Annual Report



Notice is hereby given that the Annual Meeting of members of the Society for Asian Art (SAA) will be held in Samsung Hall, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, on May 16, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. for the following purposes:

• To elect 14 Directors to serve until the next Annual Meeting of members to be held in May 2020, and until their successors are duly elected and qualified.
• To transact such other business as properly may be brought before the meeting or any adjournment or postponement thereof.

The Nominating Committee submitted the names of the following nominees for re-election as Directors: Ed Baer, Trista Berkovitz, Etusko Kobata, Howard Moreland, Sylvia Wong, plus nine new members for election.

The names of additional nominees may be submitted to the Board of Directors for review not less than twenty (20) days prior to the meeting. The petitions shall be signed by not less than twenty (20) members in good standing and shall contain the information required by Section 3 of Article IX of the Bylaws. Each member in good standing is entitled to one vote on each matter considered at the meeting. No proxy voting is permitted. All voting is conducted in person.

By order of the Board of Directors,

Greg Potts

May 16, 2019

The members of the Nominating Committee were Chair Pamela Royse, Vince Fausone, Nancy Jacobs, Anne Adams Kahn, and Sherlyn Leong.

The following Members of the Society for Asian Art desire to serve as Directors and are nominated for election to serve their first two-year term of office: Edith Benay, Lynne Brewer, Kalpana Desai, Gloria Garaventa, Kirk Gibson, Tom Ihrig, John Richardson, Kathleen SlobinNazneen Spliedt.

The following Directors of the Society for Asian Art will complete their first or second two-year term and are nominated for election to serve another two-year term: Ed Baer, Trista Berkovitz, Etsuko Kobata, Howard Moreland, Sylvia Wong.

Directors with one year remaining on their two-year terms are: Megs Booker, Margaret Edwards, Nancy Jacobs, Phyllis Kempner, Lawrence Mock, John Nelson, Pamela Royse, Ehler Spliedt, Marsha Vargas Handley, Diane Weber, Kasey Yang.

The following Directors are retiring from the Board of Directors: Anne Adams Kahn, Sheila Dowell, Myoung-ja Kwon, Greg Potts, Merrill Randol, Kalim Winata.

The following ex-officio Directors will continue to serve: Deborah Clearwaters, Forrest McGill.

New Nominees:

The Nominating Committee recommends the following members for a first two-year term to the Board of Directors of the Society for Asian Art.

Edith Benay is a Docent and Volunteer at the Asian Art Museum. She is also a Docent and Volunteer at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum. She is an attorney in San Francisco with her own labor and employment law practice.

Lynne Brewer has been a member of the Society for 10 years, attends most of the Friday lectures, attends many weekend events and has traveled with the Society. She’s a retired physician who volunteers with The First Opinion, a non-profit which provides tumor
review for cancer patients.

Kalpana Desai is a 25-year Asian Art Museum Docent, and formerly Chair of the Docent Council and member of the Docent Council Board. She is a Founding Member and former President of SACHI. She formerly served on the SAA Board.

Gloria Garaventa is retired as an Independent Japanese Art Consultant where, most recently, her major client was Bonhams, San Francisco. She holds a BA in Oriental Art History and an MA in Japanese Art History from UC Berkeley, and did work in the PhD program there. She has studied Japanese.

Kirk Gibson is an Asian Art Museum Docent, and has served on the Docent Council Board where he was Special Events Chair. He has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford and did work in the PhD Program in Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley. He worked for 46 years at Chevron.

Thomas Ihrig was a research scientist in the corporate world, and has taught cell culture and biotechnology at the college level in the California State system. He is a Supporting Docent at the Asian Art Museum.

John Richardson is a Museum Storyteller. He was a self-employed translator from German to English, and is now retired.

Kathleen Slobin is an Asian Art Museum Storyteller and a Docent at the California Academy of Sciences. She has an MFA from California College of Arts and Crafts, an MPA in Public Administration from CSU Hayward and a PhD from UC San Francisco in Medical Sociology.

Nazneen Spliedt has been an active member of the Society for Asian Art since she retired to San Francisco in 1998. She has served as a Board Member and President. She is also Past President of the Zoroastrian Association of Northern California. She worked as an Accountant and Assistant Controller in the hotel industry in various countries around the world. 


2018-2019 has been an exciting and fun-filled year for the Society for Asian Art, and one in which we have successfully delivered on the SAA’s mission to provide educational programs on Asian art and culture and to support the Asian Art Museum.

Here are just a few of the many engaging programs and events we offered:

Arts of Asia
In the fall, we explored the arts, cultures and kingdoms of the Silk Roads and in the spring, we examined how geography, technology, cultures and beliefs are reflected in the architecture of Asia. Both series were well-attended and received rave reviews.

Literature and Culture
We had two exciting series this year, one exploring themes and ideas in modern Japanese mysteries and the other on global travel writing in Asia over the centuries.

Member Events
This year included a varied selection of outstanding events, covering many parts of Asia. A few examples were a lecture on Balinese temple art, a visit to a local Shiva-Vishnu Temple, a Kyogen performance, tours of other museums’ Asian art exhibitions, and the ever-popular Holiday Party and Spring Dinner. We also held a variety of stimulating, in-depth conversations with scholars in private homes.

Study Groups
We had three superb study groups this year, covering the types and techniques of printmaking, the history and culture of tea, and the techniques of Nihonga painting.

SAA members went on several fabulous trips this year: to New York in September, Hawaii in March, and Taiwan and China in April.

In addition, we provided stimulating, scholarly articles on various aspects of Asian art in our online publication Lotus Leaves.

Regarding the second portion of our mission, supporting the Asian Art Museum, the SAA donated over $25,000 to the museum’s library this last fiscal year, completed the second half of our $60,000 gift to the museum in honor of SAA’s 60th anniversary, and organized events that complemented the museum’s exhibitions. And to ensure the long-term viability of the SAA, the Board has begun conducting an in-depth fiscal review.

Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to you, our members, for your support and enthusiasm for the many and varied programs the SAA provides. I also want to thank the SAA Board and Susan Lai, the SAA Office Manager, for their steadfast behind-the-scenes work to meet our goals. Without them, none of SAA’s programs would be possible. And last, but not least, I’d like to express my appreciation to the Asian Art Museum for providing an exquisite space that inspires and gives beauty to our lives.

The next fiscal year will be an exciting one for the museum and SAA, as the museum completes its transformation. We look forward to planning more engaging and rewarding programs for you, our members. Please do not hesitate to provide us feedback and ideas! 

Best regards,

Trista Berkovitz



Arts of Asia
Attendance has been strong and lectures have been very well received for both the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 Arts of Asia lectures. Lectures have taken place primarily at UC Hastings due to concerns regarding potential construction noise at the Asian Art Museum

The Fall 2018 series focused on the arts, cultures and kingdoms of the Silk Road. The fourteen lectures in the series covered topics like the Oxus treasure, Sogdian traders, and Manichean art.

The Spring 2019 series is focusing on the architecture of Asia. Topics to date have included early South Asian monuments, East Asian architecture in the 5th-10th centuries and the Shinto shrines of Ise.

Arts of Asia Committee members have been Co-Chair Anne Adams Kahn, Co-Chair Barbara Levinson (Fall 2018), Co-Chair Larry Mock (Spring 2019), Diane Weber, Peter Sinton (Fall 2018) and Margaret Edwards.

Study Group
The Study Group Committee organized several events during the year including a print making workshop with Toru Sugita, Diablo Valley College, in July, an enlightening lecture on the history of tea and tea rituals with John Wallace, UC Berkeley, in November, and a workshop on Nihonga painting with Fumiyo Yoshikawa in March.  The final workshop this year will be on May 11 when Melissa Abbe lectures on “How to Read a Chinese Painting.” Committee members were Margaret Edwards, Barbara Levinson, Greg Potts, Pamela Royse, Kalim Winata and Sylvia Wong, Chair.

Literature and Culture of Asia
The Literature and Culture Committee sponsored two literature courses this past year. In fall 2018, Stephen Roddy, University of San Francisco, led five sessions on “Basic Instinct: Nature vs. Nurture in the Japanese Mystery”. In the class we read four short stories and four novels by some of the greatest masters of this form and discussed films based on them.

In the spring, we introduced Aria Fani, who has taught courses on travel writings and Persian at UC Berkeley. In the six-session course “Global Routes of Travel Writing”, we examined four travelogues from the 11th to 20th centuries which took us to Africa, Asia, Europe and India. We looked at how travel writings document the ways in which all cultures have developed through contact and exchange with the outside world. Committee members were Judy Fraschella, Sherlyn Leong, John Nelson, Melanie Reamy, Henny Tanudjaja and Pamela Royse, Chair.
This committee supports the museum in arranging symposia. Functions can include contacting speakers, helping arrange travel and lodging, coordinating with the museum to reserve Samsug Hall and arranging for food, handling registration, and distributing flyers.  Members of the committee were Nancy Jacobs, Chair, and Ehler Spliedt.

There were no symposia this fiscal year.


Member Events
The Member Events Committee was chaired by Ehler Spliedt. Members of the committee were Aggie Brenneman, Annie Dorsey, Phyllis Kempner, Etsuko Kobata, Myoung-ja Lee Kwon, Nazneen Spliedt, Graeme Vanderstoel, Barbara Wirth, and Sylvia Wong.

During the past year we organized on average two events each month. During the year we had twelve scholarly talks and lectures plus gallery and museum visits to Stanford, Berkeley and the Chinese Community Center, and visits to the Hindu Temples in Livermore and the Vedanta Center and a Kyogen performance at the Theatre of Yugen. Social events and dinners were also organized, including an overnight trip to Orientations in Monterey, the Annual Holiday party at Zentner Gallery in Emeryville and the Spring dinner at Restaurant Fang. The committee also organized the reception for our 2018 Annual Meeting, a celebration of our 60th Anniversary. All programs made a small surplus or broke even.

We try to keep the subjects wide ranging and not necessarily related to the Museum's current exhibition themes.  Our speakers were scholars and/or visiting professionals from around the Bay Area, as well as Curators and Advisors. In the past year we have faced many challenges with booking space in the Museum due to the transformation project and its construction schedule. We looked for venues for events outside the Civic Center and even outside the City of San Francisco.

Upper Category Member Events
The committee was chaired by Etsuko Kobata, with members Chris Ahn, Sheila Dowell, Phyllis Kempner, Myoung-ja Lee Kwon, Sherllyn Leong, Ehler Spliedt, Diane Weber, Linda Wiley and Kasey Yang. The committee serves members who provide a greater financial support to the Society at the Sponsor, Donor and Contributing levels. In addition to six Conversations with expert scholars made available for all Upper Category members, unique special events are planned for Donor and Sponsor levels each year.

In the fall of 2018, Sponsors enjoyed a holiday soiree at a private home with Asian Art Museum Deputy Director Rob Mintz as guest of honor. In May 2019, Sponsors and Donors will be invited to visit a contemporary artist’s studio.

The Travel Committee is co-chaired by Greg Potts and Marsha Vargas Handley, with members Anne Adams Kahn, Ed Baer, Neaera Baer, Trista Berkovitz, Megs Booker, Kalpana Desai, Sheila Dowell, Margaret Edwards, Kalena Gregory, Mary Hunt, Phyllis Kempner, Bianca Larson, Linda Lei, David Menke, Sharon Roe, Teri Sandison, and Gail Uilkema. The Travel Committee plans domestic and international trips with the goal of designing travel experiences that are both educational and affordable. In 2018-2019, two domestic trips and one international trip were organized.  Domestically, SAA members traveled to New York City and Hawaii. Internationally, members will go on our April Four Treasures trip which includes Taipei, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.

Publications and Public Relations


The Newsletter Committee published six bi-monthly Newsletters to publicize SAA events and programs. The newsletter supports registration for the SAA activities included in each issue. The latest version of the newsletter is posted on the SAA website. John Nelson chaired the committee, and co-edited the newsletter with Susan Lai.

Lotus Leaves

During this year, Lotus Leaves published an issue in November 2018 featuring two articles: “Chinese Gardens in the United States: Past Present and Future” by Patricia J. Yu of UC Berkeley, “The Sogdian Belt and Road” by Albert E. Dien of Stanford University, plus a new feature, “Around the Asian”, examining the statue of Ashurbanipal next to the Asian Art Museum, written by our own Bob Oaks. The Spring 2019 issue, projected for publication in May 2019 will feature an article by Advisor Emeritus Dawn F. Rooney, “Bencharong: Chinese Export Ware for Siam,” and an article by Hyonjeong Kim Han of the Asian Art Museum, entitled “Kim Jeonghui’s Calligraphy in the Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.” Margaret Edwards is the Editor.

The goal of the Publicity Committee is to promote awareness of the SAA and its programs and events. During 2018-2019, the committee focused on announcing and selling SAA programs such as the Arts of Asia Friday lecture series, and the annual Book Sale. In addition to announcements through the SAA newsletter and website, the committee worked closely with the Asian Art Museum to have SAA activities listed on its website, calendar, and social media sites. The AAM’s A Magazine regularly includes a page devoted to SAA activities including the Arts of Asia lecture series and speakers, SAA travel programs, and special activities such as the Book Sale and occasional Souk. The Publicity Committee was co-chaired by Anne Adams Kahn and Trista Berkovitz.

Library/Book Sale
The Library Committee was chaired by Myoung-ja Lee Kwon. She met with the AAM Librarian, John Stucky, in the fall to learn about library operations. He expressed his appreciation for the annual support from the Society. The SAA supports the museum’s C. Laan Chun Library with a monthly donation of $1,500, for a total of $18,000 for the year. This money helps buy new books and our support pays for over 50% of the annual subscription costs for a wide variety of periodicals.

Ehler Spliedt, assisted by a group of volunteers, organized the annual SAA Book Sale. The actual proceeds for the 2018 Book Sale were $9,175.00. The 2019 Book Sale will take place in the Loggia of the AAM on April 5. It is expected to net over $7,000.

The Website Committee continues to work on maintaining the Society's internet presence. With input from the Society's office, the committee also works on improving user interface and other necessary fixes. The Society's privacy policy safe guards the website's data integrity. Kasey Yang chaired the committee.


Our membership fell about 8% during the fiscal year, ending with 474 households belonging to SAA, representing about 744 individuals. Membership has rebounded to 502 households at the end of February 2019. We continue to recruit new members to replace those not renewing due to relocation or other life events. The largest category of membership remains the Senior group (44% of memberships, down from 45% last year). Contributing, Donor, and Sponsor memberships are 40% of the total, accounting for 74% of membership income. Committee members were Howard Moreland, Chair, with assistance from Sophie Lee, Ruth Murad, Diana Nichols, and Susie Steer.

Once again, the Advisors Committee was unable to hold its annual luncheon in the Peterson Room because of museum construction. Rather than cancel it, as was done last year, the decision was made to hold it at a local Chinese restaurant, Fang. Both Board Members and Advisors were invited for this April 28 gathering. It will use the same format as in the past, with 3-minute talks by the Advisors following the luncheon. During the year, the committee continued its other activities including recommending one new candidate to the SAA Board, and suggesting copies of Lotus Leaves and the newsletter be sent to all advisors. The committee was chaired by Phyllis Kempner, and the members were Megs Booker, Jeanne Dorward, Judy Fraschella, Barbara Levinson, Merrill Randol and Pamela Royce.


The Finance Committee met regularly throughout the year to review the SAA’s financial status and ensure there were sufficient liquid assets to meet SAA commitments. The committee met quarterly with Keith Woodland of Morgan Stanley, SAA Investment Advisor, to review the investment profile and ensure that it represented a secure, yet profitable investment portfolio. One of the committee’s most important tasks was in proposing a yearly budget, which was developed with the input of the committee chairs. In addition, it is in the process of analyzing cash flow to determine the SAA financial position for the future. This is being done with support from our financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. The committee also participated on the Executive Committee and provided input to the Executive Committee and the Board regarding the monthly financial statements. The Finance Committee was chaired by Treasurer Ed Baer and includes David Menke, Steve Pegors, Ehler Spliedt, Nazneen Spliedt and Kasey Yang.

Bylaws and Operating Procedures
This committee updates and drafts new SAA Operating Procedures, Bylaws, and Policies as needed. Committee members were Greg Potts, Chair, and Nazneen Spliedt.