52 CATALINA EXPRESS MAGAZINE 2019–2020 Gail Fornasiere Tell us more about your background and how you became involved with the Catalina Island Museum. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to further my education in the Fine Arts. Twelve years ago, I moved to Catalina Island when my husband-to-be received a job in the hospitality industry. I wanted to continue my career with a focus in art and history. I quickly became involved with the museum in a part-time position and worked my way up to become the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. What do you most love about your job? I love that we share the Island’s unique history and bring art and culture to the community. Many facets of Catalina’s history have had a noteworthy impact on American history. There are a lot of “aha” moments—even for locals who have lived here their whole lives. To enhance the visitor experience with art, all while helping to preserve the history of Catalina makes this job even more rewarding. How do you sum up the Museum’s mission in one sentence? The Catalina Island Museum strives to be the center of art and culture for the Avalon community and its visitors. What is the most exciting display you have had at the Museum? The Dale Chihuly glass art exhibition really put us on the map. The exhibition brought new people to the museum—and the island—to view Chihuly’s colorful artwork and in turn, they learned about Catalina’s great history. The attention generated by that exhibition demonstrated the influence the Catalina Island Museum has in the art world and its relevance in the local economy. How do you think that the Museum inspires the culture of Catalina? I think of the museum as the steward of the Island’s history. Many community members are proud of their history and want to see it preserved. We have been working with the local school to educate children about how influential and important their culture is. The program has included our local preschool, the 4th and 6th grade classes, as well as the Avalon High School hospitality class. Our museum team may be small but with the support of a few retired teachers as our liaisons, the program is making a significant impact. At the end of the day, we want everyone to appreciate the past and share their memories and stories with future generations. Do you have a special connection to any particular piece displayed at the museum, if so why? I have a personal connection to most works displayed simply because I have been a part of the museum for over a decade. The WWII history portion of our gallery is just one example of the connection and influence the Island has had on American history that many people don’t realize. I have always been drawn to the immense sacrifices and contributions of everyday Americans during WWII. Another display that opens visitors’ eyes to Catalina is the large island relief map created for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. This permanent wall display shows how vast and spectacular the Island’s natural features are. And of course, the Chihuly chandelier created especially for the Island means a great deal to myself and the museum team. We worked so hard to bring that exhibition to our community and then getting the support to help us keep the chandelier at the museum permanently is something I will never forget. What upcoming exhibitions are you most looking forward to this year? The Catalina Island Museum is proud to welcome a wide range of exhibitions and updates in this coming year that range from key milestones to old Hollywood to the impact on our environment. In February, we opened the exhibition, “Wrigley’s Catalina: A Centennial Celebration,” honoring the 100-year anniversary of William Wrigley Jr.’s purchase of the Santa Catalina Island Company. Wrigley was responsible for the creation of the landmark Casino building and bringing the Chicago Cubs to the Island for Spring Training. The Gail Fornasiere An insider look at Catalina Island Museum INTERVIEWED BY AGNIESZKA SANCHEZ