Grumpy & Condescending at the Legion of Honor

This April has not been a good month for me, but I’m trying to make it work. In particular, field trips and parties make for nice diversions, and this month alone (among other fun adventures) we had a wonderful visit to the Exploratorium; found a lone banana slug in the remote Portola Redwoods; and had an Easter party for Kelly’s friends (and others.)

So right now Neil is studying his favorite historical period, the Renaissance, and I’ve finally slid art back into the curriculum. My barely-used art museum membership is about to expire, so I thought it would be a perfect chance to take a break from our routine and visit the Legion of Honor. It’s really a lovely museum, beautiful on the outside, in a just-as-beautiful setting on the northwest edge of San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge (more often that not, slightly hidden by fog banks.) I used to go there almost every other month to check out my favorite paintings and new exhibits, but that slackened.

I certainly expected to be lifted and delighted by being in the presence of great art in a great palce. Unfortunately, the staff at the museum did everything they could to dampen the experience. My current membership is reciprocal with the San Jose Art Museum, so I have to go to the regular desk instead of sliding my card through a reader on the membership side. The staff person taking admission looked at my card, and growled “It’ll be $10 to get into the special exhibition.” Well, that happened to be Faberge eggs, which I’m not particularly into (and someone else had told me wasn’t really that worthwhile.) When I told her I only needed general admission, she scowled and took her time typing out a ticket for me. I’d say it was personal, but she was just as grouchy to the nice foreign woman who’d paid for her admission before me.

Nontheless, I love the museum. I mean, how can you be disappointed when this friendly bunch is there to greet you every time you visit:


We started at the medieval art and Neil quickly identified the differences between medieval and Renaissance art. The rest of the museum was a pretty quick walk-through, with me pointing out still lifes, landscapes, and family portraits from different eras to my children. What emotions were the Rodin statues expressing? Why did the Monet paintings look a little blurry? We learned our lessons, and I assumed we’d be back soon enough.

On the way out, I stopped by the membership desk. The reciprocal membership with the San Jose Art Museum didn’t give me the experience I wanted, one of which was being able to bypass Ms. Grumpus at the admissions desk. A $95 family membership was too expensive for the few visits I expected to make in the course of a year, but I’d discovered, that like many education-oriented museums, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco had a discount for educators which made it more amenable. Typically, to get teacher benefits, my California Private School Affidavit is all that’s needed, since it proves we’re a full-time school and my children aren’t enrolled elsewhere for academics; but some places prefer an ID card, or membership in a homeschool organization.

But when I identified myself as a homeschool educator interested in a teacher membership, an expression of obvious distaste f0rmed on the face of the membership clerk. “You need an ID from a real school,” she snarled. I told her I have an ID from my school. As condescendingly as a San Franciscan can muster, she informed me the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco do not recognize home schools as valid. I was quite floored: for over a year, I’ve had our school welcomed like any other by academic competitions, teacher supply clubs, and hands-on museums. But as this clerk clearly signalled I should take my crazy-ass weirdo so-called school art field trips somewhere, anywhere else, than the respectable institutional-school-respecting Legion of Honor.

So I will. After all, there’s the education-oriented Cantor Art Museum at the Stanford campus; SFMOMA, which has family art days and an excellent educational center; and the San Jose Art Museum, which is practically bending over backwards to have compelling interactive exhibits for both children and adults. But the dis on my educational methods by one of my favorite museums hurt, and leaving it behind is like losing an old friend.

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