Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco, includes the largest arts
community in the United States. Begun in 1984 under auspices of The
Point, the community has grown to represent artists in three parts of
the shipyard and at a neighboring site in the southeast San Francisco
BayView/Hunters Point community.
Artists began to organize in 1985 to keep studio space in San
Francisco. The eventual result of their efforts was STAR, The Shipyard
Trust for the Arts, a nonprofit organization working with area artists,
schools, community groups, and historic preservation sites to retain and
expand arts opportunities.
As the live-work concept developed nationwide, STAR was among the
visionary groups who saw the need for public awareness and civic
organization to protect and enhance the retention of art space in
rapidly developing, highly monetized urban economies. Working with
elected officials and teams from the private sector; STAR spearheaded
the stabilization of art studio space in disused military facilities and
underused commercial spaces. Some of STAR’s accomplishments are the
- STAR supports open studio events and public exhibitions without censorship, as does ArtSpan, the umbrella organization whose flagship program is the annual, citywide San Francisco Open Studios weekends. This trust in artistic productivity is a leadership approach.
- STAR has worked with neighborhood schools for over twenty years to enhance arts programs cut from public funding and assist teachers in carrying school art programs forward.
- Artists with experience on the boards of STAR and its predecessor, Artists and Businesses of Hunters Point Shipyard, are now working with The Bayview Opera House, one of San Francisco’s oldest structures with roots in the California The Gold Rush. The building is a contemporary community resource and a recipient of National Register of Historic Places designation. Opera House projects include 16 artist/teachers, 3 camp supervisors, and 11 community partners. The Ruth Williams Memorial Theater at The Opera House is headed by Mary L. Booker, a former STAR Artist-in-Residence.
- In the early 1990s, STAR saw the need to link all southeast San Francisco together in a sense of community. To facilitate this sense of unity, STAR encouraged shipyard artists to present programs in art at schools and develop outdoor mural projects along community streets. Several artists who carried out these projects were STAR board members. Work at community centers followed. In 2013, work at one neighborhood academy is led by a STAR board member. A citywide arts project, now well established in multiple locations, is headed by a long time shipyard artist, who recently developed a youth artist-in-residence program at the shipyard.
- STAR has invited speakers from a variety of vital groups to the shipyard to express their views in conversation with artists. Speakers have included a San Francisco mayor, California state assemblyman, representatives of the U.S. Navy, environmentalists, commercial developers, arts organizations supporting candidates for elected office, demonstrations by vendors of artists’ materials, and transportation officials.
- STAR has led the way to promotion of the arts presence at the shipyard within an ambiance of unity among tenants at the yard and tirelessly shaping a coherent approach to citywide concerns, so that shipyard artists are perceived as a unified, not scattered, group.
- In 2013, STAR led the way to solving a potential rift between long-term shipyard tenants that resulted from commercial development proposals. Subsequent to much effort and thought, a solution was found that worked for all and kept the tenant base intact.
- STAR has made grants to shipyard artists to develop and carry out projects with area schools.
- STAR developed an artist-in-residence program and a naturalist-in-residence program to assist southeast San Francisco artists in their career development and to help the entire region recognize the broad scope of wild animal life and the variety of native plants in the area.
- STAR sent a representative to a mid-1990s series of environmental justice classes at the Oakdale campus of San Francisco City College. Information learned in this class continues to assist in shipyard projects to the current time.
- In the mid-1990s, shipyard artists who had been working with BV/HP schools saw the need for a community gathering at the shipyard for a one-day conference, held with two purposes in mind. One was for shipyard tenants and BV/HP residents to get to know one another on a personal level. The second was to assist community workers in approaching City Hall with grant requests that were not “one time shots,” as were so many grants that come in, spend money, and leave with no follow up and no way for programs to continue. In year 2 of a 5 year project, for example, funds need to be solicited for years 3 & 4, in year 3 for years 4 & 5, etc. These goals are hard to achieve, but the concepts generated at that conference continue to be helpful throughout southeast San Francisco. STAR funded most of that conference.
- STAR has sponsored exhibits of shipyard history and shows on other topics.
- Shipyard and related studios are available to artists at all times. While infrastructure does not support living space, workspace is open at all times. The Point and STAR have worked with all tenants on issues of badge checking, guest privileges, and other questions of access to keep spaces free of as many access restraints as possible. Other military bases with artists’ studios are not all open 24/7.