The Board of Directors of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art has called for a special meeting of its membership to approve their desire to change the name of the museum. They advise that they have spent much time and effort since early last year doing research and developing a strategic plan, which includes this change of name. But they neglected to include the SVMA membership in this process until announcing its plan for the first time in the notice for the annual meeting two weeks before that March event. Due to an increasing number of objections, the name change item was withdrawn from the AGM agenda.
Since its founding 20 years ago, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art has followed its mission to become a respected regional center and meeting place for the arts. It has drawn wide attention for its programs, attracted broad audiences and supporters from the Bay Area and beyond and has achieved name recognition and an enviable reputation among northern California museums.
The board feels that the Sonoma Valley name limits the growth of the museum and dropping the Valley and changing the name to Sonoma Museum of Art would bring a broader audience. New ideas and steps to further grow the museum and its audiences are welcome, but these are matters of marketing and promotion, not of identity.
Changing the name of the museum will cause questions, increase confusion with other Sonoma-named museums and destroy the reputation and trust which has been built up over these past two decades among museum members, foundations, donors, partners and supporters. And it is unnecessary! New ideas and marketing concepts can all be implemented without a change of name.
Non-museum members may not have a vote on this matter, but the community whose children receive art instruction by SVMA in their schools and bring their parents to the museum, the local residents who come to the exhibitions with their friends and visitors, the local businesses who sponsor and support the museum, and the weekenders and tourists who see it as another asset of the Sonoma Valley lifestyle – they all have a valid stake in the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and its present name.
Therefore, as one of the founding members of SVMA, I urge the membership to vote against this change of name.
— Gerry Simmel, Sonoma