Cameron Shaw is the executive director of the California African American Museum (CAAM). A native Angeleno, she previously served as CAAM’s deputy director and chief curator; before that, she was executive director and founding editor of Pelican Bomb, a New Orleans-based nonprofit contemporary art organization. Before speaking at a Zócalo/Helms Bakery District event, “Will a New Generation of Leaders Shake Up L.A.’s Culture?,” she talked in the green room about being a homebody, her best Halloween costume, and why her parents’ home “feels and looks like them.”
What is your least favorite food?
I do not eat tuna fish sandwiches. I never have, I never will.
What was the last museum exhibit you really loved?
This weekend I went to see Cauleen Smith at LACMA. I’m a huge fan of Cauleen as an artist and as a person.
Halloween is coming up. Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from over the years?
When I was a kid, my grandmother used to make my Halloween costumes. So they were all amazing. The best Halloween costume I’ve ever made myself: I was a unicorn. And I worked with my college roommates to braid my really long hair around a coat hanger. So I had a unicorn horn of my own hair.
If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go and why?
Tokyo. I’m interested in the food. I’m interested in the architecture. I’m interested in the culture. And it’s just a place that’s been on my list for a while. And my hope is it’s one of the first places I can get to when it’s safe to do so.
Is there a favorite spot in L.A. that you like to get out to in the meantime?
My parents’ house. My dad trained as an architect. And they built their house together. It’s a real labor of love, and it feels and looks like them. It’s made of concrete and glass and wood. It's almost entirely gray. But it feels really warm. And even though my parents didn’t travel, it’s filled with objects from all over the world, different cultures that my mom has amassed over the years. And it’s also filled with things that my dad made and salvaged from other people’s homes and adapted for our home. And it’s also full of textiles and pillows that my mom made with my grandmother. So there’s just a lot of love and creativity in the place.
What’s the most creative way you’ve adapted to a COVID world?
Honestly, I am a homebody already. So that didn’t require a great deal of adaptation in the ways that it might for others. But my job requires a lot of creativity, adapting to COVID all the time. Running a museum during a global pandemic is creativity every single day.
Just moving everything over to digital was a huge push for us and something that I think we accomplished really beautifully, and I’m grateful to our program manager, Alexsandra Mitchell, and our staff, who helped make that a reality.