Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco’s (BGCSF) Citywide Creative Arts Program provides a path for youth from marginalized communities to access high-quality art instruction in an environment where they can feel heard, valued, loved and understood. In recognition of the important role creative arts play in the lives of youth, BGCSF recently partnered with SF Pride and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) to celebrate the 49th annual San Francisco Pride Parade through a special art exhibit at YBCA. Focused on themes of acceptance and inclusivity, the exhibit encouraged youth expression through the use of SF Pride’s iconic rainbow flag.
At the exhibit’s opening reception, hosted by YBCA, Mayor London Breed and District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman spoke on the exhibit’s important message and provided a Certificate of Honor to BGCSF for our outstanding Citywide Arts Program. BGCSF youth also participated in the reception, with eight-year Tenderloin Clubhouse member Paulina, 14, speaking before the captivated crowd about the importance of diversity and the lessons that can be learned through artistic expression. Clubhouse youth presented two beautiful dance performances showcasing our partnership with the San Francisco Ballet, which provides BGCSF members with regular exposure to professional dance courses. Willie Mays Clubhouse youth presented an African dance called “Kuku” that they learned through an artist in residence program at the Club, and Don Fisher Clubhouse youth performed a piece they helped choreograph during our weeklong summer dance camp hosted by SF Ballet. In addition, Don Fisher Clubhouse member Isabel, 15, sang an original composition she wrote with assistance from our partners at Notes for Notes. Notes for Notes is a national nonprofit that provides professional music lessons to Club youth at studios in the Don Fisher and Excelsior Clubhouses.
Speaking with Citywide Director of Creative Arts Patricia Zamora about the exhibit, she conveyed how much the experience meant to Club participants. “The opportunity for youth to partner with YBCA and SF Pride was huge,” Patricia said. “To see their work exhibited with these legacy institutions in the City and have the Mayor come out and hear what they had to say was an important opportunity our kids wouldn’t ordinarily have. San Francisco is a legendary home to the arts, and as our City’s landscape changes we can’t forget the vital lessons contained in young people’s artistic expression. The perspective they have is critical to building a better world.”
The idea for the exhibit came about from SF Pride’s Executive Director, George F. Ridgely, Jr. who decided to do something with the decommissioned SF Pride flags his organization had in storage. These flags fly on Market Street from Embarcadero to Castro, and once they show signs of wear they are decommissioned. Rather than letting them sit in storage, SF Pride decided to revitalize them through this colorful art exhibit.
With over 1,900 youth accessing BGCSF each day, the Club is uniquely positioned to introduce creative arts to youth and serve as a gateway for emerging artists in communities that are often forgotten. To complete the Identity & Pride exhibit, BGCSF youth artists worked with our dedicated Clubhouse Art Directors, a team of professional artists who are actively involved in the San Francisco arts community. With contributions from 120 youth from the Don Fisher, Tenderloin, Willie Mays, Mission, Excelsior, and Columbia Park Clubhouses, the show was comprised of 36 artworks. The pieces are meant to ask important questions about how to express pride in the person you are and find confidence in your identity. On the experience of creating artwork for a professional exhibit, six-year Tenderloin Clubhouse member Noemy, age 12, said, “Art is a very important part of me. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to be me.”
When asked what Club youth learned from the exhibit, Patricia cited the importance of youth voice in solving problems that affect society. “Through this exhibit,” Patricia began, “our youth learned about inclusion, diversity, and the importance of embracing each other so we can understand the common ground we all share and how to solve our problems together. Art is a major part of the answer to the problems we face in life, and facilitating space for youth to learn how to express themselves in this way is very important.”
Every day our talented Art Directors help Club youth gain technical skills, discover confidence and self-esteem, and become engaged citizens within their community. For more information about the high-quality creative arts opportunities youth can access at the Club, including visual arts, literary arts, music, and performing arts, visit our Citywide Creative Arts page.
Below are select photos from the exhibit’s opening reception. To see additional photos, check out our Flickr album from the event and this YouTube video commemorating the event. For additional coverage of the event, check out these stories from the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner. To ensure you don’t miss out on our next big event, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.