Starting March 2020, we embarked on a two-year residency at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). In this role, we curate and produce quarterly film and multimedia programs that center the power of storytelling to amplify community voices. Our partnership aims to compel residents to be become actively engaged in the making of our city.
The opportunity to become artists-in-residence at YBCA marked an evolution in the scale and scope of our programs. As part of our partnership, we entered into an organization and operational knowledge exchange with an established and well-respected arts organization.
Erina Alejo, Reclamation, 2019. Documentation of Sammay Dizon’s performance BLOOD (2019) on 6th Street and Mission Street, San Francisco. Courtesy the artists.
Part of our residency with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ECHO LOCATION: The Cultural Geopolitics in South of Market is an exploration to locate the social and spiritual epicenter of South of Market (SoMa). Through film screenings, theatrical performances, discussions, and interactive art experiences, Echo Location centers the experience of two historically marginalized groups essential to the heritage of SoMa: Filipinx and LGBTQIA+ communities. These two groups have existed side-by-side in the South of Market for decades, forming the neighborhood’s cultural geopolitics: its site-specific political and cultural identity. Their ascendant influence on public policy, space, and services marks the power that these two communities hold, overlapping in their engagement around cultural formation and organized mutual aid over time.
“South of Market, like the Bay Area and California, has been the epicenter of contested territory since the Spanish first arrived in the Yerba Buena. The neighborhood has been remade time after time, through successive waves of induced migration, urban renewal, and displacement. Investments in technology, arts, and culture have frequently positioned SoMa on the leading edge of the city, the region, and the country. Perched at the confluence of east and west, at the edge of both a continent and an ocean, the DNA of SoMa is interlaced with narratives of Manifest Destiny, imperialism, resilience, refuge, and rebirth.“
As part of our 2021 festival, we are proud to present MOURNING IS AN ACT OF LOVE, a free public multimedia installation on the exterior walls and windows of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). The installation is reflective of the ideas and issues we explored within our festival’s programs. Through photography, video, performance, sign painting, poetry, and film, the artists explore the inextricable ties between how we love and how we mourn collectively.
“From altars in our homes to large marble structures in our city centers, memorials and monuments provide a physical space for us to gather and grieve. We mourn because we love. We create intimate and public spaces to remember that which we hold most dear. In this moment though, where connection is so confined to the virtual, we find ourselves struggling to mourn together. Simultaneously, the debates around memorials and monuments—which should stay, which should go, who we are remembering—have made them lightning rods for the deep fractures in our world.”
SFUFF presented YBCA’s first neighborhood commission City is Alive in October 2020, in partnership with Imprint City, and Young Community Developers. City Is Alive is a one-day digital and in-person celebration of the neighborhood’s everyday heroes who have fought for resources and have brought joy to the Bayview.
City Is Alive will present Imprint City’s signature annual event BayviewLIVE, the only festival in San Francisco dedicated to urban arts and culture, in tandem with Bayview murals come to life by the community through the creative power of Crux, an XR movement founded by and centering Black technologists.
As a follow-up, in December 2020, we hosted a watch party and panel discussion “Bayview is Alive”. We screened four new short documentaries on historic murals directed by SFUFF’s very own Susannah Smith and a video, featured above, replaying the one-night “City is Alive” event directed by local filmmaker Shantré Pinkney. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Bayview community leaders Meaghan Mitchell (Executive Director, Imprint City), Nate Watson (Executive Director, Public Glass), Divali Ramkalwan, (Director of Housing and Anti-Displacement, Young Community Developers), Felipe Riley, (longshoreman; son of the late Lenora LeVon), Marissa Bergmann (art teacher, MLK Middle School), and Amita Graham (certified nurse midwife; daughter of the late Santie Huckaby), to discuss initiatives needed to ensure the vitality of the neighborhood that is so important to the city of San Francisco. The discussion will connect Bayview’s historic and current importance to the city’s social, economic and cultural life as a whole.
SF Urban Film Fest and YBCA present Count Us In: Showing Up For the Census Right Now, a virtual conversation about the importance of the Census for San Francisco and the Bay Area. Despite the contentious history of the Census, it remains a critical tool for local and national change. The conversation will unpack how Census participation connects to the urgent matters at hand: the senseless violence and oppression of the Black community and the necessary dismantling of a police force that perpetuates the inequities of our nation. The conversation will also center the power of the Census in supporting political representation, public resource allocation, identifying and counting communities, and how the Census addresses police brutality.
Panelists include community leader Del Seymour, founder of Code Tenderloin, a barrier removal and workforce development non-profit that aims to remove barriers for economic well-being obstructing underserved communities in San Francisco; Tyra Fennell, the CEO of Imprint City, an organization activating underutilized areas within neighborhoods through arts projects that encourage increased foot traffic in support of local merchants; and Robert Clinton, city wide Census project manager for the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA). The panel will be introduced by YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan and moderated by Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco and SF Urban Film Fest Humanities Advisor, Ron Sundstrom.
The SFUFF curated a series of four films, titled A Visual Census,to screen inside the YBCA gallery amongst a myriad of other physical engagements as part of Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America?. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the entire in-person art and the civic experience was reimagined as a digital experience. To this end, the SFUFF is proud to bring you A Visual Census as a multimedia essay. The exhibition turned essay weaves four seemingly disparate short films together to explore the role of stories, images, and emotions as they shape our perception of a population. We posit that a census reduces humanity to reasoned quantitative statistics, neglecting the emotion that underlays and is vital to healthy functioning communities. As you explore, we encourage you to think about how a census could be something more.
The following is an excerpt from A Visual Census :
“Historically, central governments have used a census to determine the feasibility of war, accounting for military-aged males and the total area within their borders. Today censuses determine a community’s representation in government and the amount of socialized resources allocated to them. This is perhaps the most prevalent battleground in modern times, opening up a seemingly academic survey to manipulation, marginalization, partisan gamesmanship, and hostility towards minority groups.”