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People in Your Neighborhood: La Jollans take on new roles aboard the Museum of Contemporary Art | Pro Club Bd

A few months after the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego reopened its flagship La Jolla location in April after a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion, La Jollan Steve Strauss was named chairman of the board.

La Jollans Anna Haudenschild Meier and Celia Henely are among the four new trustees on the MCASD Board.

That La Jolla light spoke to Strauss and Haudenschildmeier about their new roles. Henely declined an interview.

Steve Strauss

Strauss is a third-generation San Diego native and has lived in La Jolla for more than 30 years. He said he’s always been involved in the community.

Strauss previously served on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art for two years, but his involvement with the museum began years earlier. His parents, Iris and Matthew Strauss, have a large art collection and donate much of it to MCASD, he said.

The museum’s new series of Strauss galleries is named in honor of Iris and Matthew.

“I was always involved in some special projects or advised or helped manage some of the artworks that came into the museum from our family collection,” said Steve Strauss.

His new role also follows a family tradition: Matthew served as Chair of the MCASD Board of Directors from 2013 to 2017.

Steve Strauss said his parents’ philanthropy and dedication to the arts influenced his love of contemporary art.

“I learned a lot about contemporary art from my parents,” he said. “It was seeing the art in her home and meeting the artists that helped Lise [his wife] and I gain an appreciation and we traveled and collected alone. I love contemporary art.”

He added that MCASD’s “greatest achievement” was the expansion and use of space in La Jolla’s renovation to display more pieces.

“If you look at the volume and the space and the proportions, [MCASD is] worthy of … other great museums,” said Strauss. “I think San Diego should be very proud.”

Strauss said visitor numbers at the museum are skyrocketing, with thousands coming weekly.

“It’s very empowering because we wanted to create a place that’s welcoming and open to the community and introduce them to the collection,” he said.

In his role as chairman of the board, “I see myself as both chairman of the board and steward of the Strauss collection,” he said.

It is a “great opportunity with this new, expanded and renovated museum to open to the public and showcase our art. I’m enjoying it,” he added.

Strauss, a partner and chief litigator in Cooley LLP’s global litigation practice, said his legal background means that “governance is very important to me.”

He said he plans to complete MCASD’s foundations and construction capital campaign and ensure the formalization of board procedures. “I think that’s a testament to a first class institution and organization,” he said.

Strauss, a friend of outgoing CEO Paul Jacobs, said he worked closely with Jacobs and shares a similar vision for the museum.

“I know we’re both proud of the museum,” Strauss said. “I consider the Jacobs and Strauss families to be very important contributors and leaders in the museum.”

“I don’t think there is such a thing [MCASD La Jolla] in San Diego”, Strauss added, not only for the quality of its contemporary art collection, but also for its architecture and seaside location.

“I think it will become a destination for art for people around the world.”

Anna Haudenschildmeier

New board member Anna Haudenschild Meier says she wants to draw younger generations to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

(Courtesy of Anna Haudenschild Meier)

Haudenschild Meier, who is from La Jolla, said she’s always been interested in contemporary art.

Because of that notoriety, and because she’s decades younger than many MCASD board members, joining the board is exciting, she said.

“I really wanted to get a deeper insight into the institution in our community,” said Haudenschild Meier. “We really have an opportunity to do something really important.”

She wants to attract younger generations to MCASD and encourage a diverse audience, said Haudenschild Meier, senior director of special projects at CliniComp, a medical information systems company, and board member of haudenschildGarage, a nonprofit organization that works to foster cultural exchanges between artists.

“Contemporary art really has the potential to impact people’s lives,” she said. “The museum is an opportunity to meet different people and give them a richer experience.

“Because of the size we are now, we have a lot of potential to … include people from all over the world, which in turn enriches our local community.”

Haudenschild Meier said she also wants to support emerging artists and share her work with the community.

“The arts have the power to heal,” said Haudenschild Meier. “And I think there are a lot of really good conversations that have an art/mental health crossover.”

People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on remarkable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you would like us to profile, email robert.vardon@lajollalight.com. ◆

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