SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- 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