Meeting extraordinary people

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Patrick Sears, executive director, gave me a tour of the exquisite Rubin Museum of Art.

When the Queens Museum of Art, on whose board I sit, asked to honor me, I didn’t know I would meet two extraordinary people who were feted alongside of me.

Don and his beautiful wife Shelley Rubin are philanthropists who give generously to the Queens Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park and created a gem of a museum, the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. Last week I got an opportunity to visit and meet with their executive director, the talented Patrick Sears.

The museum was built in 2004 in the former home of Barney’s, when it was on 17th Street and 7th Avenue, in the heart of the now-trendy Chelsea area. Its original spiral staircase, passing through the six floors, was preserved and enhanced as the architects designed multiple galleries covering 25,000 square feet of exhibition space. The staircase creates a central point to easily navigate the small, intimate galleries.

When I entered the building, I was taken by the warm colors and wooden floors. I was compelled to browse the eclectic collections in the gift shop located near the entry. I always enjoy going to museum gift stores because they have unique selections of things reflecting the museum’s collections. And do they here!

I purchased a puzzle for my grandchildren, a recycled journal for my daughter and a hand puppet made in China. I even got a Himalayan bell for my sales department to ring every time they make a sale. They have an enormous collection of jewelry and beads from Southeast Asia. Beautiful scarves hung attractively in a corner of the shop.

The Rubin Museum of Art specializes in objects and works of art from Southeast Asia. On my visit there were works from China, India and Burma. The permanent collection, focusing on the Himalayas, holds over 2,000 items that the Rubins have collected over decades.

Having traveled to Burma and visited many temples, I was taken by the recreation of a Tibetan sanctuary so similar to ones I saw on my trip. I was amazed at the beauty of the collection of statues, sculptures, art and tapestries. It was so easy to visit the museum, which is intimate, stunning and powerful but never overwhelming.

I enjoyed lunch with Patrick in the charming, trendy cafe whose menu reflects the culture of the museum.

On Friday evenings from 6 to 10 p.m., they have free admission and there is a lively bar scene with music, as well as film screenings and gallery talks. Then the first Monday of every month, there is a “Free Senior Day” with many events unique to that night. There are also special events for families. What a wonderful place to visit. Try it, you too will love it!

Their address is 150 W 17th Street. Call 212-620-5000 for special events.

The dramatic staircase is the focal point of the Rubin Museum (Photo Courtesy Peter Aaron/Esto)