A San Francisco street corner is where I first met Joan Lazarus nearly two decades ago. She was waiting at the cross walk in tall shoes, sunglasses, auburn hair up in a twist, a dancer’s carriage. We were outside the Cowell Theater in the Marina District, where she was producing the Summerfest/WestWave Dance Festival. I’d heard a lot about her. Dancer, teacher, arts administrator and as it turned out, collector of fine art and fun. Now years later on a glorious Saturday, I’m on my way over the Golden Gate Bridge, hundreds of sailboats skipping over the bay, to talk to Joan in her Marin County home.
I find her comfortable and relaxed. Her surroundings: serenity with a wink, in the form of flashes of movement, bold color and arranged space over gravel, tatami, and wood.
I catch her having just gone through a process of clearing out both things and activities, creating the voids for new opportunities to enter. Significant because “it feeds into the simplification of what is really important to me. In every realm.”
Professionally, she’s now taking a look at crafting her days, having concluded her work as development director at Richmond Art Center, and executive director at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School in Colorado. Whether teaching dance, consulting on projects or walking with her dog, fun is the critical criteria in her choices. And looking beyond dance and non-profit work too. Projects with a choral society, Singers Marin, and a Rosé Competition with Craig Palmer which got her into the wine country she loves, are examples.
A recent de-clutter campaign left her with 465 fewer objects in 30 days. Her ‘keeper’ choices: books, music, art and comfort. My eye rests on a chair. “Yeah, it’s a real one. It’s an Eames.” From her parents. “They got it when they got married. That was the scale of grown-up chairs… And I don’t care how many times I move, it’s going with me. But that chair next to you I got at the Discovery Resale Shop. It has to do with that… They didn’t buy that because it was what it was, at that time that was just a contemporary modern chair.”
One of the things that she took a hard look at but couldn’t part with is her teardrop trailer, with the camouflage paint job and furry pink interior. “When I moved to Colorado, I should have sold the teardrop. But I couldn’t! I identify with it.”
“Generosity’ is a term that follows Joan around. With a taste for promoting artists and giving traction to creative careers, she has touched a multitude of artists, technicians, arts administrators, teachers… and me. “Then they have to take off on their own. But at the beginning, there’s some traction.” She produced over 370 choreographers over the years in Summerfest/WestWave, from established (Brenda Way, Alonzo King, Michael Smuin) to emerging (Kate Weare, Amy Seiwert, Ben Levy, Jancice Garrett) naming just a few. A creator of interaction opportunities.
We’ve come a long way from that street corner meeting and I am glad to have been given not only artistic traction, but a place in the environment Joan has created for herself.
Joan asked me to include these truly touching and unsolicited words. Aw shucks! Got to share a wonderful review —
“How do I know Anna? It seems as if it is from an entirely alien context — dance. She is a superlative dancer. That rare someone who understands the placement of a body in the context of a visual frame as well as in the context of time. And I see that in her artwork that I love to hang on my walls. She choreographs the viewer’s entry into the frame of each experience so carefully. Anna asks me to relinquish the responsibility of control of perspective to her. I love that the shape and size of each piece is dictated and informed by the subject and is therefore unique and could only belong to that content. She also has a wicked sense of humor that translates into a unique perspective on the theme. One of the first drawings I purchased is titled, “Modest Fig,” and indeed, the fig is retiring behind a leaf. It’s not a still life; it’s a story, a psychological portrait. I now have 8 of Anna’s works, and hope to have many more. Each time I visit, I find that her artistic interest has expanded, morphed, distilled — and always in directions that I never could have predicted. That’s the kind of art that will always keep me coming back. Thank you, Anna, for filling my daily life with beauty, challenge, and pleasure.”