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People in Your Neighborhood: La Jollans take on new roles on board of Museum of Contemporary Art

Steve Strauss, MCASD's new board president, and his wife, Lise Wilson, visit the museum's La Jolla flagship location.
Steve Strauss, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s new board president, and his wife, Lise Wilson, visit the museum’s recently renovated La Jolla flagship location.
(Stacy Keck)

A few months after the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego reopened its flagship La Jolla location in April following a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion, La Jollan Steve Strauss has been named its board president.

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

The La Jolla Light spoke with Strauss and Haudenschild Meier about their new roles. Henely declined to be interviewed.

Steve Strauss

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

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

The museum’s new suite of Strauss Galleries is named in Iris and Matthew’s honor.

“I was always involved in some special projects or advising or helping steward some of the art from our family collection that was going into the museum,” Steve Strauss said.

His new role also follows a family tradition: Matthew chaired the MCASD board from 2013 to 2017.

Steve Strauss said his parents’ philanthropy and dedication to art influenced his love for contemporary art.

“I learned a lot about contemporary art from my folks,” he said. “It was seeing the art in their house and meeting the artists that helped Lise [his wife] and I acquire an appreciation and we traveled and collected on our own. I love contemporary art.”

He added that MCASD’s “greatest accomplishment” is the addition and use of space in its La Jolla renovation to display more pieces.

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

Strauss said the museum’s visitor counts are soaring, with thousands coming weekly.

“That’s very reinforcing, because we wanted to make it a space that was welcome and open to the community, introduce them to the collection,” he said.

In his role as board president, “I view myself as both the leader of the board and also a steward of the Strauss collection,” he said.

It’s a “tremendous opportunity, with this new, expanded, renovated museum, to make it open to the public and to show our art. I relish that,” he added.

Strauss, a partner and first-chair trial lawyer in Cooley LLP’s global litigation department, said his background in law means “governance is very important to me.”

He said he plans to complete MCASD’s capital campaign for endowment and construction, as well as ensure formalization of board procedures. “I think that’s indicative of a first-rate institution and organization,” he said.

Strauss, a friend of departing board president Paul Jacobs, said he’s worked closely with Jacobs and shares a similar vision for the museum.

“I know we’re both proud of the museum,” Strauss said. “I look at the Jacobs and Strauss families as very key contributors and leaders in the museum.”

“I don’t think there’s anything like [MCASD La Jolla] in San Diego,” Strauss added, not only for the quality of its contemporary art collection but also for its architecture and setting on the ocean.

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

Anna Haudenschild Meier

New board member Anna Haudenschild Meier says she’d like to draw younger generations to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
New board member Anna Haudenschild Meier says she’d like to draw younger generations to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
(Courtesy of Anna Haudenschild Meier)

Haudenschild Meier, a La Jolla native, said she has always been around contemporary art.

Because of that exposure and her being decades younger than many MCASD board members, joining the board is exciting, she said.

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

She’d like to draw younger generations to MCASD and encourage a diverse audience, said Haudenschild Meier, who is senior director of special projects at CliniComp, a medical information systems company, and a member of the board for haudenschildGarage, a nonprofit that works to facilitate cultural exchange among artists.

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

“Because of the scale that we have now, we have a lot of potential to … bring in people from all over the world, which in turn enriches our community locally.”

Haudenschild Meier said she’s also looking to support emerging artists and share their work with the community.

“The arts have the power to heal,” Haudenschild Meier said. “And I think there’s a lot of really good conversation to be had with a crossover of art and mental health.”

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