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Legacy gift to establish first named position at The Contemporary Jewish Museum
Fraidy Aber, The CJM’s Director of Education since 2009, assumed the new title on January 10, 2019. Photo: Gary Sexton Photography.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Contemporary Jewish Museum has received a generous gift from an anonymous donor to establish The Museum’s first named position, The Constance Wolf Director of Education and Civic Engagement. The newly created title honors The Museum’s commitment to its award-winning education program and the work of Constance Wolf, former Director and CEO from 1999 to 2011. Wolf, who oversaw the design and construction of The CJM’s Daniel Libeskind-designed building, which opened to the public in 2008, and the launch of The Museum’s new exhibition and programmatic focus, is known in the field for her expertise in museum education and community engagement.

Fraidy Aber, The CJM’s Director of Education since 2009, assumed the new title on January 10, 2019. The gift and named position acknowledge Aber’s leadership of The Museum’s wide array of innovative education programs and their central role in fulfilling the Museum’s mission to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in the exploration of Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas.

The Museum’s Executive Director Lori Starr says, “We are so honored to have the role of the Director of Education and Civic Engagement bear the name of Constance Wolf. Wolf came to The CJM after many years as the Associate Director for Public Programs and the Helena Rubinstein Curator of Education at the Whitney Museum of Art. During her tenure here, she emphasized education and her efforts led to the remarkable results we continue to build upon to this day.”

“I am enormously honored by this recognition and especially grateful for the generosity of the donor to acknowledge and support the extraordinary education programs that distinguish The CJM,” says Wolf. “Making art accessible and meaningful to diverse audiences and communities has been my greatest passion as a museum professional, and it was a great privilege to appoint Aber to help launch and oversee the education programs when the new CJM opened. It is truly wonderful to see how the programs have expanded in such meaningful ways and made such an enormous impact, thanks to the inspiring leadership of Aber and Starr.”

“Both Wolf’s and Starr’s vision of The CJM as a vital community hub with education at its core has enabled my team and me to innovate collectively in the field of museum education. Over the past ten years, The CJM has boldly developed its educational program, serving as an inclusive resource that empowers artists, visitors, and the community at large,” says Aber.

The CJM currently engages over 9,000 kindergarten through university students and teachers through interactive school tours, teacher trainings, and school-based partnership programs. Its annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition, a partnership with the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, San Francisco Public Library, and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to promote the art and craft of original bookmaking, was honored with a Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Museum Education by the California Association of Museums in 2015.

More than 10,000 family visitors attend to The Museum annually comprising nearly 15% of its overall audience, twice the national benchmark for art museums. In 2016, the Wallace Foundation published an important case study analyzing The CJM’s success in building a robust family audience through its efforts to broaden and deepen family engagement and eliminate financial barriers to participation by offering free admission for all youth 18 and under, family-oriented programs and tours, gallery-based family activities, opportunities to explore art with teaching artists, and establishing the interactive Zim Zoom Family Room. The success of these offerings was the subject of a 2017 article published by the American Alliance of Museums entitled Converting Family into Fans: How The Contemporary Jewish Museum Expanded its Reach to a New Audience.

Under Aber’s leadership, The Museum’s Teen Art Connect (TAC) yearlong, paid internship program, now in its tenth year, has been an important bridge to young adult audiences. With over 120 alumni, the program has provided opportunities for youth to create public exhibitions, develop events designed to engage teen audiences, and learn about career options in the arts. Recently the program expanded to include a new TAC Squad, which provides high school-aged youth behind-the-scenes involvement in the workings of a museum.

The CJM is one of only two museums in California to employ a full-time staff person dedicated to Access. The Museum’s Access and Community Engagement Manager collaborates with partners working in communities of people with disabilities to develop and implement a host of disability arts and cultural programming. The Museum’s commitment to innovating Access programs is evident in its robust offerings, which include talks by artists with disabilities; a disability film festival; inclusive gallery experiences like verbal description/touch tours, ASL tours, and tours designed for people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners; creative aging workshops; and ­­­services for families with children with disabilities. In 2014, The CJM was recognized with a Donor and Volunteer Service Award by Support for Families of Children with Disabilities.

As The Museum’s newly named Constance Wolf Director of Education and Civic Engagement, Aber (along with her team) will continue to actively grow the field of museum education, both internally through innovative programs designed for the Helen Diller Institute, and externally sharing the department’s expertise and strategies through vigorous academic partnerships with local and national universities, teaching courses and providing internship opportunities for university students, as well as participating in numerous museum and education conferences. In the coming year, Aber will moderate a session on Intersectional Feminism at the conference of the California Association of Museums and will present a plenary session on Creativity and Contemporary Jewish Identity at the conference of the Council of American Jewish Museums as well as teach a graduate course “Museums and Social Justice” at University of San Francisco.

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