by Natasha von Kaenel
Alexander Zwissler, our new Interim Executive Director, is an accomplished man. He has been on our Advisory Council since its inception six years ago, was the CEO of Chabot Space & Science Center from 2007-2015, founded Einstellung Labs, and currently serves in the leadership of both local and national nonprofits.
But there is one thing he has never accomplished. An aspiring poet for decades, Alex claims he has never put pen to paper and written a poem. In fact, we had to tell him how many syllables were needed to write a haiku:
The rules are simple,
5-7-5, line by line,
The haiku is done!
While we wait for his poetry, check out excerpts from our chat last week.
What interests you?
I’ve always been involved and interested in the arts–as a consumer, as a board member, as a collector, and as a donor. But I never really saw myself as an artist, I was never creative–certainly not in any material sense. I took metal shop in junior high school, which was so outside my comfort zone, and I absolutely loved it. I look back on it as one of my favorite experiences, even though I was much more of an academic guy.
Why do you think it is important to give that hands-on experience to other youth?
It is just so gratifying to make stuff. I remember my first Advisory Council meeting; we went out in the shop and made coasters out of fused glass. I gave mine to my wife, and it had little hearts on it. It was pretty. Now, it’s one of my most valued possessions. I treasure it, legitimately. There’s just something special about that connection to something you’ve made, as opposed to something you have bought. I want to give that experience to as many youth as possible, and get them excited about what they can make with their hands and creativity.
You mentioned you were a collector, what kind of art do you collect?
Over the years, I’ve collected what’s called movie paper, which is basically movie posters and lobby cards, things like that. There are a couple hanging in my house–one of them is ‘La Dolce Vita,’ the Fellini movie, and one from the movie, ‘Le Mépris’ with Bridgitte Bardot. Those are probably my favorite pieces. I also collect mid-century doodads, like Murano glass, tchotchkes, barware, etc. Collecting is funny because you accumulate all this stuff, then you get to a point where you just don’t have any more space. But I’ve always got my eye out for something cool.
What is your dream project?
I’m working on creating a new STEM education facility in the South Bay right now. If we pull that off, that might be my dream project.
What could you not live without?
My mountain bike. I’m actually in a little bit of distress right now because I just had to put it in the shop. I’m not going to be able to ride this weekend, which really pisses me off.
What’s your favorite ride?
My favorite ride is what I call my ‘Tour of Tam.’ It’s a 26-mile, 3000-foot ride. I do that once a week usually.
What got you into it?
Competition with my friends. I’m fortunate enough to have grown up with a bunch of guys here in Oakland since we were little kids. We are all still together, and once a year, we go up into the mountains with our mountain bikes. The first year I did it, they all kicked my ass. I hated it. So I started training and now I kick their ass.
What is something people don’t know about The Crucible that they should?
One of the things that has been a delightful surprise is the incredible commitment people have here to this institution. It is remarkable.