Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego reveals staff’s artistic talents in La Jolla

"The Lover" by Collete Tamayo is part of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's staff showcase in La Jolla.
“The Lover” by Collete Tamayo, lead museum educator, is part of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s staff showcase through Sunday, Jan. 8, in La Jolla.
(Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego)

Showcase open to public view for the first time features 30 works by 26 artists through Sunday, Jan. 8.


In a showcase available for public view for the first time, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is putting the spotlight on the artistic talents of its staff.

The show, at Axline Court in the museum’s flagship location at 700 Prospect St. in La Jolla, contains 30 works by 26 artists ranging from educators and security service providers to a facilities engineer and the museum’s chief financial officer.

The free exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 8.

MCASD has staged staff exhibitions before, but they were kept to the offices and the audience was limited to museum employees. The showcase hasn’t happened at all the past few years, but the museum has experienced growth recently due to the renovation and expansion of its La Jolla campus, completed in April. That has led to several “art-adjacent” people joining the staff, according to
Jenna Jacobs, MCASD’s senior director of curatorial affairs.

The current show, which Jacobs directed in collaboration with MCASD senior curator Jill Dawsey, acknowledges “the artistic spirit of our staff,” Jacobs said. The decision to make it public was “to have it be more community-driven,” she said.

It came together quickly, and nearly everyone who submitted art was included, Jacobs added. Submissions came from nearly every museum department in a range of media, from small metal sculptures to paintings.

"Sketchbook Definition" by Sophy Zepeda, MCASD security services representative, is part of the museum's staff showcase.
“Sketchbook Definition” by Sophy Zepeda, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego security services representative, is part of the museum’s staff showcase.
(Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego)

There is no theme for the show, Jacobs said. The only parameters were that “we have to show work that is appropriate for the community spaces” and all audiences, she said.

Axline Court is a natural location for the showcase, Jacobs said, as it’s intended as a free-to-the-public space often focused on regional artists.

Collete Tamayo, MCASD’s lead museum educator, said she’s grateful that her 2020 digital print “The Lover” is among the works on view.

“The Lover” shows a person in a field, head covered with a scarf. The image is inspired by René Magritte’s “The Lovers,” a 1928 oil painting in which two people’s heads are covered with cloths as they share a kiss.

Magritte’s idea “of being … in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, and how you can be so close to someone but not know everything” is poignant for Tamayo, she said.

It speaks to her feeling of “personal isolation” during the stay-at-home periods of the early COVID-19 pandemic, intensifying the longer she was separated from family members, she said.

She created “The Lover” to express “that feeling of isolation [and] contemplation but also this eerie beauty in it.”

“That work for me personally has meant a lot,” she said. “It’s one of my favorites.”

Tamayo began painting as a young child, stirred by her father and grandfather, also painters.

Her family encouraged her to develop her artistic talent and she “fell in love with oil painting,” eventually developing an interest in photography as well, she said.

Tamayo, who has long aspired to create art full time, said being in the staff showcase is a “great privilege.”

MCASD’s regular hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The museum will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. To learn more, visit or call (858) 454-3541.