Founder’s Note: Is Cultivating Culture Necessary?

Is culture missing in our…culture?


Back in college, I took a few courses in Art History and fell obsessively in love with the notion of gaining a profound appreciation for all forms of art. Textbooks were bounded in thousands of pages at a time, but there I was, living through stories of the past as hours heedlessly snuck by. To me, paintings and sculptures symbolize beyond mundane analysis in the usage of colors, forms, creative or artistic skills. Captivation, to me, still lies in the integration of diversity within what is defined as: culture.

I grew up playing both classical piano and violin. I was trained to learn multiple languages, thus becoming fluent in four languages before turning fourteen years old. Today, I’ve become one of those annoying people that stand in front of a painting for twenty minutes at a time. When I’m confused about life, somehow art provides a sort of chemistry and depth that I miss with people.

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From grand to minuscule pieces that embellish treasured museums; works of art, in actuality, behold: science, human forms, physics, mathematics, measurements, politics, power, religion, philosophy, love, passion, music, logic versus emotions. But how does one become “cultured”? Can appreciation for artistic depth be taught? Does it truly require decades to foster? If so, how does one begin to tackle such a venture?

Renee Dreyfus (curator of ancient art and interpretation at de Young Museum) and I sat at the museum for hours, rolling through conversation that answered all of these questions. I connected with her. She was a true lady who I wished to have frequent afternoon teas with. Surpassing superficiality, and mundane social conversations; we dug deep and explored why fostering culture remains so adamantly important, particularly in a city like San Francisco – an aggressively blossoming financial and cultural center, thirty years ago. With M.H. de Young’s vision, the foggy city by the bay has successfully trascended beyond a cultural center. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco now ranks third in the country, following NYC’s The Metropolitan Museum and MoMA.

Minutes passed by and I fell more in love with Renee, a true gem in today’s culture. Who else would expand on museum programs that customized to the handicapped, lower-income kids, families and children.

People often ask me, what is the greatest joy that I receive from conducting Jetset Times interviews, and my answer has always been: inspiration. Renee and I had a certain sense of chemistry. One that she spoke of, “You know how when you walk into a gallery, there’s something about it that just grabs you, you can’t really explain why you love it.” Chemistry. That’s it.

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I think back to my mother’s way of teaching. She always thought, the most beautiful woman came in subtle and demure forms of elegance and grace. Such a woman didn’t have the perfect face or body, but she must have understood the importance of art and culture. Those things ooze in the indescribable.

I must admit. I had trouble writing my interview with the de Young. I wondered if our readers would be interested in the idea of fostering culture. So I revisted the de Young last week during the exhibition of The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I had been to many museums in Amsterdam, yet facing the painting of Vemeer, I was drenched in tears. Moved, touched, completely bewildered in the peace and mystery that the painting still beholds. There is something incredibly treasured about great art.

In our conversation, Renee grabbed me. Like a gallery that I had just walked into, I wholeheartedly believed all that the de Young museum stands for: youth, the innovative, the constant new. Isn’t that what life is all about, elevating as we go. To reinvent, to showcase what is while reflecting upon the past. So we always know where we were and where we’re going next. That is what cultivating culture, at the end of the day, is all about.

Read more of my interview with Renee at the de Young Museum.

With so much love,

Wendy's siguaturexx

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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