Art Unlocked

Crocker reopens with new shows, smaller crowds

By R.E. Graswich
June 2021

Louis Comfort Tiffany had to wait. So did employees who sell tickets and help make the Crocker Art Museum a fun and memorable experience.

After months of uncertainty, the Sacramento region’s premier art institution is staffed up and back in business. The museum is eager to present an unprecedented collection of Tiffany’s glass, ceramics, metalwork and jewelry, alongside the famed Crocker collection of California and European art.

“We’ve heard from so many people who say, ‘I can’t wait to get back to the museum,’” says Michelle Maghari-Dong, director of visitor services at the Crocker. “They were looking for something that feels good to do, and that means exploring their art museum.”

Crocker reopened in April as pandemic restrictions eased. The resumption has been a tentative process, with new Thursday through Sunday operating hours and audiences limited to 25 percent capacity. Tickets must be reserved in advance to manage the attendance.

Still, a limited Crocker is better than no Crocker. And no Crocker was the reality at 216 O St. for almost 13 months during the COVID-19 lockdown. The museum reopened briefly in October, but virus spikes across Sacramento forced a quick shutdown.

Visitors this summer will find some changes to their museum experience. Masks are required, plastic partitions abound and hand-sanitizer dispensers are everywhere, even in elevators. Guests must keep their distance from non-family members.

“It’s definitely a little slower because of the limited capacity, but I haven’t heard a lot of push back about any of our COVID protocols,” Maghari-Dong says. “People understand we want to keep our staff and guests safe.”

Like many organizations, Crocker faced devastating economic consequences when the shutdown began. The museum’s ability to generate revenue disappeared. Emergency funds were received from governmental assistance programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program, but much of the staff was eventually laid off.

“Our earned revenue became nonexistent until we launched our online museum store,” Maghari-Dong says. “Ticket sales were gone. Private rentals of the facility were gone. Those were revenue areas we absolutely relied on.”

The visitor services director says some Crocker employees found other work over the winter, but many waited out the closure and returned to their museum jobs. “They were absolutely willing and ready to come back,” she says.

The exhibition schedule was significantly disrupted. A few smaller shows were delayed or canceled. The Tiffany treasures were rescheduled from 2020. The collection opens June 6 and runs through Sept. 12.

Another major summer exhibition is “For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design.” The show opens July 3 and traces U.S. history through the skills of renowned artists, including Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Lois Dodd, Cecilia Beaux, Andrew Wyeth and Wayne Thiebaud.

Crocker has a unique regard for Thiebaud, Sacramento’s most celebrated artist. In October, the museum staged a COVID-shortened exhibition for his 100th birthday.

For ticket and exhibition information, visit

R.E. Graswich can be reached at

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