“I would like people to remember what I created”: Athenaeum director Erika Torri announces her retirement


After 33 years of expanding the cultural footprint of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, Executive Director Erika Torri has announced that she will be retiring on June 30, leaving the institution of La Jolla in the hands of someone. one that she hopes will mark the community as it did.

“The time is right,” Torri said. “I’ve been here quite a while… and I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished.

“I want people to remember what I created.”

Torri joined the Athenaeum in 1989 after initially withdrawing his candidacy upon seeing the music room crowded and “claustrophobic”.

She accepted the job when told that the Athenaeum, then confined to a small space, owned the building at 1008 Wall Street and that Torri could expand at the end of the leases and the Athenaeum would reclaim the rooms. .

Torri has worked to expand not only the physical presence of the Athenaeum, but also its offerings while overseeing fundraising and renovations.

Erika Torri ran the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library on Wall Street in La Jolla for 33 years.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

“I started all of the programming,” she said.

She asked jazz producer Daniel Atkinson to start a jazz series and, under Torri’s direction, other programs started including the chamber concert series, the annual gala, the jury art exhibition. , exhibitions and conferences.

Torri also led the expansion of the Athenaeum in San Diego with a Studio School of the Arts downtown, followed two years later by the Athenaeum Arts Center in Logan Heights.

She is also a founding member of the Membership Libraries Group; The Athenaeum (established in 1899 as the Association of Libraries of La Jolla) is one of 17 libraries whose paying members remain throughout the country.

One of the accomplishments Torri proudly highlights is amassing the world’s largest collection of complete artist books, created as an art form in itself. The Athenaeum is set to complete its ninth artist’s book collection this year, the result of Torri browsing bookstores around the world for years.

Max Elliott, a La Jolla resident who has served on the Athenaeum board for several terms since 2005, said that “anyone who knows modern Athenaeum will equate this to Erika Torri. She gave this place an identity that it really didn’t have before she came here.

Elliott met Torri through his late wife, Melissa, who joined the board in 1986 before Torri was hired. “I don’t know what she had in mind for how she saw the future unfold,” Elliott said of Torri. “But Erika is an artist.”

“There is something going on at the Athenaeum almost every day of the week,” he said, including art classes, concerts, lectures and exhibitions. “We are probably the most culturally diverse organization in the city. “

He praised Torri for increasing the membership of the Athenaeum, for forming a “bigger and more involved board of directors and [creating] a kind of family of supporters, people who really love this place. You will see the same faces here over and over again.

Elliott said Torri is “a very unique person. None of us at first would have ever guessed how successful she would be. … None of us could foresee how dedicated she would be… how hard she would work.

“For her, it’s not work… it’s a passion. It’s his life, ”he said.

Elliott is a member of the Athenaeum succession committee, which has started looking for Torri’s replacement. He said he hopes the next executive director “will come with the same passion, the same dedication, the same vision.”

Torri also said his successor needs to “bring passion and get a feel for what he or she wants to do that is special.”

She added that she hopes her replacement maintains the “same atmosphere” at the Athenaeum, “with a foot in the contemporary and [being] dated in many ways too.

“People feel very welcome,” Torri said. “We are open to everyone; you don’t need to be a member to come.

Elliott said Torri’s successor “will obviously have a challenge establishing himself and getting the same kind of support and respect as Erika, but the board is committed to providing that support.”

Torri said if a suitable replacement is not hired by June 30, she will stay “as long as it takes to find someone.” But I don’t stay forever.

Once retired, she plans to spend a lot of time with her children and grandchildren, mostly in La Jolla, and organize her personal collection of artist books.

Although Torri has said she is ready to leave work, it will be “difficult,” as evidenced by her “very moving” response to the 14th annual SoundOn at the Athenaeum and San Diego New Music last weekend. , when she realized she wouldn’t be running the festival next year.

“This is the first of my ‘last’, she said.” It is difficult. “??

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