6 Vital Contributors To The Arts In San Francisco

Considered one of the epicenters for the abstract expressionist movement, San Francisco has a long history of groundbreaking art. Several organizations exist in the Bay Area to keep this tradition alive by producing exhibitions, funding artist grants, commissioning unique projects, and more. This list, in no particular order, highlights several groups making art a priority in the Golden Gate City.

For #1, we have the San Francisco Art Institute. Founded in 1871, it is one of the nation’s oldest schools of higher education in contemporary art. It aims to provide its students with a rigorous education and preparation for a career through an immersive studio environment and critical engagement with the world.

The Institute offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in disciplines such as photography, film, painting, sculpture, and more. The Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Studio Art is a one-year, full-time course of study; it offers an intensive studio and critique-driven environment for practicing artists preparing to apply for an MFA program.

Next up, at #2, we have the FOR-SITE Foundation, dedicated to the creation, understanding, and presentation of art about place. The foundation’s residency program offers artists space and funding for reflection, production, and exhibition. Residencies take place at a 50-acre site on the edge of the South Yuba River gorge, just outside the historic gold-mining town of Nevada City, California.

FOR-SITE’s education program is meant to enrich the pedagogical approaches and, ultimately, student experiences of graduate-level art classes by offering educators the space and resources to create courses focused on their interests. The foundation provides access to the Nevada City residency site and funding that covers project expenses.

Coming in at #3 is San Francisco Beautiful, a nonprofit that advocates for civic beauty, neighborhood character, and accessible public art for all in the Golden Gate City. The organization believes in building a more green urban environment, and fights for funding to care for local natural spaces; it also aims to convert underutilized land into public amenities.

San Francisco Beautiful's Muni Art project transforms buses into rolling galleries, with pieces commissioned by local artists. The 2020 iteration of the initiative also paired the visual designs with text from local poets, in a collaboration with the Poetry Society of America.

The #4 entry is the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Comprised of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, it makes up the largest public arts institution in the city. The collection at the de Young features pieces from around the world, including a department for textile-based items.

The holdings at the Legion of Honor include European paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, pieces from the Mediterranean basin, and one of the largest repositories of works of art on paper in the nation. The collection includes artists such as Rembrandt, Degas, and Leger.

For #5, we present the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, formed in January of 2008 in memory of rock impresario Bill Graham, who started The Fillmore, a well-known San Francisco music venue which has hosted hundreds of music acts like The Grateful Dead, The Doors, and The Who.

In addition to distributing artist grants, the foundation seeks to support social work, environmental protection, and spiritual and compassionate projects in the community. It organizes and implements education and outreach programs, exhibitions, and other events and projects in areas that carry Bill Graham’s life story forward and keep his spirit of philanthropy alive.

Last but not least, at #6, we have the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts. This nonprofit organizes exhibitions and events that are meant to engage, expand, and challenge themes in the McEvoy family collection. Established in 2017, it aims to create an open, intimate, and welcoming setting for private contemplation and community discussion about art and culture.

Artists in the McEvoy collection include David Hockney, Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, and Garry Winogrand. The foundation's exhibitions and events calendar is produced in collaboration with local, national, and international cultural and arts organizations, such as the Roxie Theater.