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Remixing San Francisco: An Interview with Director of "Block by Block," Sean San José

Campo Santo, de Young Artist Fellow and award-winning resident theater company of Intersection for the Arts premieres Block by Block: The Pura Principle, its newest theatrical work, in the de Young's Koret Auditorium on November 17, 18, and 19. The performance is based on recent short stories and original writings by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz.

Block by Block brings back to the stage Díaz’s wild and beautiful voice. Sean San José, theater director for Campo Santo, has adapted Diaz’s writings to life in our city, bringing a multimedia San Francisco block party to the de Young.

Audiences will be taken on a journey through San Francisco, block by block. Actors, dancers, and musicians interpret six neighborhoods–downtown, the Fillmore, the Excelsior, Hunters Point, the Mission, and the Castro–in vignettes reflecting the unique rituals found in each of these culturally rich neighborhoods. Experience DJ battles with Felonious; dance-offs with Nicole Klaymoon and the Embodiment Project; the murals of the Mission with projected visuals created by acclaimed artists Favianna Rodriguez, Evan Bissell, and Ricardo Richey; the urban life and writings of Junot Díaz with the Campo Santo Street Team and DJ Wonway; and Susie Lund, who transports you with Subway Strutting to Carnaval.

Watch a preview here.

How did we arrive at this place? We spoke with director Sean San José to take a deeper look at the inspiration and creative process behind Block by Block.

Sean San  Jose

Photo by Adrian Arias

To Honor the Dead While Serving the Living

On Armistice Day in 1924, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor opened its doors to the public. Dedicated to the 3,600 California soldiers, sailors and marines who gave their lives during World War I, the Legion of Honor pledged to “honor the dead while serving the living.”

Today, we not only celebrate the sacrifices of countless servicemen and women, but also the 87th birthday of the Legion of Honor Museum. To commemorate this meaningful day, we hope you enjoy this selection of related artwork.

The de Young Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony

Both the de Young and the San Francisco Symphony have been fixtures on the San Francisco arts and culture scene for over a century, the de Young originating from the 1894 Midwinter Fair and the Symphony celebrating an auspicious 100th anniversary this year. Our two institutions have a history of collaboration and cooperation, the most notable of which is the loan of the Fine Arts Museums’ priceless 18th-century Guarnerius violin—a bequest of famed musician Jascha Heifetz—to the symphony, where it is played by concertmaster Alexander Barantschik during performances at Davies Symphony Hall and the Legion of Honor’s Florence Gould Theater.

William Michael Harnett (American, 1848–1892). The Old Violin, ca. 1886. Lithograph on plate glass (reverse glass print). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Brotherton in memory of Harry Packard. 2001.40

Introducing November Artist-in-Residence John Wehrle

November artist-in-residence John Wehrle has been creating really big art since 1975. He specializes in site-specific public artworks, and his projects include mural-size paintings for interior and exterior walls as well as elaborate architectural installations that integrate text, painting, ceramic tile, and relief sculpture. Wehrle is working in the Kimball Education Gallery through November 25.

FRAME|WORK: Calavera de Don Folias y el Negrito by Jose Guadalupe Posada

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. Today we honor the culture of Día de los Muertos with a print from master Mexican graphic artist José Guadalupe Posada. This artwork is currently not on display, so we hope you enjoy this exclusive virtiual viewing.

Will Work for Art: Natasa Morovic

"Will Work for Art" takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums work. This week we take you into the intriguing world of frame conservation to meet Natasa Morovic (imagine an “h” after the “s” in her first name, and after the “c” in her last name, and you get the right pronunciation). Natasa is the associate frames conservator working in Paintings Conservation. Originally from Slovenia, she has worked with the Museums for fourteen years!

Masters of Masquerade

As we simultaneously prepare for Halloween and the opening weekend of Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power from the Kunsthisorisches Museum, Vienna (which opens tomorrow, October 29), what better topic to kick off the festivities than a post about the sumptuous tradition of masquerade?

Artist-in-Residence Glenda Joyce Hape Harvests Flax in Golden Gate Park

One of the many goals of the Artist-in-Residence program at the de Young Museum is to explore connections between the artists and the surrounding park environment. These connections enrich our museum visitors' experience through the guest artists' explorations and interpretations. Visiting artists from around the globe offer a unique experience to learn about natural materials found right here in Golden Gate Park.

Māori artist Glenda Hape uses flax to weave and create contemporary art. There are more than 7,500 exotic plant species surrounding the de Young in Golden Gate Park, including several types of ornamental flax. The species of flax Glenda needed to continue her weaving projects in the Kimball Gallery is called Phormium tenax, also known as New Zealand flax (or harakeke in the Māori language). Last week, Glenda explained how difficult it is to harvest the materials she uses in her artistic practice, but with the assistance of Andy Stone, gardner and park supervisor for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks, Glenda's harvesting trip around Stowe Lake was bountiful and she found just the right flax (harakeke).

Fan shaped flax bush

Finding Hidden Treasures at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show

The annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show (SFFAS) has longstanding ties with the Fine Arts Museums, sharing benefactors, lenders, board members, and volunteers, including special project curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Maria Santangelo. For the past several years, Santangelo has donated her curatorial capabilities to the exhibition that serves as the centerpiece of the fair.

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