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Alison Lee: ‘MOCA is where I go to get my culture fix’

November 22, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Alison Lee has been a strong voice for MOCA Jacksonville during the many years she has served a docent and on the Board of Trustees. In addition to the many committees she serves on, Lee is chair of the Director Search Committee. Recently, she lent her voice to MOCA's recorded messages the public hears when they call the Museum (904-366-6911). We asked her about her passion for art and MOCA.

Alison Lee at Confronting the Canvas Members Preview
Alison Lee, second from left, speaks with artist Jill Nathanson, far right, at the members' preview for Confronting the Canvas. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

Please tell us a little bit about you.

I am English, I grew up in Hong Kong, and then lived in London for seventeen years. It was when I was living and working in London that I met my husband, who is from Jacksonville. We moved here with our three sons in 2004 after living for a few years in Bangkok and Singapore. I graduated from the Cass Business School in London, and my professional background is investment banking, but most recently I have helped a friend start a new art gallery in downtown Jacksonville, SO Gallery. It is enormously rewarding to promote artists and help clients find the right works of art for their homes and collections.

How did you become involved with MOCA Jacksonville?

I started visiting MOCA for exhibitions and public programs, and I really enjoyed the time I spent there. It seemed a natural next step to volunteering at the Museum. I became a docent and then joined the Board. My time at the Museum is both enriching and gratifying.

Why have you chosen to donate your time and money to MOCA?

donate my time and money to MOCA, because I believe in MOCA's mission to promote the discovery, knowledge, and advancement of the art, artists, and ideas of our time. This mission enriches the community from an education perspective and from an entertainment perspective. It might sound strange to use the term “entertainment” with respect to a Museum, but the fact is, MOCA's exhibitions and public programs are both edifying and hugely entertaining.

Alison Lee at Project Atrium Shinique Smith Members Preview
Alison Lee attends the members' preview for Project Atrium: Shinique Smith. Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.

You're the new voice people hear when they call MOCA Jacksonville. What was the experience of recording those messages like? 

I don't like the sound of my voice, but I am happy to help the Museum in any way I can. Heather Sloan helped with the process, and she is a delight to work with: calm, competent, and encouraging.

What elements of MOCA make you proud?

MOCA strives for excellence in everything it does; it is an overarching principal guiding all of its activities. I am proud to be involved with an organization and a staff who hold themselves to such high standards.

What is your favorite exhibition you've seen at MOCA and why?

That is such a hard question to answer. I loved the Get Real exhibition; it showcased some breathtaking talent working right now in the United States, but then so did the Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction exhibition. It is hard to choose a favorite.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

There are of course artists that I love, but I find I am often drawn to particular works, pieces I want to revisit like old friends: Titian's AMan with a Quilted Sleeve, Edouard Manet's TheExecution of Maximilian, John Singer Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, Alec Soth's Peter's Houseboat, David Hockney's portrait of Jean-Pierre Goncalves de Lima … I'd better stop.

How does MOCA compare with other museums you have visited?

I am impressed by the variety and quality of exhibitions the Museum presents. So often, when I walk into a new exhibition at MOCA, it knocks my socks off!

Alison Lee at Retro-spective Patrons Preview
Alison Lee attends the patrons' preview for Retro-spective: Analog Photography in a Digital World. Image courtesy of Brandi Hill.

How would you describe the arts and culture community in Jacksonville?

The arts are well supported here in Jacksonville. Our community really appreciates the institutions that bring great art and music to the city, and our Cultural Council does a good job of securing funding from the city and promoting events. We also have a lot of interest and support for homegrown talent in the arts, from CoRK Arts District to the recent JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival. It is a vibrant arts and culture scene.

Could you update us on the search process for the next director of MOCA?

There has been a terrific response to the search, confirming the excellent reputation of MOCA in the art and museum world. We are right in the middle of the process, but there will be exciting news soon.

What do you see in MOCA's future?

The Museum will continue to show excellent exhibitions in Jacksonville. I am looking forward to the public programming that accompanies those exhibitions: lectures, conversations with artists, and special programs that respond to the ideas around an exhibition. Of course, we will also have a new director soon who will bring his or her own expertise and experience to share with our community. Change is exciting!

#ibelieveinMOCA because …

MOCA is where I go to get my culture fix. 

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