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Patsy Hicks

Paul Wellman

Patsy Hicks


The S.B. Questionnaire: Patsy Hicks

Talking Art and Inspiration with the Museum of Art’s Director of Education


“How will I find my people?” Patsy Hicks asked herself 21 years ago when her husband sold his software company in Washington D.C., and they moved back to California, where they’d met.

Once settled in Santa Barbara, her quest for connectivity led her to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where she became a docent. Soon, she was running their high school programs, and her progression steadily continued, eventually leading to her current position as director of education, overseeing myriad art camps, after-school classes, workshops, and programs for teachers and schools.

“It was a natural thing for me,” she said of her career arc, which includes teaching English at the Potomac School in McLane Virginia and being a docent at the National Gallery. “I always saw the connection between art and literacy.”

As we chatted, the energetic and passionate Patsy discussed many different ways of connecting with students. “Art opens doors to both communicate verbally and in written form,” she explained. “Visual cues give students something to say. They move from something literal to metaphorical.”

She loves exposing young people to art and seeing their reactions, especially when responses are “profoundly spontaneous.” About the shared experience of art, she exclaims, “If there’s no interaction, what’s the point?”

Patsy is excited for the impending renovation and expansion of SBMA. “There’s a great history about this dream of turning a post office into a museum,” she said. “It’s a damn great museum, and we’re the stewards of this dream.”

Patsy Hicks answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

As a teacher, connecting even one person with the possibility and potential within them; seeing the “YES” moment.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety and opportunity: from writing, to teaching, to creating, to planning, to researching, I get to work with talented, creative ,and compassionate people who truly care about making connections and building community around a collection of powerful, beautiful, soul stirring art. What’s not to like?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I’m not sure I want perfect happiness. I’ll settle for imperfect happiness. It’s good to leave a little room for desire and regret.

What is your greatest fear?

I can’t even name it as I feel somehow to name it is to invite it to happen. So let me just say one fear is that I outlive my ability to be of use. To just be and not do.

Who do you most admire?

People who know what they want and are comfortable in their own skins; they radiate calm and purpose.

What is your greatest extravagance?

High thread count sheets that need to be ironed. There is nothing more inviting than folding yourself into crisp, clean white bed linen.

What is your current state of mind?

Somewhat bemused by the answers I am giving to this quiz. Generally: positive, pensive, hopeful.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Intensity and integrity. A blend of passion and authenticity is both intoxicating and inspiring.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Deliberate cruelty. I fail to see the necessity to be mean. To be kind is not the same as to be bland.

What do you most value in friends?

Steadfastness, a generous tolerance of my and their own failings and idiosyncrasies, gentle wit and dry humor.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Well-meaning but undisciplined enthusiasm and a tendency to interrupt Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Probably, “I love you” – but then you can never overuse that expression.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to sing jazz standards in a smoky contralto, while standing by a piano.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Physically: my poor eyesight. Emotionally: my tendency to feel guilty

Where would you most like to live?

With people I love. Geography isn’t as important to me. Having said that I realize a winery or a library are a lot more appealing than a gulag, so I might be being disingenuous.

What is your most treasured possession?

Handwritten letters, my husband’s grandmother’s chipped mixing bowl, certain books.

What makes you laugh the most?

Dogs, aggressive squirrels, New Yorker cartoons, and my own folly.

What is your motto?

My children would probably say “Be a problem Solver, not a problem maker” but I have become increasingly fond of “Live right and fear not.”

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I don’t really. To be “in history” one’s life takes on a grandness that doesn’t sit well. I suppose if I had to name someone with whom I identify it would be Maureen O’Hara’s character in the film The Quiet Man. It’s not that I admire her but I identify with her fierceness and her passion and her desire to have “her things about her” as she has always imagined them.

On what occasion do you lie?

In certain card games, unsuccessfully, as my face is one big “tell.” I guess I could say I lie most often to myself, in revising events to be more to my liking, but then as I do that they start to seem like the truth until I believe my version. So is that lying or just magical thinking?



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