A visit to Filoli Historic House & Garden is usually a time to experience incredible beauty, from the colorful cultivated gardens to the stately home to the rambling nature trails. And this time of year, the grounds are indeed in glorious bloom. But for the spring exhibition "Stories of Resilience," Filoli also faces some ugly truths, including the fact the midcentury Bay Area was a pioneer in racially exclusive housing policies, there were no Black and Latino staff members during Filoli's time as a (white, wealthy) family home, and that some staff members suffered under racist and discriminatory U.S. policies, according to the exhibition text.
"We are sharing stories of the individuals and identity groups who overcame injustices or were historically excluded from performing at or working at Filoli. Through an exhibition in the House and Garden and social media and virtual programming, we will highlight the continued creativity and contributions of artists, entrepreneurs, and garden professionals from diverse and underrepresented groups," the text explains.
The exhibition invites viewers to "imagine Filoli as it could have been with contributions from Black and Latinx individuals — groups noticeably absent from Filoli's census and historical records." So while classical music was apparently more to the taste of Filoli's residents, visitors to the Jazz Age ballroom are asked to imagine instead what it might have been like if performers such as jazz great Duke Ellington had come to play.
Asian Americans did work at the luxurious estate, and the exhibit pays tribute to the likes of Japanese Americans Toichi Domoto, whose nursery supplied plants to the gardens, and butler Teikichi Taga, who were incarcerated and relocated during World War II. Chinese American chef Kee Low, the exhibition notes, worked in the estate's kitchen during the time when the Chinese Exclusion Act limiting Chinese immigration was in effect. Low was renowned for his ability to replicate many international cuisines and while census data states he as born in California, his descendants believe he was born in China.
Women entrepreneurs and leaders in horticulture are celebrated in "Stories of Resilience," including Bella Worn, who by the 1920s was a principal garden advisor and florist for the estate.
"Stories of Resilience" will be on display through May 23. Filoli is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The house is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Quail's Nest Cafe is open for outdoor and limited indoor dining from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Advance tickets and adherence to mask and social distance policies are required. General admission is $25 adults, $22 seniors, $20 students/teachers/military, $15 kids 5-17. More information is available at filoli.org.