art + community
Berson Studio is a San Francisco-based consulting practice providing a broad spectrum of arts and museum related services from programming new buildings and retrofits, to exhibition development, collections initiatives, and collaborations with communities on public art commissioning.
With over 30 years of experience, we bring a wealth of creative thinking and strategic project management to nonprofits and corporations to achieve their community-building objectives through art.
After nearly twenty years at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Ruth Berson launched Berson Studio LLC, a consulting practice focusing on museum building projects, curatorial programming, public art commissions, and collections management.
Following graduate studies at the History of Art department of UC Berkeley, Berson started her museum career as a curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where she most notably authored The New Painting 1874-1886: Documentation, on the eight original group Impressionist shows, a two-volume scholarly reference funded by grants from the Getty Trust and the Mellon Foundation for Publications. Her research photo archive was donated to the Musée d’Orsay.
Berson spent five years at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University as Deputy Director and completed the Getty’s Museum Management Institute program where she was awarded a scholarship, before accepting a position as Deputy Museum Director Curatorial Affairs at SFMOMA. There, she oversaw a staff of 175 with a yearly budget of $25M and directed an annual program of approximately twenty-five exhibitions presented on-site, as well as a worldwide touring exhibition program.
Simultaneously, from its inception in 2010 through the 2016 reopening of the new building, Berson served as SFMOMA’s Project Expansion Director for the $310M design and construction project. The building retrofit and addition tripled the gallery space, making it now one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world.
Berson currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. From 2010-2020, she served on the Board and as Chair of the Membership Committee of the International Council on Museums-United States (ICOM-US). She also recently served for five years on the Board of Creativity Explored, a San Francisco nonprofit that assists adult developmentally disabled artists. For the last decade, Berson has underwritten an annual paid internship for an underserved art history UC Berkeley undergraduate student planning a career in museums.
Berson has lectured widely at at conferences, museums and academic institutions. Knighted by the French Ministry of Culture, she was made a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2000, and promoted to Officier in 2011. She has dual French and American citizenship and is fluent in French.
presentations + publications
Panelist, “Sharing Voices & Forging Community through the Arts: Challenges & Opportunities in the Post-Covid Landscape,” French American International School, San Francisco, by Zoom, 4/21/2021
Speaker, “Le musée comme institution au coeur des controversés,” Sciences Po, Paris, by Zoom, 12/2/2020
Speaker, “Inclusive Architecture: How Museum Buildings Should Engage in Civic Responsibility,” Museum Summit 2019, Hong Kong, 11/29/2019
Speaker, “Influence and Value: Towards a New Definition for Museums,” Sciences Po, Paris, 10/16/2019
Keynote Speaker, “Une architecture pour le public. Des expositions pour tous. Comment SFMOMA s’est reconstruit,” Paris Musées Colloquium, Petit Palais, Paris, 2/11/2019
Keynote Speaker, “The Role of Culture in Contemporary Urban Life: Introducing the New SFMOMA,” World Cities Cultural Summit, San Francisco, 2018, 11/14/2018
Speaker/Awardee, “SFMOMA: Real Estate Award of the Year,” Acceptance speech, SF Business Times Awards Ceremony, Real Estate Award of the Year winner, 3/23/2017
Speaker, “Crossing the Bridge: Berkeley to SFMOMA,” Seminar, University of California-Berkeley History of Art Department, 10/4/2016
Speaker, “Symbiosis between Privatization and Democratization in US Modern and Contemporary Art Museums: SFMOMA as a Case Study,” Sciences Po, Paris, 9/20/2016
Panelist, “Sound Matters,” SF Design Week, San Francisco, 6/9/2016
Keynote Speaker, “A Night in Versailles,” French-American Cultural Society, 9/25/2015
Panelist, “Collect and Transmit,” Mona Bismarck American Center and Grand Palais, Paris, 5/18/2015
Book, The New Painting, Impressionism 1874-1886: Documentation (2 vols.) Funded with the support of the Getty Trust and the Mellon Endowment for Publications at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, University of Washington Press, 1996
Exhibition Catalogue, 1874: The Year of Impressionism, with Akiya Takahashi, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1994