Today, it is nearly impossible to imagine San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill without its landmark Coit Tower. But when the San Francisco Arts Commission approved the tower project in the early 1930s, public opinion was sharply divided. For 80 years, the city’s arts commission has been at the center of a lively and often stormy debate over taxpayer-funded art. This commission’s pivotal role in shaping public art and design is the subject of a new book, “San Francisco: Arts for the City.” We’ll talk to the author and to the current director of the commission.

Susan Wels, author of "San Francisco: Arts for the City -- Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932-2012"
Tom DeCaigny, director of cultural affairs at the City and County of San Francisco
Catherine Wagner, artist and photographer, whose work will be included in the art commission's new Central Subway Public Art Program

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    During the Great Depression and then WW2 art, libraries were funded because citizens knew these brought communities together and as such had value. How times have changed.

  • disqus_HRhayXRAvG

    does anybody remember the kerfuffle over the breast feeding mermaids in Ghirardelli Square?

  • disqus_HRhayXRAvG

    does the Arts Commission have any influence over other Bay Area institutions’ who own art work? Louise Nevelson’s huge fiberwork “Yellow Legs” in the Embarcadero BART Station is in deplorable condition, and it’s certainly no longer yellow…almost black, and I bet most people don’t even notice it…

  • Reg Trace

    Instead of more public art there should be more expansive art’s education. It’s amazing how uninformed the California arts community is. Art’s exhibiting and granting in SF is either based on what is happening at the two schools and networked through these.
    The arts here is either based on the collective vision of these career academics who are essentially failed artists or on some lazy vision of how art serves the community. Alot of energy is wasted on reaching out to a public that really doesn’t understand what is being presented to them with any depth. Without arts education with some depth there is no audience.

  • Amanda Stupi

    Here’s a pic of the sculpture planned for 4th Street Central Subway Station that was mentioned earlier:

  • Amanda Stupi

    And here’s that Keith Haring sculpture that one listener thinks is the best public art in the Bay Area:

  • yvette rolufs

    Why is there such a strong emphasis on “risk taking” public art that often disregards actual aesthetic appeal to the general public? I am an artist with appreciation for traditional and modern art, but why does risky art seem to disregard beauty?

  • Catherine Petru

    I would like to share an example of incredible new public art in the East Bay: Oakland’s “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity” by Mario Chiodo is a remarkable addition to our city. Slated to be completed by May 31. Please check it out: It’s also a great testament to different municipal sectors coming together for the sake of art and education.

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