Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Novellus Theater

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center in San Francisco, California, United States. Located in Yerba Buena Gardens, YBCA features visual art, performance, and film/video that celebrates local, national, and international artists and the Bay Area's diverse communities. YBCA programs year-round in two landmark buildings—the Galleries and Forum by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki and Theater by American architect James Stewart Polshek and Todd Schliemann. Betti-Sue Hertz served as Curator from 2008 through 2015.[1]

History and controversy[edit]

The idea of building a conference center, under the name Yerba Buena Center, in downtown San Francisco was a further development of the idea stemming from the late 1950s to redevelop the city center, particularly the industrial areas that were gradually falling into disuse. At the heart of the proposal was the vision of the city transforming from an industrial to a tourist-conventioneering city. The idea of the Yerba Buena Center itself first emerged in the early 1960s.[2] At that time there was a concern about how development could occur in the downtown area. The South of Market area offered hundreds of acres of flat land at low land prices and to the corporate eye, expendable people and businesses. Various corporate committees were founded to lobby for the redevelopment, which would also include high-rise office buildings, a vast parking garage, and a sports center. At the center of operations was the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) first headed by Joseph Alioto, who would go on to become mayor of the city in 1968. The area of the development was regarded as a blighted area of the city, even referred to by local media, local business and city officials as 'skid row'. However, the developers did not figure on the persistence of the local community, the vast majority of which were aged, male, ex-industrial workers who lived alone in the many cheap hotels in the area. Together the latter formed the Tenants and Owners in Opposition to Redevelopment (TOOR). Their demand was to be rehoused in the area in low-rent housing. The case went to court where the judge, Stan Weigel, judged in favor of TOOR.[3] The working-class community were accused of delaying the Yerba Buena project, yet the SFRA had no interest in fulfilling the court order and used both intimidation to remove the community while playing a waiting game on the start of even planning any low-cost housing knowing the aged community were gradually dying off. Things only really changed with the election of a new city mayor, George Moscone, in 1976, when the entire project was re-reviewed and cut back in its ambitions, leading to the construction of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts embraces many musical genres and styles. Not only does the center provide a stage for Bay Area instrumental and vocal musicians and ensembles, it also offers a taste of stimulating musical practices from all over the world. Along with solo performances, YBCA also has invited various musical projects to use its facilities, such as the tribute to composer Elliott Carter in 2008[4] and the Long Now Foundation in 2010.[5] The connection between these various musical practices is the intent for social change through education provided by another culture or by creating a community around a purpose. Although month to month there are not many purely musical performances, music is often incorporated with other performing arts, such as dance or theater.

Fine arts[edit]

In addition to being a venue for musical performances, YBCA also acts as a non-collecting museum. The various art exhibits YBCA offers emphasize its celebration of both local and world art. For example, in 2008 the art group Royal Art Lodge presented their psychologically surrealist works, challenging the viewer using simple drawings and more pronounced techniques like cutups. YBCA not only holds specific art shows and exhibits, but also is carefully aided by various artists in creating particular atmospheres for its spaces. For instance, Instant Coffee, another artist group, designed a lounge room within YBCA for visitors to simply sit and listen to records with a chic atmosphere, while Space 1026 created YBCA's mural, a showcase of social and physical dimensions.[6] The YBCA museum currently has two semi-permanent fine arts exhibitions that will stand until the end of 2017. These exhibitions include Tanis Bruguera's "Talking to Power" and Damon Rich and Jae Shin's "Space Brainz." [7]


Dance at YBCA includes various forms from many various cultures. In October 2008, Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak presented their production of "Shaker" by combining ballet, modern dance, mime, and acrobatic techniques.[8] In addition to more collaborative art forms, YBCA also presents more classical forms of dance, such as ballet. Alonzo King held his company LINES Ballet at YBCA in November 2004, which centered on African American field recordings with various forms of music, narrative, and film playing in the background.[9]


YBCA features all types of cinematic endeavors, including documentaries on a variety of subjects, art-house movies and foreign films. For instance, during the 2009 summer season, it showed documentaries dealing with female masochists (Graphic Sexual Horror), and industrial design (Objectified) while also presenting obscure movie topics, such as its show Winning Isn't Everything: A Tribute to 1970's Sports Film which included the movie The Cheerleaders.[10]

Apple launches[edit]

The center has been the site for product launches by Apple Inc., including iPods and the iPad.[11]


  1. ^ "Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Announces the Appointment of Betti-Sue Hertz as Director of Visual Arts". Arts Daily. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  2. ^ Chester Hartman, City for Sale. The transformation of San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002, p.8. The details of the present paragraph are taken from Hartman's book.
  3. ^ "Stanley Weigel". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  4. ^ Serinus, Jason Victor. "Emerging from Sloth in San Francisco." American Record Guide, Mar/Apr 2009, Vol. 72 Issue 2, pp. 20-21,
  5. ^ “YBCA Now // October 2010.” Art Babble. Art Babble, n.d. Web. 13 Dec 2010.
  6. ^ Janku, Laura Richard. "Relational Aesthetics: Artist Groups and Their Groupies." ArtUS, May/Jun 2006, Issue 13. pp. 42-45.
  7. ^ "What's on".
  8. ^ Hecht, Elena. Pillot, Anna. Schmelkin, Carrie. Peters, Jen Thompson. "Vital Signs." Dance Magazine. Oct 2008. Vol. 82, Issue 10.
  9. ^ Ulrigh, Allan. "Alonzo King's Lines Ballet." Dance Magazine. Feb 2005. Vol. 79, Issue 2.
  10. ^ Hawley, Michael. "Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Summer 2009." Jun 2009.
  11. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "UPDATE 1-Apple likely to show off new iPods Sept 1, TV eyed".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°47′07″N 122°24′08″W / 37.785389°N 122.402284°W / 37.785389; -122.402284