experience, and the kids loved exploring all of the different exhibits across the three floors. Their favorites were the Californian and American Art Exhibit and the Asian Art Exhibit, both of which included a variety of art pieces besides paintings.

The exhibits we visited included:

  • Andy Warhol: Portraits: Andy Warhol’s lifelong fascination with celebrity and the art of portraiture is examined in this exhibition featuring 168 drawings, fashion sketches and paintings, photo-booth film strips, Polaroids, photographs, personal memorabilia and portrait paintings.
  • African and Oceanic Art: More than 200 independent cultures and their traditions compose holdings that include objects used in everyday life and ritual. A collection of headrests representing ethnic groups across the continent is the highlight of the Crocker’s African holdings. Shields and carved figurative poles from the Asmat region of New Guinea offer a visual counterpoint to the African collection and are the core of the Museum’s collection of art of the South Pacific.
  • Asian Art: The Museum is especially noted for its holdings of Korean ceramics, Chinese tomb furnishings, trade ceramics, and Japanese armor and tea ware. South and Southeast Asia are well represented by Buddhist art from the region extending between Pakistan, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia, and South Asia by Indian and Persian miniatures.
  • European Art: Shaped by Crocker family purchases made during their European trip of 1869-71, the collection boasts strengths in 19th century Central European art, 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, and Italian Baroque paintings. The Museum has since built upon and expanded these core areas, most significantly through a collection of 19th century Dutch paintings.
  • International Ceramics: Since the mid-20th century, the Museum has followed the development of notable Californian, American, and international ceramists, collecting examples from makers whose contributions have transformed the practice and history of studio ceramics.
  • Californian and American Art: The core collection of Californian art was assembled by Judge E. B. and Margaret Crocker in the early 1870s. The Museum continues to collect and display the work of California’s premier artists and seeks to present a comprehensive survey of art produced in and about California from statehood to contemporary times.

Crocker Art Museum Historic Building

In 1868, Judge Edwin B. Crocker purchased the property and existing buildings on the corner of Third and O Streets in Sacramento, California. He then commissioned local architect Seth Babson (1830-1908) to renovate the home into a grander, Italianate mansion with a gallery building adjacent to the mansion to display the family’s growing art collection.

Babson envisioned the home and gallery as an integrated complex. The gallery building included a bowling alley, skating rink, and billiards room on the ground floor; a natural history museum and a library on the first floor; and gallery space on the second floor. Completed in 1872, the Crocker family mansion and art gallery are considered the masterpieces of Babson’s career.

In 1989 the historic façade was restored and a modern gallery interior was created. In 1978 the original buildings and concrete Herold Wing addition of 1969 were connected and renamed the Crocker Art Museum. The gallery building is a California Historical Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Teel Family Pavilion

In 2000, the Crocker Art Museum appointed a selection committee to select an architect to lead the Museum through master planning its expansion. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (GSAA) was chosen and they designed the expansion of the Crocker in a collaborative community process to ensure that the new building and the internal reconfiguration of the existing structures would work together.

On October 10, 2010, the Crocker opened the 125,000-square-foot Teel Family Pavilion, more than tripling the Sacramento museum’s size. The expansion enabled the dedication of the historic building’s entire first floor as the Museum’s Education Center.

Crocker Cafe By Supper Club

The Crocker Cafe By Supper Club is located inside the Crocker Art Museum in the back corner of the first floor atrium. You can choose between a casual eatery where you order food, like burgers and sandwiches, at the counter and bus your own dishes, or you can grab a quick sandwich or salad from a ready-to-go display. Thirsty? Choose from a variety of beverages, beer, and wine in a display fridge.

Tables are spread throughout the atrium, lit by a wall of glass overlooking the courtyard between the historic Crocker Mansion and the new Teel Family Pavilion.

Want to enjoy the cafe, but don’t have time to visit the museum? No problem! Dining at the Crocker Cafe doesn’t require museum admission, and there is almost never a wait.

Visiting The Crocker Art Museum

After browsing all of the exhibits, we stopped in the museum store and bought a few special and unique gifts. We then headed outside and followed a narrow dirt path around the exterior of the Crocker Mansion. It took us through the flower garden, around to the front of the building, and over to the outdoor courtyard. We really enjoyed sitting on the steps outside the building and reveling in the beauty of the old building and the master craftsmanship that went into the facade.

If you’re looking for an interesting, educational family adventure, you should definitely check out the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. With programs for moms and babies, and tots, art classes for small kids, and other special events, it’s a great opportunity to have fun, experience some history, and learn something new at the same time.

Plus, the Crocker is free every third Sunday every month of the year.

And as part of the Museums On Us program, if you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch customer, simply present your credit or debit card on Saturday or Sunday of the first full weekend of every month to receive one free general admission per card.

Boom. Educational and budget-friendly.

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