A Life in the Arts Rebecca Carmi discusses her lifelong passion for the museum, a unique opportunity that joined her relationship with art with her profession as a trained singer, and what inspired her and her husband Irad’s generous support of Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain.
What was your first experience with the Cleveland Museum of Art?
One of my first memories is going to the museum with my mother. I remember the Egyptian gallery being dark and mysterious. I must have been three or four. As a teenager, my best friend and I would take the bus to the museum. It was our big, exciting trip to University Circle. As a high school senior, I took AP Art History at the CMA and it was a formative experience for me.
How did you reengage with the museum as an adult?
We brought our kids for art lessons throughout their childhood, and we would take the docent tours for parents while they were in class. My oldest son went to the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the portfolio for his application came from work done in CMA art classes.
I joined Womens Council in 2014. My kids were just getting old enough that I could look for opportunities to engage in the community. Years later, someone asked a new class of Womens Council members the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the museum, and almost as one, people said, “Joy.” I just love that.
An art museum is a portal to other cultures, other times, and other worlds. It’s always been a magical place to me. Singing in last summer’s Sonic Blossom was a peak experience for me. It was the culmination of a lifelong relationship with the art museum and with singing.
How do you like to connect with the museum through its online resources?
I am enjoying “Home Is Where the Art Is” and look forward to more opportunities to continue learning virtually from CMA staff. I recently used Open Access to fill my board meeting slideshow with images of flowers from the collection in lieu of showing pictures of the magnificent pedestal arrangements created by Womens Council designers each week to greet visitors.
What prompted your decision to expand your philanthropy to supporting the exhibition Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain?
Irad and I met as music students. Irad played professionally in orchestras for several years and was ready to try something else. With a partner, we built a Cleveland-based technology company and had incredible good fortune. Suddenly we were in a position to be philanthropic. We thought about the places, the institutions, and the people that had nurtured us, and the Cleveland Museum of Art was one. We increased our donations and at some point decided we were ready to do a big project. We love the innovation of Revealing Krishna—the fact that it’s doing something new by using technology that’s never been used before to help connect people with art of another culture and another time. It’s not about the technology as much as it is the way it makes the art more meaningful.
Cleveland Art, Summer 2020