After more than four decades, our history is still in the making.
With a $50 grant for clay, our experiential arts program began over 40 years ago in a single elementary school. We’re so delighted and proud that since that day in 1965 we’ve touched the lives of more than 200,000 elementary and middle school children — over 7,500 a year now — with energetic arts education in more than two dozen public schools.
As for high school students from all over the city? Rich and engaging experiences attract them as interns who share their enormous teen spirit as they learn, teach, and volunteer, working with Artists-in-Residence mentors.
Students today participate in classes in many artistic disciplines. In the performing arts, they may study dance technique and composition, vocal music and musical theater, percussion, circus arts and drama. In the visual arts, they explore drawing and painting, sculpture, collage, mural work, ceramics, cartooning and fashion design. Our kids love and embrace it all!
Our students’ art has been displayed at SFMOMA, the deYoung and at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Their performances have been cheered by sold-out audiences at the War Memorial Opera House (with guest artists Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg), The Palace of Fine Arts, the Oakland Paramount and the Eureka Theatre. Our kids have traveled to San Jose, where they toured struggling migrant farm workers’ local landmarks, and met members of the César Chávez family before performing a musical about this leader’s life at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater.
What’s now known as the San Francisco Arts Education Project was founded in 1965 by Ruth Asawa, a renowned sculptor. It was first called the Alvarado Arts Workshop, bringing creative arts experiences directly to San Francisco’s Alvarado Elementary School.
In 1986 Emily Keeler became SFArtsED’s Artistic Director. She directed our first show, The Event of the Year, at the Opera House and 16 subsequent Events. She also brought Artist Residencies at elementary schools back into our performance art repertoire.
Ruth Asawa’s inventive idea is as relevant now as it was more than four decades ago. The original three-part mission?
- Teach students new skills — from cognitive development to physical dexterity — as original performance and visual artwork is created
- Infuse public education with arts experiences through participatory learning
- Make, at every economic level, the arts accessible to school age San Francisco kids.