It was art at first sight.
Longtime Los Altos Hills residents Yvonne and Mike Nevens bonded over museum visits and gallery openings as a young couple in Los Angeles. Through the years, their passion for art grew to become an important part of their lives. So much so that the inaugural Silicon Valley Contemporary Fine Art Fair is scheduled to honor the Nevenses as 2014 Arts Patrons of the Year when the event opens in San Jose Thursday.
“I can’t think of any people more deserving or more appropriate for this inaugural award than Yvonne and Mike Nevens,” wrote San Jose Museum of Art Executive Director Susan Krane in an email detailing the couple’s work to promote contemporary art. “They have encouraged the growth of the arts ecosystem in Silicon Valley for many years as philanthropists, as hard-working board members, as art collectors, as relentless advocates and most of all as art lovers with a deep belief in ambitious new art and new ideas.”
After the couple moved to Los Altos Hills 24 years ago, they vowed to continue their work as patrons of the arts. When San Jose Museum of Art co-founder Charlotte Wendel asked Yvonne to join a new fundraising group, Yvonne eagerly jumped on board. Her volunteer work led to a full-time role as the museum’s marketing director.
Although she no longer serves on staff at the museum, Krane noted that as current co-chairwoman of the Councils Committee and a member of the Development Committee, Yvonne remains an “important behind-the-scenes instigator for all kinds of fun” and “brings a warm sense of community and purpose” to the museum.
“Yvonne continues to pursue interesting opportunities for casual educational outings and social interactions that bring people together around a shared interest in art,” Krane said.
Mike, who works in finance and high-tech, also invested much time in increasing the visibility and accessibility of the San Jose Museum of Art. First involved in shepherding his firm through a project with the museum, Mike later joined the museum’s board of trustees and recently completed his second term as board president. Mike said he is particularly proud of his efforts to shape the museum into a conduit that introduces contemporary art to audiences that may not otherwise gain exposure to cultural institutions, as well as his work to educate elected officials on the value of the museum.
“If you think about some of the most successful people in technology, many of them have backgrounds or interests in the arts,” Mike said. “It’s such a wonderful part of education, a social outlet and an interesting community center where people of different backgrounds can come together to learn about something new.”
In addition to their fundraising and advocacy work with the San Jose Museum of Art, the Nevenses support the efforts of Mountain View’s Community School of Music and Arts.
Avid art collectors, the couple noted that their friends have grown accustomed to their excitement over a new piece of artwork and their enthusiastic invitations to the latest art fundraiser or gallery show. The Nevenses added that they were “delighted” to receive the Arts Patrons of the Year award and hope the benefit held in their honor will serve as another opportunity to invite their friends to celebrate the arts.
The Silicon Valley Contemporary Fine Art Fair is scheduled Thursday through Sunday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, 150 W. San Carlos St. For more information, visit siliconvalleycontemporary.com.