Art Center Mainstay Suzanne Ramirez Retires After 20 Years
For our Mom, a Ramirez kid collaboration. Love, Kaitlyn, Rob, and Sally.
A typical morning in the lobby of the Palo Alto Art Center can flood your senses. The warm of the sun radiating through the large windowpanes. The smell of clay being shaped between wet fingers on spinning wheels in our ceramics studio. The taste of coffee in the air as the morning staff starts the day’s activities. And, if you are lucky, you would be greeted by the genuine smile and welcoming voice of Suzanne Ramirez. Program Assistant 2. Our mom.
After 20 years serving the Palo Alto community, the woman who has given her wisdom, humor and kindness to her community will be retiring this November and leaving her post at the front desk at the Art Center.
Suzanne began her career at the Palo Alto Art Center in 1999 while the mother of three energetic kids (16, 14, and 9 at the time). She picked up a copy of the Palo Alto Weekly and saw a ‘Help Wanted’ ad for a part-time Clerical Assistant/Registrar for the local art center, applied and soon thereafter joined the Art Center staff.
“I knew a little bit about the Art Center, as our family had visited the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch each fall, starting a few years before I began as a staff member. I was [also] a parent driver when my children’s elementary school classes came to Project Look. I remember being so impressed with the Project Look program! I was there to help chaperone the students, but I learned so much about the art we were seeing. And the first time I saw all those glass pumpkins – so beautiful! Who knew that I would end up so involved in this annual event?”
Project Look, the Art Center’s school tour program, would come to hold a special place in our hearts as it was one of our first art-making experiences and likely our earliest exposure to an art gallery. Even to this day, our family seeks out art museums wherever we travel as it brings us closer to understanding both local culture and global points of view.
As one of the faces of the Art Center staff, she was patient with parents that realized they had missed the summer camp registration deadline. She sold pounds and pounds of ceramic clay to students young and old. She helped make sure students found their way to their art classes. Those who interacted with her frequently had the chance to experience her award-winning baking. The Art Center staff had become her focus group on Tuesday mornings, providing feedback in between mouthfuls of her cakes, cookies, and other experimental treats.
“After college, I worked in lab environments – interesting work, but also quite solitary. The world opened up for me at the Art Center front desk! I loved talking with the people who came into our building, who called with questions – I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in working with the public. I have learned that people are the same in so many respects: we all want to be welcomed to a new place, to make a friend, to be respected, to find meaningful, enriching life experiences.”
Suzanne would assist docents during the art center’s tours and classes where she saw the profound impact the programs had on both students and teachers alike. “Every year that I assist teachers in registering for tours, I know they are going to have a wonderful experience,” she said. ”Students show me the work they have made in their classes and they are so proud of their accomplishments – from 18 months to 95 years. Our students are amazing!”
We asked our mom what she is most proud of when looking back at her time at the Art Center. “I have had some small part in the creative lives of our students and visitors,” she reflected. “I feel so honored to work in a place that students and visitors come to for an enriching experience: to learn something new, to see something, to be part of our community – to be able to welcome people into a place that can be everything from a peaceful retreat to an opportunity for personal growth.”
What will she miss? “The friendships I have made throughout the City of Palo Alto, with fellow staff members in Community Services, with volunteers and docents, with long-time students – and most of all with my Art Center colleagues.”
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Last Updated: October 15, 2019