Member Spotlight: Jessica Traynor
In each biannual issue of Studio magazine we feature an interview with a Studio Museum Member to explore why they contribute to the Museum and what inspires them to be a Member. I sat down with Jessica Traynor one morning in Rico Gatson: Icons 2007–2017 to chat about her first time visiting the Studio Museum and why she supports the Institution.
Chanice Hughes-Greenberg: You originally joined Studio Museum as an IDNYC member. Can you tell me what made you interested the Museum?
Jessica Traynor: I joined the IDNYC program just to get access to museums—you don’t go on your own if you have limited resources. I created an Excel spreadsheet of all the places I wanted to go. At the time I was living in East Harlem and made my way over here to see what it was like. I walked in and saw this postcard that I’ve had on my fridge ever since. I grew up in South Florida and [the postcard] looks like where I grew up. I came in here and it was summer or early spring, and I’m really intimidated by art, I don’t know anything about art, but this place was so accessible and intimate, it wasn’t overwhelming and I felt very at ease and not scared of the art.
CHG: Why did you choose to support Studio Museum?
JT: When I was a fundraiser, my rule of thumb was I could not ask for funds unless I made my own gifts. Then I became a grant writer—I know that unrestricted grants give confidence to an organization, and give it the flexibility to address unexpected opportunities and deal with keeping the lights on. I love to see intersections in any of part of my life, and this intersection between Harlem and where I come from and my lack of knowledge of art, because I never got exposed to it growing up, and then my love of digital—I can experience all of that here.
Member: Jessica Traynor, President and Executive Director at Siegel Family Endowment. Level: Donor Member. Since: 2015
CHG: What has been your favorite part about being a Member of Studio Museum?
JT: It’s so beautiful and it’s in my neighborhood, and any part of your neighborhood that you feel a connection to will bring you back, and the more you go back and the more you interact, the more engaged you feel.
CHG: Has there been a program or exhibition here that stands out to you?
JT: I’m trying to remember what it was that I first saw when I walked in . . . it was an exhibition by Lorraine O’Grady called Art Is . . . . It was photography, just one room of all this color and the kind of photos where when you step back you see something very different from when you’re right up close. Between that and the Harlem Postcard, I was like, “Yeah, I want to come back.”