Yearly Archives: 2013

The San Francisco Arts Commission and Heyday Bring 80 Years of Cultural Innovation to Life in New Book


San Francisco: Arts for the City—Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932–2012
on Bookshelves April 1, 2013


 SAN FRANCISCO/BERKELEY, February 28, 2013 – On April 1, 2013, history and art buffs alike can journey back in time and discover the events, politics and creativity that shaped San Francisco’s physical and cultural landscape. Commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission and published by the Berkeley-based Heyday, San Francisco: Arts for the City—Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932-2012 is written by New York Times best-selling author Susan Wels (Amelia Earhart: For the Thrill of It). In Arts for the City, Bay Area-based Wels chronicles the role of the Arts Commission as the force behind the city’s evolution into an urban center filled with world-class painting, sculpture, music, dance, literature and community arts programs.

“This book illustrates how vital the arts and design have been to the development of San Francisco into the beloved city that it is today,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “Like our libraries and parks, ensuring broad access to the arts is an essential city service. After reading this book, people will be able to look around our neighborhoods and see how the Arts Commission has had a hand in making this a more beautiful and culturally rich place.”

According to Heyday Founder and Executive Director Malcolm Margolin, “Effective public art is like a fleet of icebreakers, crashing through frozen thoughts, opening channels to the imagination, lessening the distance between people, creating community. This book is a tribute to the courage of those who, often in the face of fierce criticism, pushed beyond easy cliché and political comfort to give San Francisco 80 years of public art that has connected us not only to our deepest yearnings for social justice, beauty, playfulness, and delight but in the end to each other as well.”

The book begins with the building of Coit Tower in 1934 and the years of debate and artistic passion that went into its creation. Coit Tower was one of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s first projects, and it set the tone for the next eighty years of public art in the city. Wels traces the development of the city’s public arts scene from the WPA era through the creative upheaval of the mid-century, the digital boom of the nineties to today. From the Ethnic Dance Festival to slam poetry performances at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Arts for the City tells the story of an urban landscape where diversity, creative energy and political activism are reflected in civic art that is bold and innovative and where citizens take pride in vigorous, often contentious, creativity. Illustrated with rare archival images and photographs by distinguished Bay Area contemporary photographers such as Todd Hiddo, Richard Barnes and Catherine Wagner, and artwork from the city’s Civic Art Collection of over four thousand artworks, the book is a celebration of a uniquely fascinating American city.

Advance praise for San Francisco: Arts for the City
“A spectacular look at the evolution of the city’s art scene—carefully researched and gracefully written.”
—Robert Cherny, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University and author of San Francisco, 1865–1932

“What a vivid lens into the churn of culture that has defined San Francisco again and again in the past eighty years! This book is a crash course in the importance of making room for socially relevant art in a city with dynamic and complex creativity—and a reminder that even the conflicts are worth having, because they highlight the passions that define what our society holds dear.”—John King, urban design critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of Cityscapes

“Deeply researched, this is a ‘must read’ for anyone trying to make sense of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ in our multicultural society.”—William Issel, author of Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth-Century San Francisco

Book Details
San Francisco: Arts for the City—Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932–2012
•    Written by Susan Wels
•    Foreword by President, San Francisco Arts Commission JD Beltran, Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny and PJ Johnston (former Commission president)
•    Introduction by Jeannene Przyblyski, provost of California Institute of the Arts
•    Featured photographers include: Richard Barnes, Ruth Bernhard, John Chiara, Imogen Cunningham, Jim Goldberg, Doug Hall, Todd Hido, Reagan Louie, Mike Mandel, Richard Misrach, Dan Nicoletta, Ira Nowinski, Susan Schwartzenberg, Larry Sultan, Catherine Wagner and Henry Wessel.
•    Hardcover • 9 x 11 • $45.00
•    224 pages with 175 full-color photographs
•    ISBN: 978-1-59714-206-9
•    Art history/Architecture

About the Author
Susan Wels has written seventeen books, including The New York Times best-selling Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner, California Academy of Sciences: Architecture in Harmony with Nature, and Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It. She is an author who specializes in history and an award-winning editor. She lives in San Francisco.

Where to Buy
San Francisco: Arts for the City
is available through bookstores, major book distributors including Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and other distribution centers, or by contacting Heyday directly at (510) 549-3564, ext. 304, via fax at (510) 549-1889, by email at, or by visiting our website at

About the San Francisco Arts Commission
The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) is the City agency that champions the arts in San Francisco. We believe that a creative cultural environment is essential to the City’s well-being. Established by charter in 1932, the SFAC integrates the arts into all aspects of City life. Programs include: Civic Art Collection, Civic Design Review, Community Arts & Education, Cultural Equity Grants, Public Art, SFAC Galleries and Street Artist Licensing. The agency’s core values are committed to the principle that all residents have equal access to arts experiences in all disciplines, that programs are provided comprehensively and evenly throughout the City, and that they are innovative and of the highest quality.

About Heyday
Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution that promotes widespread awareness and celebration of California’s many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. Heyday publishes about 25 new books a year, sponsors over 200 events, and participates vigorously in the cultural life of California. For more information visit

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SFAC Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant to Support its Award-winning WritersCorps Program

San Francisco students at public schools will have the opportunity to work with professional writers and cultivate their voices through creative writing

SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, 2013 — National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) is one of 817 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. The SFAC will receive a $60,000 grant to support the award-winning WritersCorps program, which places professional writers in community settings to teach creative writing to youth.

A joint program of the SFAC and San Francisco Public Library, WritersCorps has helped more than 18,000 youth improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. In 2010, the program was the recipient of a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The NEA Art Works grant enables WritersCorps to provide weekly creative writing workshops in public schools where the majority of students are low income and perform below grade level standards.  WritersCorps anticipates that the program will improve the academic performance and writing skills of 75 percent of the students participating at each location.

“This NEA Art Works grant is a testament to WritersCorps’ transformative work with San Francisco youth who have been able to find their voices, improve their self-esteem and boost their academic performance,” stated Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “In addition to working with schools, WritersCorps hosts free workshops and public programs throughout the city. I encourage everyone with school-aged children to learn more about how to get involved.”

Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable opportunities for the public to engage with the arts.”

In August 2012, the NEA received 1,547 eligible applications for Art Works grants requesting more than $80 million in funding. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. The 817 recommended NEA grants total $26.3 million and span 13 artistic disciplines and fields. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at

Mrs. Diane B. Wilsey to Receive ArtCare Award for Excellence in Civic Arts Patronage

The San Francisco Arts Commission & San Francisco Art Dealers Association will present the award at a private ceremony on May 16 hosted by artMRKT San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, April 22, 2013 –The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and the San Francisco Art Dealers Association (SFADA) will honor Mrs. Diane B. Wilsey with an ArtCare Award for Excellence in Civic Arts Patronage on May 16, 2013. The award recognizes Mrs. Wilsey’s invaluable contributions to the cultural life of San Francisco and her ongoing support of the City’s Civic Art Collection.

“For decades, Dede Wilsey has been a dedicated champion and committed philanthropist for our City’s renowned artistic and cultural life,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “She is most deserving of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Art Dealers Association ArtCare Award, and I thank her for her extraordinary leadership, vision and commitment to raising funds to ensure our City’s art collections and culture centers remain world-class.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor Mrs. Wilsey and to thank her for her leadership in helping us find private support for San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “Having served as an Arts Commissioner for many years, Mrs. Wilsey is intimately familiar with the challenges we face when it comes to caring for such a significant public collection. As a champion of our cause, she has helped raise more than $200,000 to date to restore and maintain the collection.”

The ArtCare Award will be presented at a private reception on Thursday, May 16 from 5-6 p.m., hosted by artMRKT San Francisco in advance of the fair’s Opening Night Preview, at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion. The event provides the perfect backdrop to honor Mrs. Wilsey as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s New Acquisition Fund is the beneficiary of artMRKT’s Opening Night Benefit Preview, which will take place from 6-8 p.m. the same evening, and is a ticketed event open to the public.

Fair attendees will also be able to support ArtCare through artMRKT San Francisco’s MRKTworks Charity Auction. Available online 2 weeks prior to the fair and on the exhibit floor during fair hours, the auction will offer multiple works donated by participating artMRKT San Francisco galleries, each one earmarked to benefit a local Bay Area non-profit, including ArtCare. Patrons may also purchase limited edition prints of Coit Tower’s WPA-era murals at the SFADA booth, with proceeds going towards SFAC/ArtCare’s restoration of the murals next year.

About ArtCare
In 2010 the SFAC and SFADA partnered to form ArtCare, a program dedicated to raising funds for the conservation and maintenance of San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection. Comprised of over 4,000 objects and valued in excess of $93 million, the Civic Art Collection helps define San Francisco as an important cultural destination. ArtCare provides a vehicle for the private sector to become engaged in preserving the City’s public monuments and artworks so that future generations will enjoy these works for many years to come. To donate to ArtCare, visit

For more information about artMRKT San Francisco please visit:

Contact: Kate Patterson, 415-252-4638 or

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IRON MOM: Not Just a Baby Mama

Performance by Leticia Hernández and WritersCorps Gives Teen Mothers a Platform

SAN FRANCISCO, April 12, 2013 ― “Public comment and reaction to pregnant bodies is ripe for literary exploration,” says poet Leticia Hernández, the lead artist behind Iron Mom: Not Just a Baby Mama, an evening of art, poetry and performance at Brava Theater on May 14 at 6 p.m. presented by WritersCorps. Hernández and her collaborators, WritersCorps teaching artist Minna Dubin and well-known local artist Ana Teresa Fernández, worked with young mothers from Hilltop School to create a multi-media experience that explores the realities of motherhood.

According to Hernández, “As women of color, we are not supposed to take up too much space, and we are often demonized for the very trait we are often associated with, giving birth. Through this production, we can begin to expand the understanding of what it means to be mothers and dismantle expectations and perceptions of our bodies, and ourselves.”

The Creative Work Fund, which awards grants to artists and organizations to create new artistic works through collaboration, supported Hernández’s visits to Hilltop, where writer Dubin has taught for the last three years through WritersCorps. Students at Hilltop are proud to have created a collection of poetry for performance about pregnancy and motherhood as a project between themselves as young women of color and Hernández, a Latina mother in her late 30s. Iron Mom will include an exhibition of photography and other artwork by Fernández.

The Creative Work Fund, launched in 1994, is a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund that is supported by generous grants from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation.

Media contact:
Kate Patterson, San Francisco Arts Commission, 415-252-4638,

WritersCorps Students to Take Over Main Library

San Francisco Public Library & WritersCorps Present an Installation of Poetry on the Main Library Stairs & a Literary Carnival for Teens

SAN FRANCISCOMain_Library Stairs, April 9, 2013 ― In May, the San Francisco Main Public Library will be filled from top to bottom with poetry written by students in the award-winning WritersCorps program. The San Francisco Public Library and WritersCorps announce Step to Poetry, a colorful literary art installation on the main staircase of the Main Library on view from May 10 through the end of the month and WordStorm, a mini art festival taking place after school from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on May 21.

Written by WritersCorps students, ages 12 to 19, who attend an afterschool workshop at the Main Library, Step to Poetry consists of nine brief poems about popular culture. WritersCorps teaching artist Minna Dubin says she asked the students to write on popular culture because she was interested in dispelling the notions of poetry being “high-brow” and popular culture as being “low brow.” According to Dubin, “Just because popular culture is seen as frivolous and “low brow” doesn’t mean that teens don’t have interesting perspectives and are able to write social critique in a thoughtful, fresh, and often hilarious way…Because the library is such a special place in San Francisco, where people of all different walks of life are in the same space, it seemed appropriate for such a similar merging of art, poetry, and popular culture”

A launch event for the Step to Poetry installation will take place on Friday, May 17 at 6 p.m. and will feature a stair crawl from the first to fifth floors with WritersCorps youth performing their poems along the way. During the event, attendees can pick up free postcards with the poems. Space is limited and an RSVP to the event is required as the event takes place after library hours.

WritersCorps’s annual WordStorm event will feature hands-on activities and an open mic where youth will read from newly-published books. During the school year, WritersCorps worked at 14 sites throughout San Francisco, and published eight books and a postcard series in addition to the Step to Poetry installation.

One of the new books, Words Within the Walls, is a journal for incarcerated youth conceived by WritersCorps teaching artist Anhvu Buchanan. “One thing that I have noticed from my years at the Juvenile Justice Center is the increasing number of students who ask me if I can bring them a yellow legal pad to write in during their free time,” Buchanan said. “But students often struggle with writers block. They have the paper in front of them but need that quick spark of inspiration.” The journal will include prompts, topics, and poems by other students to help spark their creativity.

Altogether, the publications feature 473 San Francisco youth who participated in the 2012-13 program. WritersCorps serves approximately 900 youth each year. The writers, who range in age from 10 to 22, give readers a glimpse into the world of young people today. Through poetry, prose and illustration, they explore the complexities of childhood and adolescence, and express their feelings about the issues that matter most to them: family, identity, love, loss, violence and war, and their local and international communities.

Media contacts:
Kate Patterson, San Francisco Arts Commission, 415-252-4638,
Michelle Jeffers, San Francisco Public Library, 415-557-4282,

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PUBLIC ART: Sculpture by Renowned Artist Roxy Paine Coming to San Francisco

Media Contact:
Kate Patterson, San Francisco Arts Commission

San Francisco Arts Commission approves proposal for sculpture to be located in a new public plaza in Yerba Buena/Moscone Center

Proposal by Roxy Paine.

SAN FRANCISCO, April 2, 2013 – Yesterday, the San Francisco Arts Commission voted to approve a new $1.5 million public artwork by renowned sculptor Roxy Paine, who is known widely for his large-scale stainless steel “dendroid” tree-like sculptures. Paine’s proposed sculpture will be located in a public plaza in front of the Central Subway Yerba Buena/Moscone Station at 4th and Clementina streets. The 110-foot-tall curvilinear sculpture will taper from a diameter of 48 inches at the base to ¼ inch at the peak. Titled Node, the sculpture is described by the artist as a growth that emerges from a confluence of underground manmade systems that are the lifeline for the city. According to Paine, the sculpture is “an elegant line connecting earth to sky, people to underground systems and sculpture to city.”

“For over forty years, the San Francisco Arts Commission’s public art program has ensured that the city’s residents and visitors have free access to artwork by some of the leading contemporary artists of the day,” stated Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny (via garcia). “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to add such a dynamic work by an artist of Roxy Paine’s stature to the Civic Art Collection. Node will be a wonderful complement and a beacon for this culturally rich neighborhood.”

“This is a fantastic site and I am thrilled to be a part of the San Francisco city landscape,” stated Paine.

Node will be installed to coincide with the opening of the Central Subway in 2019. Local funding was provided through a Prop K grant from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.