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The Lab
Redstone Building (San Francisco).jpg
Established 1984
Location 2948 16th Street San Francisco, California USA

The Lab, located in San Francisco's historic Redstone Building, is a not-for-profit arts organization and performance space founded in 1984.

The Lab "supports interdisciplinary artists in the development and exhibition of new visual, media, literary, and performing art, with a focus on emerging and established experimental artists whose work crosses material, cultural and presentational boundaries and encourages new artistic and social dialogue between artists and audiences."[1]

The Lab hosts 2 visual and 2 performing artist residencies per year in their main space, commingled with a full year of programming including exhibitions, performances, workshops and panels.[2]

Early history[edit]

The Lab was founded as Co-Lab in 1984 by a group of art students from the Center for Interdisciplinary and Experimental Arts (CEIA, now InterArts) at San Francisco State University. Founding members included Alan Millar, Laura Brun, Nomi Seidman, John DiStefano, and Tammy Logan, all of whom initially inhabited the space as an artist collective. Ever since The Lab has been a project of, Inc., a non-profit indedependant arts organization founded by Alan Millar in 1983. In 1985, Laura, Tammy and John joined the board of director's ofüp, Inc.

The Lab's original space was in a two-story commercial building in the San Francisco|Western Addition of San Francisco at 1805 and 1807 Divisadero Street. The downstairs space had been a hippy-haunt and junk-shop for the two decades prior and the tenant's lease was due to expire. Laura helped obtain the lease with the intention of establishing a collaborative interdisciplinary artist's organization with everyone sharing the work effort. The organization's inaugural fund-raiser featured performances by Minimal Man and following that, performances by Husker Du, Rhythm and Noise, and dozens of others helped raise operating funds.

The upstairs performance space at 1805 was a 1200 sq ft hall with hardwood floors, white walls, and movable seats and risers. By summer 1985, under the direction of Millar, the organization had improved the theatre space with sound and lighting improvements, built out a control booth, and painted the space as a black box theater. By late 1985 The Lab had become a recognized and sought-after venue by the city's experimental music and performance community. Alan Millar's dedication to experimental theatre/performance art, visual arts and music helped bring the initial vision of The Lab to fruition, and he led The Lab to great success in the following years.

In 1985, Alan Millar, Dana Fair and Ramon Vanden Brulle carved a modest gallery space out of the former downstairs junk shop. A solo show by San Francisco painter Dana Fair was the first visual arts exhibition in the new space. Ramon Vanden Brulle curated the follow-up exhibition, a group show that included work by several San Francisco artists, including Mark Durant.

In 1986 Alan Millar became the organization's first Managing Director, by then devoting all the energies of, Inc. to the management, funding and operations of The Lab. In 1987 the organization was stable enough to actually pay a salary for the position and Mr. Millar became the organization's first full-time employee and first Executive Director.

From 1986-90 the organization flourished. During this time, the exhibitions program, in an effort to have a greater impact on an emerging artist's career, moved away from large group shows organized by a single curator to an artist's committee selecting emerging local artists for solo and two-person exhibitions. including Rex Ray, Didi Dunphy, Paco Prieto/Jeff Sands, Victor Mario Zaballa, Dawn Fryling, and many other artists, had important solo exhibitions that helped launch their careers. After attending the opening of Dawn Fryling's exhibition at The Lab, new SF MOMA curator John Lane invited Ms. Fryling as the first solo artist in SF MOMA's new artists series. Glen Helfand, Patti Davidson and Scott MacLeod were early members of the visual arts selection committee.

In 1989, Laura Brun returned to the Lab after completing her degree in interdisciplinary arts during a college hiatus to become The Lab's interim Managing Director while Executive Director Alan Millar was in Russia facilitating the Lab's Russian/American artist exchange project. After that project was completed with great success, Alan Millar left the Lab in co-founder Brun's hands, when she became Executive Director of The Lab. During the years between 1990 and 2004 as Executive Director and then Artistic Director, Brun facilitated the presentation of the works of visual, performance, literary and interdisclipary artists such as Barry McGee, Rigo 94, Orlan, Victor Mario Zaballa, Rex Ray, Nao Bustamante,Gillermo Gomez-Pena, Bruce Connor, Dennis Cooper, Dodie Bellamy, Minnette Lehmann, Charles Gute, Karen Finley, Peter Edlund, Dorothy Allison, Kevin Killian, Sapphire, Lise Swenson, Chris Komater, Los Cybrids, Rebecca Bollinger, Carla Harryman, Carl Stone, Kathleen Rogers, Ansuman Biswas, The Billboard Liberation Front, Linda Montano, Survival Research Laboratories, and many others, presenting an average of 200 artists a year in exhibitions, live performances, literary readings, poet's theater events, installation art, film, video, sound art and experimental music events, lectures, artist forums, and other interdisplinary events featuring more than 200 artists a year until her departure in 2004.

Russian Arts Exchange[edit]

In 1989, at the suggestion of John High, The Lab's literary curator, The Lab launched an impressive series of cultural events with the U.S.S.R. during the age of glasnost and perestroika, beginning with the invitation and presentation of four young poets from Moscow to the United States for a series of readings in Connecticut, New York City, San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles. As a follow up to that series of events, The Lab collaborated with San Francisco artists and presenters to bring the work of over 100 performing, visual, literary, film and video artists to the U.S.S.R. for a month-long festival in 1990. The Lab then brought the work of over 40 Russian artists working in diverse media to the sister festival in San Francisco in 1991. These festivals were co-sponsored locally by Artists' Television Access, Cinemateque, Intersection for the Arts, Southern Exposure, SF Camerawork and others.

The Mural Project[edit]

In early 1996 Executive Director Laura Brun managed and oversaw the relocation of The Lab from its previous location on Divisadero Street in the Western Addition of San Francisco to the Mission District of San Francisco. The relocation to the historic Redstone building was accompanied by an opening project by The Lab in collaboration with visual artist Aaron Noble and the nearby Clarion Alley Mural Project, which resulted in historic murals still visible in the lobby of the Redstone Building, a building which was then and still is occupied by a few dozen worthy nonprofit organizations. The Lab, and Aaron Noble representing the Clarion Alley Mural Project collaborated extensively with all of the building's occupants to agree on the subject matter of the murals, which was originally called the San Francisco Labor Temple, the Labor Council and the city's unions. The building was given landmark status by the city of San Francisco in 2004. Five of the murals represented the labor history, with six other murals covering the current non-profit occupants. The murals were dedicated in person upon completion by then Mayor Willie Brown, who had a long history with the building. The separate mural entrance to The Lab was created by seminal artist Scott Williams. In Fall 1996, Elisabeth Beaird became the Administrative Director and Laura Brun, the Artistic Director.

Past performances and exhibitions[edit]

Artists who have been presented or exhibited at The Lab include Nao Bustamante, Rebeca Bollinger, Bruce Conner, Beth Custer, Paul DeMarinis, Anthony Discenza, Didi Dunphy, Elbows Akimbo, Felipe Dulzaides, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Beth Lisick, Alan Millar, Trevor Paglen, Amy Rathbone, Rex Ray, James Stark, Lise Swenson, and many more[3]


  1. ^ "Lab Website". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  2. ^ "the Lab website". Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  3. ^ "The Lab Archive". Retrieved 2008-01-26. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°45′54″N 122°25′08″W / 37.765°N 122.419°W / 37.765; -122.419