Why ArtCrush Co-Chair Jamie Tisch is the Ultimate Connector

The ArtCrush Co-Chair, talks to Charlotte Burns about Aspen Art Museum's post-pandemic fundraising and its plans to bring different communities together

BY Jamie Tisch AND Charlotte Burns in Interviews | 05 JUL 21

Charlotte Burns: The people at Aspen Art Museum were saying that you’ve been a huge supporter and really gracious in introducing lots of different people to the institution. Why do you personally enjoy that aspect of community-building?

Jamie Tisch: Well, first of all, I like connecting people. I think it’s important to share, and especially if you can recognize a need somewhere or maybe a good fit. I went on the board of the AAM a few years ago, and just joined the executive committee last year. I have spent a lot more time in Aspen recently, and I think the more you are in a place, you can see a need for things in a different way than when you’re a part-time resident.

Just getting the museum built was an amazing success, but there were things that needed to happen for it to feel like something the entire community could be proud of. I think the leadership has really been a bright light during the pandemic. The museum provides an unmatched level of culture, community and educational support, to the valley and beyond, and, for example, the museum was the first to step up and host meals for frontline workers.

CB: Do you think the museum can foster that sense of community? How key is the museum in playing the role of connector?

JT: I think the team is doing a great job playing to people’s interests and really listening to the community. I’m also particularly proud of the level of programming that the museum has been able to provide in the area. The kids’ programs are exceptional. We have wonderful teachers. People may not be aware, but there are some pretty underserved communities in Colorado: for other things, but also for access to art. When you look at the entire radius the museum serves, there are many schools that wouldn’t otherwise have access to art programs.

CB: Yes, there are different communities in Aspen and bridging them is an ongoing project.

JT: The museum is right in the middle of town. Admission is free, thanks to the Phelans. We want everyone to feel that it’s accessible and open for all to enjoy. Whether people want to come check out a show, browse the shop or just take in the view on the rooftop — I am hopeful that locals (if they don’t already) will come to take pride and appreciate our local gem.

When Mary Weatherford was in Aspen last summer, she invited people to come see her show. For a major artist like that to say to the guy that rented her bikes, or anyone else she crossed paths with, ‘Hey, come to my show, it’s at the Aspen Art Museum’, it feels very local and very welcoming. It says so much about her too — that she’s appreciative of people visiting her work. It gave her great joy that the museum was open and accessible to everyone. For this reason and more, I am just so thrilled that she agreed to let us honor her at ArtCrush this year. She’s been extremely generous, and has donated an incredible piece for the auction.

CB: What do you think people get from being involved with their local museum?

JT: Like with any organization, you gain personal knowledge and experience of your local community that you might not have had otherwise. Also you have an opportunity to use skills or knowledge you already have and learn at the same time.

CB: You mentioned that you had a sense of civic duty. Is that something you were raised with? How important is it to you?

JT: For me, it’s very important to contribute. My grandmother was very involved in her community and that is something that was instilled in me at an early age. I think it’s important to not just lend your name to boards, but to really try and nurture things that you care about, or to help people or organizations in need. I do feel the need to be involved in the community and give back. Of course it’s important to support financially but there is a different sense of satisfaction when you are able to get your hands dirty.

CB: In terms of your own collection, when did you start collecting and why?

JT: My early beginnings in art really started in the South, where I grew up, and it was mainly folk art. My grandmother had friends who were artists, ranging from painters and quilters to woodworkers. She frequented and supported local art shows including a folk art festival called Kentuck. I used to go with her every year and I still love to go when I have the chance. It was, and still is, a very unconventional type of art fair compared to the fairs we go to today. There is live music, craft demonstrations and spoken word, and, of course, amazing Southern food. After college, when I first moved to Los Angeles, I was exposed more to contemporary art, and that really resonated with me.

CB: Do you remember what resonated with you in particular?

JT: When I first moved to LA, I was shopping at the Rose Bowl swap meet, where I would find vintage treasures that conversed with my folk-art past— alongside artists who were just trying to show their work anywhere they could. Over time, I became more interested and serious about learning and collecting, mainly because I got to know different artists and their work. LA was a great place for that: Ed Ruscha was one of the first artists I met and I was able to spend some time with him at his studio in Venice, which was quite a privilege. When I joined the MOCA board I got to experience working with wonderful artists like John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie. This was a long, long time ago, but it gave me a great perspective on the way different museums are run.

CB: Now you’re going to be Co-Chair of this year’s ArtCrush gala. What are you hoping to achieve

this year?

JT: I was honored when Amy asked me to co-chair ArtCrush, but also quite apprehensive about the post-Covid fundraiser world. She and John are such a huge part of the success of the institution, and ArtCrush is the main fundraiser for the museum. So my number one priority is to raise funds to support the museum. 

Of course, I also want people to leave having had a good time, and to possibly have learned something interesting, met some new people or maybe even have discovered a new artist they like. I think what’s so nice about ArtCrush, is that it doesn’t just feel like an event, but it’s a weeklong gathering. I’ve been producing an event in LA for 20 years, for the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, so I know what it takes to pull off something like this — a lot of favors and a lot of asks. I’m really so grateful to friends who have stepped up already and to our sponsors who showed great support in signing up when they did months ago.

CB: Amy’s been doing this for so long and has really shaped it. So, co-chairing it, how do you bring your own perspective?

JT: I’m grateful and amazed by all the work that Amy’s done and how she’s done it. I’m happy to be able to support her. We have a great mix of friends and there are lots of new supporters since Nicola has come on board as director. We’re mixing it up a little bit this year, with a series of smaller gatherings alongside the main programs, and we are encouraging donors and sponsors to host their own smaller satellite events leading up to the main gala. Like that, everyone will be included. Also, we’re closing the silent auction the night before the gala. All of the works will be shown in the lower galleries a couple of weeks before, so that it’s accessible for everyone to see the many great pieces that these amazing artists have so generously donated. Having the works in the museum is another way of including people whether they attend ArtCrush or not. Everyone is welcome.

Jamie Tisch is co-chair of ArtCrush 2021, the Aspen Art Museum's annual summer gala and fundraising auction. The auction is available to view online at sothebys.com/aspenartmuseum

Online bidding opens July 26 and closes August 6 at 10am MDT, with bidding on selected lots taking place at a live auction during the annual summer gala on August 6. 

Lots will be exhibited at the Aspen Art Museum July 27-August 5, 2021.

Main image: Jamie Tisch overseeing renovations to her home, with a work by John Baldessari (on left), New York City, May 2021. Photograph: Jeremy Liebman

Jamie Tisch is a collector and patron based in Aspen, Los Angeles and New York City. She is Co-Founder of the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, and this year joins ArtCrush as 2021 Event Co-Chair.

Charlotte Burns is a journalist, editor and broadcaster based in the UK. She has previously served as US News and Market Editor for The Art Newspaper and created and hosted the pod- cast ‘In Other Words’ with Art Agency, Partners.