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Preview: SFGate: Sam Whiting

Sam Whiting


Light show to wash Park Conservatory in psychedelia

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 23:22:23 UT

On Wednesday night at 9:15 p.m., he will find out, along with an expected 10,000 spectators, when his installation “Photosynthesis” flashes to life as the pinnacle of the “Surrealistic Summer Solstice” free concert in Golden Gate Park and probably the peak moment in the citywide celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The show, which involves a series of psychedelic flowers and insect patterns projected onto the white glass exterior of the Conservatory, will run nightly from sundown until midnight through Oct. 21, funded privately through the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Anticipation is high for the Grand Lighting of the Conservatory, and it will build through a three-hour jamby a band of ’60s survivors at a stage set up along John F. Kennedy Drive near the Conservatory. “Photosynthesis” will run in sequences of 15 or 20 minutes then start up again, with the lighting effect created by 10 projectors built into the refreshment kiosks outside the Conservatory. The artwork is a collaboration between Davis’ nonprofit studio, Illuminate, and Obscura Digital, known for lighting big structures like the Sydney Opera House.

Permit for Summer of Love concert in park denied for 2nd time

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:01:44 UT

Citing unresolved safety, transportation and legal issues, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission on Thursday again denied promoter Boots Hughston a permit to host a free concert in Golden Gate Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The 4-2 vote was greeted by boos at the end of a long morning of public testimony on behalf of the Council of Light, an organization of volunteers hoping to put on the event under the leadership of Hughston on Aug. 27 in Sharon Meadow. [...] to me, the issues are overcrowding and that they haven’t hired an event planner or medical and police personnel. Fellow Commissioner Tom Harrison also voted against the appeal after hearing San Francisco police officers had not been contacted by Hughston. Commissioners Kat Anderson, who described herself as a “hippie at heart,” and Gloria Bonilla both voted against upholding the staff denial and expressed hope the concert could still take place this summer. The denial of the appeal came less than a week after the city, under the auspices of Rec and Park, said it would hold its own free Surrealistic Summer Solstice event Wednesday, including a concert featuring members of the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Chambers Brothers, plus a lighting of the Conservatory of Flowers in psychedelic colors. There were suggestions that Rec and Park had stolen the Council of Light’s idea and undercut it with its own event, which the council pointed out was advertised without a permit in place — one of the reasons the commissioned turned down Hughston. Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg explained that Rec and Park does not issue permits for its own events, therefore had not skirted rules for the Surrealistic Summer Solstice. Hughston, in his customary unbuttoned button down over a dirty black T-shirt, particularly took umbrage at requests by staff that he partner with a more experienced event producer, emphasizing that at 68 years old, he has been producing events for four decades. Kurt “Crowbar” Kangas, who lived through the original ’67 Summer of Love festivities, added that the members of the Council of Light have more experience years in staging concerts and events combined compared with Rec and Park staff. David Grace, a theater manager who once worked at the Fillmore, went so far as to suggest that Rec and Park staff was corrupt, and ended his testimony with one word: “Extortion.” [...] none of it worked.

Richard Stephens, Academy of Art president, real estate mogul, dies

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 23:37:16 UT

Richard Stephens, Academy of Art president, real estate mogul, dies Richard Stephens, an educator and the mastermind behind the Academy of Art University and real estate conglomerate, died June 6 at his winter home in Phoenix. Mr. Stephens had just completed his own education at Stanford in 1951 when his father, also Richard Stephens, appointed him president of what was then called the Academie of Advertising Art, which had one facility, a loft on Kearny Street. Under Mr. Stephens’ leadership, the academy grew from 35 students studying advertising to a peak enrollment of 18,000 students studying photography, illustration, fine art, graphic design, industrial design, fashion, interior architecture and design, animation, motion pictures and television and acting. Rebranded first as the Academy of Art College and later the Academy of Art University, it is a for-profit business and has often drawn complaints that its central business is real estate acquisition. With 40 properties, Mr. Stephens, his daughter, Academy of Art President Elisa Stephens, and various trusts in their names are among the largest landowners in San Francisco, with more than 1 million square feet and an estimated value of well over $100 million. “Any time you have a for-profit educational facility you are going to have controversy,” Brown said. Besides that, you are not interesting unless you are controversial. For years, there were complaints that the Academy of Art violated city zoning restrictions by operating dormitories in buildings zoned for hotel and single-room occupancy, and illegally converting buildings to academic facilities. In 2016, the school was sued by the city, which claimed that at least 33 of the academy’s portfolio of 40 buildings were out of compliance with zoning laws, signage regulations or historic preservation rules. The settlement included $20 million in fines and fees and conversion of two academy buildings for up to 174 units of affordable housing. “My folks never thought of buying anything because the Depression scared the hell out of them,” Mr. Stephens told The Chronicle in a wide-ranging interview 10 years ago at the academy’s Auto Museum. After the war, he studied at Menlo College in Atherton before transferring to Stanford University, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1949 and his master’s in education in 1951. The school was headquartered at 740 Taylor St. in a leased brick building that had once housed the French Consulate and later a Benihana Japanese restaurant. Any building that would be difficult to transform to another commercial use could always be turned into either an art studio or student housing, usually without the proper permits from the city. Mr. Stephens’ educational philosophy has always been that secondary education is no indicator of artistic talent.

LSD king Owsley Stanley’s ‘Sonic Journals’ surface after 50 years

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 22:36:43 UT

Way out in the western hills of Sonoma County where no one can hear it, Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s personal speaker system is cranking Doc and Merle Watson’s version of “Tennessee Stud,” recorded by Bear at the Boarding House in 1974. With father and son Watson trading flat-pick leads, the sound coming out of those speakers is too clean and rich not to be shared with neighbors and everyone else. On June 23, the Owsley Stanley Foundation, headed by Starfinder Stanley will release the first of his late father’s legendary “Sonic Journals” in record stores. Never the Same Way Once will introduce an archive of 1,300 tapes recorded live at San Francisco dance halls and nightclubs in the 1960s and ’70s. Bear, the renowned sound engineer who built the Wall of Sound for the Grateful Dead, never had the time or money to catalog and transfer his concert tapes to digital files. “He had told me that if he didn’t manage to deal with the tapes before he died, he expected I would deal with them to his exacting standards,” says Starfinder. Whereas other sound engineers would stand at the back of a hall and work a console of switches to equalize the sound, Bear did it by microphone selection and placement, both during the sound check and during the concert itself. When a set was about to start, the backside of Bear could be seen sticking out from a speaker box while the front side was still inside soldering wires. “He really viewed them as capturing a musical event and not as a recording that could be cut up and overdubbed and reconfigured,” says Starfinder. The Sonic Journals first reached the bluegrass market with “Old & in the Way,” a Jerry Garcia side project with David Grisman and Peter Rowan, recorded at the intimate Boarding House on Bush Street in October 1973. Released on vinyl in 1975, it “was the No. 1 selling bluegrass album of all time before ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ (released in 2000) knocked it off,” says Starfinder, who was too young to remember it. [...] he remembers being taken as a teenager to the secure climate-controlled vaults of the Grateful Dead where the Sonic Journals were stored. “I’m the second oldest son, but the one that thought the most like him,” says Starfinder, who was born while his father was in prison for drugs. A chunk of that came when the Dead named the foundation as one of 20 nonprofits to share proceeds from charity auctions accompanying the “Fare Thee Well” tour of 2015. The selection process includes an “adopt-a-reel” program in which donors of $400 can select a band or even a specific show to transfer, and Hawk will search it out. [...] converting a show to digital does not mean that the listening public or even the adopt-a-reel donor will ever hear it. “Every release is its own tangled path of negotiations with artists and estates,” says Hawk, who serves as executive producer. There are sets by Jefferson Airplane, Santana, early Fleetwood Mac, and all strains of bluegrass, jazz, country, folk, classical, Indian, reggae, Motown and Cajun. Because Bear was a completist, the box set is not a greatest hits package. A single night with the crowd banter trimmed out will soon be available on vinyl, and either can be ordered now at “If you turn off the lights and turn up the sound system, you can be transported back in time to the Boarding House in 1974,” says Starfinder’s wife, Audrey, who was born in 1983.

Promoter again denied permit to mark Summer of Love anniversary

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 03:45:00 UT

For the second time, promoter Boots Hughston has been denied a permit to stage a free concert in Golden Gate Park to honor the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Last week, Hughston told The Chronicle that he was awaiting permission from the city Recreation and Park Department to announce the show, and that a permit would be forthcoming. [...] on Thursday, Diane Rea, manager of permits and reservations for Rec and Park, sent Hughston a letter of denial, stating that he had not met conditions required to protect the park and surrounding neighborhoods. Reached by telephone at his Mill Valley home Saturday, Hughston denied all the charges leveled at him in Rea’s letter and said he had not yet decided whether to appeal the rejection before the full Rec and Park Commission. Hughston forwarded an email string to support his claim that his production organization, the Council of Light, has been treated unfairly, burdened with excessive demands and denied due process, under the authority of Dana Ketcham, director of permits and property management for Rec and Park. Hughston, a onetime colleague of Chet Helms and the Family Dog and now a real estate investor, had already held a 40th anniversary tribute to the Summer of Love at Speedway Meadow in the park. [...] on Feb. 7, he was denied a permit for the Polo Field by Rec and Park, for “numerous misrepresentations of material facts in your application.” Hughston appealed that denial before the full Rec and Park Commission at a Feb. 16 hearing, which started off with a passionate rally on the steps of City Hall and continued in the hearing chamber. Speaker after speaker asked the commission to allow the all-day festival on the grounds that the Summer of Love was a crucial point in the history of the counterculture and its 50th anniversary should be adequately honored.

Then-and-now photos of San Rafael span 133 years

Wed, 7 Jun 2017 19:17:10 UT

Among the treasures in the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Civic Center is a brochure titled “San Rafael Illustrated & Described,” from 1884. Drawn by Chris Jorgensen of the San Francisco Art School, that piece of promotional ephemera has been kept in a locked case since 1935, but out it came last fall, into the hands of Novato photographer Michelle Sarjeant Kaufman. Kaufman, who specializes in historic then-and-now pictures, was dispatched to find every location in the brochure to photograph it from precisely the same vantage point, 133 years later. “I went out into the world and looked for those buildings,” says Kaufman, 48, a Marin native and graduate of Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo. To find it, she went to city directories from the 1880s and followed the lead to the Sanborn insurance maps, which guided her to San Rafael’s Second Street, where she went looking for traces of a railroad line. When she calculated the location, on a two-block street, she recognized one building from the rear of the illustration, still standing with a peaked roof and tiny square window near the top. The pictures were made with a digital single lens reflex, set to a slow shutter speed. The photo of the planing mill is outside the third-floor offices of the Board of Supervisors, along with a map to find it and a description of Isaac Shaver, the local lumber king.

Green sisters take their spots in YBCA 100

Tue, 6 Jun 2017 07:01:00 UT

The Green twins have been named to the 2017 YBCA 100, putting them in company with 98 non-twins judged to be “provocateurs, instigators and innovators” by staff and board members at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The minds named Tuesday come from across the country and range from filmmaker Barry Jenkins, who won the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards for “Moonlight,” to Jill Soloway, Emmy-winning creator of “Transparent,” to Elaine Welteroth, editor of Teen Vogue. Local winners include Julie Phelps, artistic director of the Tenderloin dance company CounterPulse, musician Zakiya Harris and Linda Harrison, executive director of the Museum of the African Diaspora. The Greens may be the only twins, but there are several community organizations, including Smart Bomb Oakland, the Stud Collective and 100 Days Action. “That’s our passion,” says Melonie, who works out of the home office, a converted bedroom in their flat. To create that office space, the dining room was converted into a second bedroom which Melonie volunteered to take even though she is older and has seniority. The goal is to move the office out of their home and into a laboratory space downtown, where they will offer all the technological tools their clients need tell their stories, along with workshops and space for live showcases.

West Edge Festival is moving — but can’t say where

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 21:45:29 UT

West Edge Opera, the sponsoring entity, lost its use of the historic 16th Street Station in West Oakland and has not finalized a replacement space yet. The festival opens Aug. 2, and free shuttles to the as-yet unknown location will be offered from the West Oakland BART Station. Founded as Berkeley Opera in 1979, and renamed West Edge in 2012, the Berkeley company presents a summer festival of three complete, fully staged operas in a space that was not built for fully staged operas. For the past two seasons it has used the 16th Street Station, a Beaux Arts landmark that was built in 1912 as the terminus for transcontinental passenger train travel. To stage an opera in the Main Hall, everything was brought in by West Edge, including electricity, a platform stage and seating for 500. In March, West Edge was informed by Bridge Housing that Oakland would no longer grant special permits for public events inside the station, and the scramble began.

Mike Mandel shows off his baseball card collection at SFMOMA

Wed, 31 May 2017 19:04:14 UT

Mike Mandel shows off his baseball card collection at SFMOMA Back in 1974, when the big hitters of black-and-white photography were still at work, conceptual artist Mike Mandel had the brilliant inspiration to make baseball cards out of them. Good 70s in the Pritzker Center for Photography, which takes over the third floor at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition combines several 1970s projects by Mandel, starting with “Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards (1975).” There is a long wall of cards — Adams, Larry Sultan, Ed Ruscha, Minor White, Bill Eggleston — each next to a vintage card of a real ballplayer, for athletic contrast. “The whole idea of the baseball cards is that the people in the photography world were like a team,” she says. Like any team, there were standouts and these are highlighted in an ancillary exhibit called All-Stars: Works From the Collection, drawn from SFMOMA’s trove of 17,000 pictures. “There has always been humor in his work and a regard for regular folks,” says Phillips, That’s the point of the baseball-photographer trading cards.

Joyce Hayes, Glide fixture and foster mom to 87, dies

Sat, 27 May 2017 01:37:40 UT

Joyce Hayes, a longtime member of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church family who proved her faith by being a foster mother to 87 children over a span of 40 years, has died at 73. A large personality, even by the exuberant standards of Glide, Ms. Hayes was known for her flowing African robes in shades of red, and for taking in people who had no other place to go. “Joyce was the heartbeat of the children’s program,” said Janice Mirikitani, co-leader of Glide with her husband, the Rev. Cecil Williams. Some of Rovianek’s earliest memories are of her mother bringing in wayward kids from the building. When she started in 1971, Glide’s Free Meals program was just being launched. Ms. Hayes offered to lead a second program that would not only feed children but give them a safe place to play in the Tenderloin church. Eventually the program hosted 100 kids and took up the entire second floor of Glide. Thirty years after she started at Glide, Ms. Hayes was given the Congressional Angels in Adoption award in Washington, D.C., after being nominated by Rep. Nancy Pelosi. In addition to Rovianek, Ms. Hayes is survived by her daughter Kellye Guidry of Somerset, N.J.; son, Robert Morrow of Los Angeles; sister, Carole Salter of Los Angeles; and brother, Gary White of Carteret, N.J. “I will always remember her laughter, acceptance and love echoing off the walls at Glide,” Mirikitani said.

Chana Bloch, poet and longtime Mills professor, dies

Thu, 25 May 2017 00:26:12 UT

Chana Bloch, a major figure in American letters through her poetry, translations of Hebrew and Yiddish, and scholarship in English literature at Mills College, has died after a four-year battle with an aggressive sarcoma — which she wrote and spoke about with searing honesty through her final days. The book unflinchingly plumbs the uncertainties and complexities of Ms. Bloch’s own terminal illness with wit, insight and tenderness. “She was always so open to feedback and changes and welcomed criticism of every word choice in both her poetry and in our translation,” said Chana Kronfeld, a UC Berkeley professor who collaborated with Bloch on two books. Ms. Bloch’s awards include the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (with Kronfeld), two prestigious Pushcart Prizes and an award from the Poetry Society of America. At Mills, where Ms. Bloch was a professor in the department of English, she taught courses in literature and poetry from 1973 to 2005. “Chana embodied the bridge between literary studies and creative writing through her own distinguished scholarship and poetry,” said Cynthia Scheinberg, a professor of English and associate provost at Mills. Even after her retirement in 2005, she often returned to Mills to give guest lectures and poetry readings, always well attended. “Hearing her talk about a biblical translation from a feminist point of view was a transformative experience for the students,” said Scheinberg. “Memento Mori,” a poem from her forthcoming collection, was published by the New Yorker and addressed her health. “God blessed you with curly hair,” my mother used to say and dressed me like Shirley Temple. Peter Sussman, a writer and friend who helped arrange the Ashby Village reading, is overseeing a documentary of that reading — and Ms. Bloch’s frank discussion during it, of her cancer fight — to be released in conjunction with the book’s publication. “For many years before her final illness, she had been fascinated by how people overcame disability, death and other life challenges,” Sussman said. Two months ago, excited at having just sent her book to a printer and optimistic about her medical progress, Ms. Bloch told The Chronicle she felt writing so openly about the specter of death was not a choice. “She was vibrant and caring, and intellectually curious,” said Benjamin, noting that the big family tradition was attending the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (now Cal Shakes), just a few blocks from home. After retiring from the Mills faculty, she continued to work on her poetry and translations and kept busy and active even after she became ill. Sam Whiting and Kevin Fagan are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

Portrait painting in action at Stanford

Wed, 24 May 2017 17:23:16 UT

At 11:30 Monday morning, writer Tammy Fortin set up her manual Olivetti in the grand marble atrium at Cantor Arts Center and began tapping out a short story. [...] artist Hope Gangloff set up her acrylic paints and began painting a portrait of Fortin as she typed. The main entrance to the Stanford University museum, built in 1894, has been converted into Gangloff’s studio as the first in a five-year series called the Diekman Contemporary Commissions Program, underwritten by arts benefactors John and Sue Diekman. There is a lot to tell because Gangloff, 42, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and drove out in her Subaru with her boxer mutt Olly, and all her paints and brushes and buckets. “She’s a fun challenge,” says Gangloff, as Fortin clacks away in single space, working that carriage return, her salt-and-pepper hair blending nicely with the marble wall behind her. The typewriter sits on a pullout tray at a midcentury metal office desk. Scattered around are a metal lunch box in red tartan, a bottle of Wite-Out, a magnifying glass and any number of dictionaries and art history books open for quick reference, plus a Princess dial phone with the receiver off the hook and dangling to the floor so she won’t be distracted by a caller. There is a lot of detail to capture, and those who can’t wait around to see the finished product can go upstairs where the concurrent show “Hope Gangloff Curates Portraiture” is on the balcony. There is a whole wall of portraits, and visitors can turn around and lean over the railing to see the next one being worked on at the bottom of the stairs. “Hope is an incredibly talented painter who evokes the 19th and 20th century masters and updates the tradition, ” says Carty.

Rare glimpses inside scene that would become Summer of Love

Wed, 17 May 2017 01:38:38 UT

“There are images in this show that have very literally never been seen before,” says guest curator Dennis McNally, who spent six months traversing from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz to uncover 100 photographs by 20 photographers. “I was seeking pictures of the rock ’n’ rollers in their first incarnations as folkies,” says McNally, who has plenty of contacts thanks to his prior career as the official historian for the Grateful Dead. Alette spread a dozen prints across her dining room table, and the one that jumped out at McNally featured Kaukonen looking like Woody Guthrie while backing a then-unknown singer making her Bay Area debut. “There is Janis Joplin standing onstage wearing a basic black dress, the most conventional clothing anyone has seen on her,” says McNally, adding that within a song or two Joplin realized she was overdressed and went backstage to change into her jeans. McNally walked into Redl’s house and immediately saw that every image he wanted was on the living room wall. [...] they are on the wall of the CHS — Allen Ginsberg at the Drake Hotel, Michael McClure lying on his bed, Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the basement of City Lights. In the show, the “Death of the Hippie” funeral procession up Haight Street in October 1967 is represented by a seven-minute silent film. [...] the exhibit runs into 1970 as well, showing that what was happening in San Francisco was happening elsewhere, as depicted in Robert Altman’s image of free-form dancers at a festival in Boulder, Colo..

Mike McCone, former head of California Historical Society, dies

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:26:10 UT

Mike McCone, executive director of the California Historical Society during crucial years that were to determine its survival and later board chair at Heyday Books in Berkeley, died May 9 after a sudden onset of leukemia. Mr. McCone was 83 and had been living in an assisted living facility in San Francisco. Among the institutions for which he worked during his nonprofit management career, besides the historical society, were the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Grace Cathedral. In that effort, he gave unlimited hours to Heyday, which he helped convert from a struggling for-profit enterprise to a successful nonprofit. “Mike was a very loving man, and one of the things he loved most was books,” Harvey said. When Mr. McCone was hired by the historical society in 1990, it had eliminated its curators and librarians due to budget cuts and had a skeleton staff of six in a dark and drafty mansion in Pacific Heights. “It was a daring and a bold move, and a very strategic one,” said Anthea Hartig, executive director of the historical society. “Mike grew staff, established an endowment and brought in all kinds of new donors,” Hartig said. Mr. McCone was hired to work in Mayor Joseph Alioto’s administration, heading up an urban renewal program called Model Cities. “He was worldly without being cynical, deeply rooted yet playful, and he was great fun to be around,” said Malcolm Margolin, the now-retired founder of Heyday Books. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Unknown photographer of the working life gets premiere

Wed, 10 May 2017 21:52:14 UT

Activist photographer Steve Cagan has never had a solo exhibition on the West Coast, and he wouldn’t have had one still if he hadn’t instructed Jeanne Friscia in a class at Rutgers University in New Jersey 30 years ago. Friscia ended up on the board of SF Camerawork, and starting Thursday, May 11, her former professor’s intense images will deck the walls of the nonprofit gallery overlooking Market Street. Plenty of documentary photographers have covered these themes, but not in the way that Cagan covers them, which is to spend eight-hour shifts on a factory floor or live for three months in a Colombian village in order to get honest and unguarded portraits. “Steve is not the kind to jump out of a helicopter, photograph a victim and leave,” says Friscia, as she hangs 160 images. The operating precept of Camerawork is to exhibit the work of unrecognized photographers, and Cagan qualifies. “The kind of work I do has not been easy to publish or get exhibited,” says Cagan, 73, from his home studio. “Working Pictures” provides a comparison between a steel mill in Ohio and a bicycle factory in Havana. Cagan lived among workers for peace and social justice in squalid refugee camps in Central America, and civilians dislocated by violence in long-running civil wars.