OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Museum of Art held a farewell party April 11 for Executive Director Skip Pahl, who will retire this month after heading the museum for 12 years.
Skip Pahl came on board as the museum’s first executive director in 1997, with notable experience. Pahl worked as deputy director of the Mingei Museum in San Diego, director of the San Diego Children’s Museum, and deputy director of public programs and education for the Museum of New Mexico before being hired on by the Oceanside Museum of Art.
Pahl remembers his interview with the museum selection committee members, who were ready to open the Oceanside Museum of Art after finishing fundraising and renovation of the 5,000-square-foot Irving Gill building. “I talked right away about the need for an expansion project,” Pahl said. “I went home and thought I probably got kicked off the short list.”
“We were visibly flabbergasted,” Bob Pickrel, former museum treasurer, said, recalling the interview. “He is a visionary who is very convincing to all of us.”
Pahl’s recognition that one gallery was not enough space to keep the museum open year-round without closing down between shows to change out exhibits is exactly what got him hired.
“No one could argue against the fact that we needed more space,” Pahl said. Pahl’s vision, fundraising and drive took the museum from one gallery to its present expansion that added a three-floor Fred Fisher building with a second gallery, theater space, offices and room for collections storage.
In 1998, Pahl worked with the community to create the museum’s strategic long-range plan that mapped out the museum expansion. “The expansion was created by powerful grass-roots activism, and forward-thinking as a city about what a museum means,” Pahl said.
“Programming and support grew and grew — it was easy at that point,” Pahl said. “The hard part is the design, once you have the plan put together you just do it.”
The new building facilitates additional exhibits and outreach programs including concerts, Art After Dark events, family programs and a Culinary Cinema Series.
Pahl also worked to build a solid reputation for the museum with relevant programming that reflects the diverse cultural richness of the community and defines Oceanside Museum of Art as a regional museum. “My job is to help people understand and enjoy the art of the San Diego region,” Pahl said.
Exhibits have included “Worn with Pride,” an exhibit of traditional Samoan art and ceremonial artifacts, and “Fabric of Survival,” a collection of tapestries that tell the story of the Holocaust.
Pahl’s last day will be April 22. “I’m happy to be retiring at this time,” Pahl said. “The museum is in such good condition with a new building.” Pahl credits the board of directors, staff and volunteers. “It’s the dream board with important skill sets, who are passionate about the museum,” Pahl said.
Pahl said his retirement plans are to finish building a sailboat he has been working on, travel and renovate a home he recently bought.
The new director, Ed Fosmire, will begin work April 15 to allow a week for Pahl to introduce him to museum processes for filing and archiving, and update him on present projects.
Fosmire will bring forward the final phase of the museum expansion project, which is the fundraising, plans and acquisition of the adjacent fire station.
“I’m impressed with the museum top to bottom,” Fosmire said. “It’s a very professional staff and a fabulous board that’s very supportive.”
Fosmire has worked in the arts for 17 years, as a director of development for Cal State Long Beach and college professor of art history.
Long Beach Museum of Art is comparable in gallery size to the Oceanside Museum of Art, but runs on a bigger budget of $3.5 million thanks to an on-site restaurant and site rental income, Fosmire said. Oceanside Museum of Art has an annual budget of approximately $750,000.
Some goals Fosmire would like to achieve are to increase museum revenues and contributions, and to let visitors and schools know what the museum has to offer.
Fosmire looks forward to the acquisition of the fire station within a couple of years and renovations to ready the building for performances and conferences. “I have high hopes for the next phase of the museum,” Fosmire said. “It will be new to all of us and an exciting juncture.”