10 Questions for Reesey Shaw, Founder, Lux Art Institute


Reesey Shaw is the founding Director of Lux Art Institute, an art organization that redefines the museum experience by inviting significant regional, national, and international artists to participate in the Lux residency program and encouraging visitors to observe and engage with them. This one-of-a-kind institution invites visitors to not only “see art” but also to “see art happen.”

As the former Director and Vice President of Visual Arts at the California Center for the Arts Museum, Shaw presented artists with the opportunity to create work on site - an idea that she continues to champion today at Lux.

Upon moving to La Jolla, California in the 1970s, Shaw exhibited at galleries and museums locally as well as in Los Angeles and New York. Shaw later became the founding director of the California Center for the Arts Museum in 1994.

With the support of local art patrons and philanthropists, Shaw assumed the position of founding director of Lux Art Institute in 1998.

Q: What brought you to La Jolla?

A pioneering spirit and an attempt to make an honest man out of my husband, David.

When our sons were infants, my husband responded to a call from his mentor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Eugene Braunwald, who was starting a new medical school and cardiology fellowship at UCSD. So while I was with our babies on the East Coast, I sent him west to check out the fellowship for him and the art scene for me.

David rented a convertible for the weekend, drove along the coast, went to an outdoor jazz concert, and had a splendid visit. He returned raving about San Diego, the new university, the weather, and the amazing beauty of the place. At the end of this, I inquired about the art scene, to which David replied, “It’s great!”

At the time (the early 70s), there were no contemporary galleries and hardly a thriving art scene here in San Diego. So, I’ve had to devote my life to working on the art scene in order to make an honest man out of him.

Q: What makes La Jolla special to you?

Its beauty, topography, and the fact that it’s a village where everything is walkable.

Q: If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

A high-speed train to Los Angeles and a cathedral or two.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

Other than my family, art and artists are my inspiration and my joy. There’s nothing like seeing the world through another’s eyes to make your life richer, find paths for life’s challenges, and keep your spirit vibrant.

Q: If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you


An endless number of artists would make this dinner party heaven. Some samples: For an artist creating new forms and cross-pollinating sculpture, film, and theater, Matthew Barney; an artist who invented new forms 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci; Lux Resident Artists Julie Heffernan, a painter who contemporizes Baroque imagery, and Daniel Wheeler, an object-maker and photographer; museum entrepreneur, Tom Krens; and to be fair, a few critics: Bob Pincus (of the Union-Tribune), Dave Hickey and Pierre Restany.

Q: Tell us about what you are currently reading.

Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire.

One of Lux’s goals and the raison d’etre for our green building and native landscape is to involve ourselves, our artists, and our audience with nature. Michael Pollan writes profoundly about the tension between humans and plants and challenges us with the notion that nature may be domesticating us rather than the other way around.

Q: What is your most prized possession?

Family albums and paintings from artist friends.

Q: What do you do for fun?

Travel, visit museums and galleries, find art experiences in unusual locations and destinations such as sculpture parks, forests, etc.

Q: Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Finding new ways to inspire art experiences, which is Lux Art Institute’s mission and raison d’etre.

Q: What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Art is what makes life worth living.