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Beautiful Connections
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At UC Santa Barbara, she faced a very different set of challenges. Over the years, the museum, which was run by the university's art department, had become isolated and nearly invisible to the rest of the campus and surrounding community.

"People in the art and art history departments knew about the University Art Museum, but no one else on campus seemed to," Berns says. This, in spite of the fact that every show was reviewed in the local and student newspapers. "How could they not know?" In her quest to make the museum a dynamic part of the campus, Berns started to create partnerships with other academic departments, involving herself in faculty groups and meetings.

"I spent a lot of time talking to people directly. You can't just send people written materials," she says. "You have to add that personal touch, talk about who you are and what you're doing."

Berns did more than just talk. Last year, under her watch, a $2.3-million renovation of the museum's exhibition space was completed. Today, it benefits from a new entrance, six new galleries and an adjoining 20,000-square-foot plaza. She also curated two nationally touring exhibitions and recently finished a retrospective exhibition and monograph on Santa Barbara designer Paul Tuttle, internationally known for his furniture and architectural designs.

With her arrival at UCLA in the fall, the Fowler and its staff are already embarking on new adventures and new academic and community partnerships. A major traveling exhibition that was developed jointly by the Fowler and UC Santa Barbara's University Art Museum has just opened, giving the public a first-time look at 22 rare embroidered coats originally worn by fishermen living on Awaji Island in Japan's Inland Sea.

"These are elaborately quilted kimono-shaped coats," Berns says. "They give us a very focused look at one local tradition that has been superceded by modernization. But what they allow us to do is tell the story of how these rare artifacts were once used by people in daily life and how important it was for Awaji women to lovingly make these beautiful coats for their husbands to wear."

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