Noe Valley Voice December-January 2010

Short Takes

A Class in the Art of Ruth Asawa

Longtime Noe Valley resident Ruth Asawa, the nationally renowned artist, will be the focus of a new class in February at San Francisco State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The four-week class will be taught by Asawa’s daughter, fellow Noe Valley resident Aiko Cuneo.

In “The Art of Ruth Asawa,” students will learn about the diverse career of Asawa, who is recognized for her wire and clay sculptures, public commissions, and activism in education and the arts. Staying true to her mother’s character, Cuneo will close each class meeting with an art activity.

Cuneo has assisted her mother on public art projects and worked as an artist in San Francisco public schools. She also worked with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco on Asawa’s 2006 retrospective and catalog.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at S.F. State is a learning community for people age 50 and up. Funded with grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation, it offers small, interactive classes as well as discussion and interest groups. All OLLI courses are open to the public; formal admission to the university is not needed.

OLLI will host a free information session Thursday, Jan. 20, 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the school’s Creative Arts Building, Room 153, 1600 Holloway Avenue (at 19th Avenue). For details, visit or call 415-817-4243.


The Man Behind the Dragon Tattoo

The Glen Park Branch Library will screen a documentary about Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, on Saturday, Feb. 5, from 4 to 5 p.m.

Larsson’s life and death are almost as intriguing as the plots of the crime novels he wrote in the evening to relax. His day jobs included photographer, graphic designer, journalist, political activist, and editor of science fiction magazines. Though he had been writing them for years, he did not seek to publish the books until shortly before he died of a heart attack at age 50 in 2004.

The documentary looks at the controversy over the fortune generated by the series, as well as Larsson’s early influences and his work opposing the far right move­ment in Sweden. Larsson exposed Swed­ish extreme right and racist organizations, publishing a book called Right-Wing Extremism (“Extremhšgern”) in 1991. Some have speculated that members of these organizations might have killed Larsson and made his death appear natural.

The movie also addresses the possibility of a fourth novel in the series, which had been only partially completed when he died.

The Glen Park Branch Library is located at 2825 Diamond Street, near Bosworth. For more information, visit or call 415-355-2858.


A Taste of the Highlands in the Mission

Come watch the Scottish Country Dancers jig and reel at their free annual Winter Solstice party Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7:15 p.m., their final event at the Noe Valley Ministry.

The latest clan to leave the Ministry ahead of an 18-month renovation scheduled to start in March, the Dancers will don their gillies (a traditional soft-soled lace-up shoe) next year at the Polish Club of San Francisco, 3040 22nd Street at Shotwell.

From their new home, the group will offer two new classes. Neophytes are invited to learn Scottish ballroom dancing during a five-week introductory session that starts Thursday, Jan. 13, 8 to 10 p.m. No partner is required, but bring soft shoes and expect plenty of socializing with the other dancers and live musicians, says Susie Langdon Kass, teacher and member of the San Francisco chapter of the worldwide Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. The series costs $26.

A six-session class for kids 71/2 and up and their families starts Jan. 27 from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $36, with a reduced rate for family members.

The group will offer continuation classes, too, says Kass.

The Noe Valley Ministry is located at 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd. For more information, call 415-841-9456 or visit


Randall Museum’s Special Saturdays

The Randall Museum in Corona Heights will usher in the new year with an old favorite, the drop-in “Saturdays Are Special” art and science workshops geared toward the 3- to 10-year-old crowd.

There are two choices on Saturdays: drop-in family ceramics classes that start at 10:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. and a new workshop each week between 1 and 4 p.m. Make snow globes Jan. 8, understand radial design by drawing watercolor flowers Jan. 15, learn printmaking Jan. 22, and create a Chinese lion head puppet Jan. 29. (The museum will be closed Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day.)

The January workshops cost $6 per child or $10 for an adult and a child. (Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.) Admission is free to the museum itself, a home for animals that have been injured and cannot return to the wild. Every Saturday, the museum’s docents offer a live animal presentation at 11 a.m., followed by animal feeding at noon.

In December, the museum will offer day camp and workshops the week before Christmas (Dec. 20 to 23) and the week after (Dec. 27 to 30). The sessions are identical, focusing on medieval activities like making castles and building armor. Camps run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are for children 8 to 12. Participants must register daily ($35) at www.sfreconline .org but can attend for the whole week.

Shorter two-hour family workshops will be offered Tuesdays through Thursdays the same weeks. Children can make castles, trains, ships, and migrating birds in six different classes. Registration starts when the museum opens at 10 a.m. The workshops cost $10 per person or $15 for a child and adult. Museum members get a two-for-one discount.

The Randall Museum is located at 199 Museum Way (take Castro to 14th, turn left on 14th and left on Roosevelt Way, then follow the signs). Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit or call 415-554-9600.


Decent Exposure: How to Get It

The San Francisco Arts Commission is hosting a free workshop Thursday, Dec. 16, for artists interested in having their work installed in parks, civic buildings, and other public spaces.

Commission staff will discuss topics such as the city’s Art Enrichment Ordinance, which details where the art appears and how it is financed. They will walk through next year’s application of the online 2011/12 Artists Registry, which serves as the primary pool of artists who will be considered for new commissions over the next two-year period.

The public art program was created in 1969 when the city decreed that 2 percent of the construction costs of civic buildings, transportation improvement projects, new parks, and other structures such as bridges must be allocated for public art. The goal is to support local artists and to expose residents and visitors to art. The city’s Civic Art Collection contains more than 3,500 sculptures, monuments, murals, paintings, and other media.

The workshop runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at 25 Van Ness Avenue. For more information, visit www.sfartscommission .org/pubartcollection or call 415-252-3215.


Merry Enlightenment at the Marsh

Buddhism trumps Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwaanza when the Marsh Youth Theater brings back Siddhartha, the Bright Path for its holiday season show Dec. 10 to Jan. 9 at the newly renovated theater at 1074 Valencia Street.

Directed and co-written by Lisa Quoresimo, the play tells the parallel stories of Buddha on his path to enlightenment and a modern girl in San Francisco trying to find her own moral balance. The show is flavored with Indian music, art, classical dance, and a new hip-hop Bollywood scene.

As always, the cast of 26 ranges from 12 to 19 years old and comes from San Francisco’s public, private, and parochial middle and high schools, including the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. African-born Jens Kwabena, who plays Siddhartha, has performed with the Vienna Boys Choir and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The play was developed by MYT Director Emily Klion in collaboration with Indian jazz fusion luminary George Brooks, and Pakistani artists Riffat Sultana and Sukhawat Ali Khan. It was written by Klion, Quoresimo, and Danny Duncan.

This is the play’s fifth season at the Marsh Youth Theater, and it has also been performed outside of San Francisco.

Following two performances at local schools and three preview runs, the show opens Friday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. Most performances start at 3 p.m., and there are four evening performances. Reserved tickets cost $50, general admission costs $15 to $35 on a sliding scale, and floor seating costs $10 to $15 on a sliding scale. Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-838-3006 or by visiting the Marsh website, The theater is located at 1074 Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd streets.

The Marsh Youth Theater began in 2001 as a group of 10 neighborhood children and now boasts 200 participants from across the city. For more information about MYT shows, or about the theater’s summer workshops, call 415-826-5750 or email


Paxton Gate: Curiouser and Curiouser

Valencia Street’s Paxton Gate turns 18 this year, and its whimsical assortment of articulated animal skeletons, carnivorous plants, and sparkling minerals is now complemented by curios and workshops offered at its newer children’s store one block north.

Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids at 766 Valencia sells games and toys that are made from natural products, many of them nostalgically appealing to parents, says Rob Jolin, manager for both stores.

“We don’t sell anything requiring batteries,” Jolin says.

For most of the toy shop’s life, the store was hidden behind the construction to widen sidewalks on Valencia Street, and customers were scarce, says Jolin.

“The lengthening of the sidewalk impacted us because you couldn’t get to the store at all, but we’re happy to be here—we love the neighborhood and the community,” he says.

Winter workshops at the store start Saturday, Dec. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., when children will blow the yolk out of eggs and decorate them as holiday ornaments. There will be a bookmaking workshop Jan. 22, a pi–ata (making) party Feb. 12, and a sculpture workshop Feb. 26. Two terrarium workshops on Jan. 9 and Feb. 6 cost $60 and are geared toward adults.

The store also hosts birthday parties for kids. “They are always fun for all—both the parents as well as the birthday person,” Jolin says. To find out more, call 415-824-1872 or see


Short Takes were compiled and written by Heather World.