SFMOMA Rooftop Image

December 01 2010

Museums of San Francisco, CA: A Magical Mood in a Special Place

A museum, no matter how intricately planned its exhibits or how beautiful its architecture, can only go so far as reaches its scope; a museum is only a building until it has people inside it, taking advantage of everything it has to offer. A museum can become a part of the city it calls its home or simply exist within it, never integrating with everything else that the city has to offer its citizens.

Luckily, the citizens of San Francisco have nothing to worry about.

San Francisco is home to several museums, each devoted to a different theme or art form, but two in particular, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and theSFMOMA, have discovered unique ways to bring art to the people on a daily basis, to integrate their collections with their surroundings.

The FAMSF, home to both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor, offers programs and exhibitions specifically designed to involve locals and visitors in the day-to-day happenings of the museum. The artist-in-residence program, for example, brings local artists and local art lovers together in a program that allows people not only to meet and interact with the artist but to work and create with him or her as well.

January’s artist-in-residence, Jennifer Ewig, is a muralist and teacher whose exhibit, “Spirit Boats” will be hosted in the Kimball Gallery. Visitors are invited and encouraged to create their own spirit boats as a reflection of the exhibit and of their own identities.

Another unique program at the de Young museum are the “Cultural Encounters at the de Young” programs, a series of events that take place on Friday evenings in January and February that offer interdisciplinary arts programs as well as a special dinner menu at the museum’s café. These evening programs offer something different to locals who may not have the time to visit the museum during its normal opening hours. On Friday evenings, after the work week is done, these interdisciplinary programs offer an inventive way for San Franciscans to become a part of the local art scene and to claim it as their own… for free.

Upcoming Friday night programs at the de Young include live jazz music and Tableaux vivants—actors impersonating such artists as Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, painting the masters’ masterpieces before your eyes.

FAMSF also offers several programs geared towards local San Francisco children and students: weekly art camps during the summers and after school programs during the year allow children the free expression and exploration that artistic creation can bring, and the Museum Ambassador program brings high school students from low income backgrounds to the museum so that they can learn and, in turn, share with their communities.

“FAMSF is committed to contributing to the economy and culture of San Francisco,” -says Robin Wander, a FAMSF representative. The FAMSF is not the only museum bringing the art to the people in the Bay Area; the SFMOMA, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, finds other unique ways to bring its exhibitions to the residents of its home city and, more specifically, to the Yerba Buena arts district where it is located. It works together with surrounding businesses, restaurants and other museums in the neighborhood to bring people to the area and help them get to know the art scene located here. In honor of its anniversary, the SFMOMA is also presenting SECA awards and exhibitions for local artists, yet another way for locals to become more involved with the art scene here. The museum offers free entrance every first Tuesday of the month as well as Free Family Days, when child-friendly activities are planned to expose children to art and museums.

One place where SFMOMA visitors can truly feel at home is the Rooftop Garden. A beautiful, thoroughly modern space, the sculpture garden, which was added to the museum in 2008, provides not only a location for several well-known works and recent acquisitions, but also a space for visitors to sit enjoy the changing light in the indoor and outdoor spaces of the garden, which was specifically built with these eventual natural changes in mood and atmosphere in mind.

Another SFMOMA space that allows for reflection is the Haas Atrium, which is free to the public and offers free WiFi access; it is the perfect place for local artists, writers and students to come work and find inspiration, as well as for others looking for something different from their local coffee shop. Art in the Atrium exhibitions are specifically chosen for this space, like Kerry James Marshall‘s murals of Mount Vernon and Monticello, the estates of former US presidents George Washingtonand Thomas Jefferson, which are currently being shown. These large-scale paintings allow visitors to the Atrium to connect with other parts of their country without ever leaving their home city. In this way, the SFMOMA, like the FAMSF, allows San Francisco residents to take advantage of the art and culture that is so often targeted to visitors, aspects of their city that they might have overlooked without the initiatives of these two special places.

Emily Monaco -Travel Writer

© Copy Right Protected Work. 12-01-2010

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