Jo Hanson

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Jo Hanson
Born(1918-08-01)August 1, 1918
DiedMarch 13, 2007(2007-03-13) (aged 88)
Resting placeBolinas, CA
Known forenvironmental art

Jo Hanson (1918–2007) was an environmental artist and activist based in San Francisco.


Jo Hanson was born on August 1, 1918 in Carbondale, Illinois.[1] She moved to California in 1955, first living in Marin County, before settling in San Francisco in the early 1970s where she purchased and restored Nightingale House, located on Buchanan Street to landmark status.[2][3] Hanson obtained a Master of Education from the University of Illinois and a Master of Fine Arts from San Francisco State University.

Hanson died at her home, of cancer, on March 13, 2007.[1]


As an extension of her work on the Nightingale House, Hanson set out to address the litter on her street. Her commitment to sweeping the sidewalk outside her home evolved into a public art project and citywide initiative against littering. Hanson's work was known for incorporating the detritus she collected while sweeping. She analyzed and classified what she found as a way of documenting daily life in her district and felt that it reflected a disconnect between the consumption and production of goods and the natural world.[4][5]

For six years during the 1980s Hanson was a vocal member of the San Francisco Arts Commission pushing for the inclusion of underrepresented artists of in the city's art collections, specifically women and people of colour. She also played a key role in saving the murals of Coit Tower and the restoration of the murals at Golden Gate Park's Beach Chalet.[1][2]

In 1990 Hanson conceived of and initiated the establishment of the Artist in Residence Program at Recology. The residency assists artists who use discarded materials in their art and raises public awareness about recycling.[3][6] Its launch coincided with the introduction of curbside recycling in San Francisco due to state legislation passed in 1989. To date more than 100 artists have participated in the program including Estelle Akamine, Jim Growden, Susan Leibovitz Steinman and William Wareham. Recology has also influenced the development of similar programs such in Philadelphia and Portland.[7]


In 1997 Hanson was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Northern California Women's Caucus for Art.[8]


One of Hanson's best known works was Crab Orchard Cemetery, a recreation of her ancestral cemetery in Illinois, which opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1974.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Baker, Jo (March 21, 2007). "Jo Hanson -- green activism inspired artwork and life". SFGate. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Steinman, Susan Leibovitz. "JO HANSON: Pioneering Environmental Artist Dies in San Francisco". Women Environmental Artists Directory. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Jo Hanson". Recology. 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  4. ^ "Biography Jo Hanson". Women Artists of the American West. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
  5. ^ Ponte, Alessandra (2006). "Garbage Art and Garbage Housing". Log. 8: 99–111. JSTOR 41765594.
  6. ^ a b Zanardi, Bonny (April 28, 2015). "Peninsula museum revisits 'Crab Orchard Cemetery". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
  7. ^ Spain, Sharon. "Nexus for art & environmental activism: Recology S.F. artist residency Program". WEAD. Women Environmental Artist Director. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  8. ^ "WCA Lifetime Achievement Awardees from Northern California". Northern California Women's Caucus for Art. 2015. Retrieved April 28, 2015.

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