Full Commission - August 3, 2020 - Minutes
MEETING OF THE ARTS COMMISSION
Monday, August 3, 2020
Remote Meeting via video and teleconferencing
President Ordeñana called the meeting to order at 2:04 p.m.
- Roll Call
Roberto Ordeñana, President
Kimberlee Stryker, Vice President
Linda Parker Pennington
Abby Sadin Schnair
Joel Koppel, ex officio
President Ordeñana welcomed Commissioner Askew to his first full Commission meeting and gave a description of his background. Commissioner Askew thanked President Ordenana for the warm welcome and said he’s looking forward to participating on the commission.
President Ordeñana announced virtual meeting instructions.
Commission Secretary Alyssa Ventre announced public comment instructions.
- Approval of Minutes
Commissioner Parker Pennington noted a misspelling in the first paragraph of the meeting minutes.
Commissioner Parker Pennington, seconded by Commissioner Woolford moved to approve the July 6, 2020 Minutes, as corrected.
Sirron Norris said he wanted to set the tone for the meeting. He spoke in support of Lava Thomas and asked commissioners to listen to what she has to say. He commented on how public art and monuments mean something different today.
There was no additional public comment.
The motion unanimously carried by the following vote:
Ayes: Ordeñana, Stryker, Askew, Collins, Ferras, Jung, Keehn, Parker Pennington, Schnair, Shiota, Walker, Woolford
RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-093: Motion to approve July 6, 2020 Minutes.
- General Public Comment
T stated that she supported ending the 2020 RFQ to honor Dr. Maya Angleou. She said that she received information that London Breed is directly responsible for rescinding Lava Thomas’ commission. She asked that the VAC members come forward and state that information publically. She also asked that this topic be an agenda item for the next meeting.
Commissioner Musleh joined the meeting at 2:22 p.m.
Angela Hennessey submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
The reissued 2020 RFQ cannot go forward until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions toward Redress and Restorative Justice are made. A monument to Dr Maya Angelou cannot be built on the backs of Black Women in service of a racist agenda which narrowly defines how Black Women are to be represented in public art. The SFAC Commissioners need to vote to immediately suspend the 2020 RFQ.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an e-mail statement from Dana King:
Ms. King stated that the See Black Womxn Collective demands that the SFAC Director of Cultural Affairs search cease until the SFAC and their search firm can prove they are using a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access model and that a hiring panel of certain individuals be formed. Ms. King also noted that the SFAC website is inadequate and out of date. She said the public deserves to know who gives money to the SFAC and that the See Black Womxn Collection wants to see an accounting of all monies donated to SFAC and where the money was spent on the SFAC website. She said that the See Black Womxn Collective demand a regular D.E.I.A. training be scheduled for all staff and commissioners.
Ian Colon, a supporter of the See Black Womxn Collective, asked to suspend the 2020 Maya Angelou RFQ process until actions towards redress and restorative justice are made.
Helen Pinto was called on but she was not responsive.
Marcela Pardo questioned SFAC and the City’s commitment to racial justice and proposed shifting paradigms for what a monument can be. She spoke in support of the concerns brought up by Lava Thomas and the See Black Womxn Collective. She stated that the concerns must be heard and acted upon immediately.
Amanda Williams was called on. Commission Secretary Ventre confirmed that she would read Ms. Williams’ emailed statement under item 5.
Jeremiah Barber, supporter of the See Black Womxn Collective, demanded a public apology to Lava Thomas and the panelists and asked to disclose the fiscal sponsor responsible for blocking the project. He commented on the language that Supervisor Stefani used to recommission the project. He asked that the demands of the See Black Womxn Collective be met.
Troy Taylor, supporter of Lava Thomas and the See Black Womxn Collective, asked that the Commission do right by black women in the present and listen to Lava Thomas. He asked the Commission to honor the demands of Ms. Thomas and her community.
Mel Day spoke in support of concerns of the See Black Womxn Collective. She commented on the importance of a transparent and independent selection process. She asked to suspend the 2020 Maya Angelou RFQ process until actions towards redress and restorative justice are made. She explained the importance of Lava Thomas’ proposal and added that an important conversation needs to be had to honor Dr. Angelou’s legacy.
There was no additional public comment.
- Director’s Report
Acting Director Rebekah Krell gave a status update regarding the status of this year’s grants and thanked the Community Investments team for their hard work in getting the funds into the community quickly. She reported that the COVID-19 poster series was live and thanked the SFAC Gallery team for their work on an important visual art campaign. She gave an update that the Arts Commission is working directly with the Human Rights Commission and the Recreation and Parks Department to outline the process for evaluating monuments and memorials in the Civic Art Collection. She announced that artist Walter Kitundu has been awarded the Public Art Commission for the new Alameda Creek Watershed Center in Sunol. She also gave an update on the Arts, Culture, Hospitality and Entertainment Working Group of the SF Economic Recovery Task Force.
There was no public comment.
- Maya Angelou Project Status Update
President Ordeñana asked Acting Director Krell to give an update on the status of the current project.
President Ordeñana acknowledged the Arts Commission failure to understand and carry out the legislative directive for this project. He apologized to Ms. Lava Thomas on behalf of the Arts Commission. He said that the Arts Commission regrets the ways that the process impacted Ms. Thomas personally and professionally. He said he holds the Arts Commission accountable and commits to make changes moving forward. He acknowledged that the communication around the Visual Arts Committee’s decision to not approve the panel’s recommendation should have been clearer and more respectful. He said he apologized for not having engaged Ms. Thomas earlier to understand impact this process had on Ms. Thomas. He explained that although there are factors outside of our control, the Arts Commission is examining how to be clearer in explaining the goals of the project. He asked that the Arts Commission continue to move forward with what they’ve learned and recommit to the values of racial equity and racial justice. President Ordeñana proposed to consider pausing the current RFQ process. He explained that this would allow this project to align with the larger work of reviewing the Civic Art Collection statues and monument with a racial equity lens. He stated that the Arts Commission should continue to create artwork that reflect the values and the diverse communities we serve.
President Ordeñana invited Commissioner Keehn to speak. Commissioner Keehn said she recognized and appreciated the time and thought related to Ms. Thomas’ proposal as well as during the ensuing months. She explained that Ms. Thomas’ proposal was original, compelling and reflected the vision of the expanded language. Commissioner Keehn apologized for the distress caused. She explained that at the next Visual Arts Committee meeting, Commissioners will review how communication around public art projects is handled with all parties involved and she described specific issues to be reviewed. She stated that while there are many factors outside of our control, the Visual Arts Committee will examine how to provide clear information on the status of upcoming commissions. She announced that she will recuse herself from future engagement on the Maya Angelou project at upcoming Visual Arts Committee meetings. She stated that Commissioner Ferras will take the lead on the Maya Angelou item at future meetings. Commissioner Keehn also explained that she created an ad hoc committee for monuments under the Mayor’s directive. She said that Commissioner Musleh and staff will begin developing guidelines relating to the statues in the Civic Art Collection. She noted that Commissioner Musleh will be the point person at future VAC meetings relating to monuments. Commissioner Keehn apologized for Ms. Thomas’ statement getting cut off during the public comment period at the last VAC meeting. She said she will work with staff to create new public comment protocols.
President Ordenana invited Lava Thomas to share her thoughts as a guest speaker.
Lava Thomas said she appreciated the apology and noted that this is a step towards redress and restorative justice. She said that institutions are being called on to acknowledge their culpability and make repair. She said she demands redress and restorative justice for the mishandling of the 2019 RFQ and egregious way her proposal was rejected. She explained that a monument to honor Dr. Angelou cannot be built on the backs of Black women artists and arts professionals who have been deceived and used as pawns in political maneuvers which is why the 2020 RFQ be suspended until the 2019 RFQ is addressed. She explained why redress and restorative justice are crucial. She described the details of her proposal along with the choices she made when creating her proposal. She continued to summarize her reflections on what happened during the 2019 RFQ process. She explained how she believed that political machinations had occurred during this process. She also described disrespectful behavior of Superior Stefani and Commissioner Keehn. She described her list of demands for the Arts Commission and noted that these actions towards redress and restorative justice begin by suspending the 2020 RFQ.
President Ordeñana thanked Ms. Thomas for joining the meeting.
Commissioner Shelby joined the meeting at 3:09 p.m.
Commissioner Keehn, seconded by Commissioner Shiota moved to approve the motion to pause the current selection process in order to give all of the stakeholders time to engage in a meaningful way and to ensure we have clarity and transparency moving forward, as amended.
Commissioners discussed the motion including the potential timeframe associated with the motion and asked for clarification around project funding and the deadline related to the mandated ordinance. Acting Director Krell explained possible options regarding the deadline of the mandated ordinance and confirmed the budget would not be impacted by pausing the process.
Commissioners continued to discuss their support for pausing the process and asked for an opportunity for Ms. Thomas’ statement to be examined. President Ordeñana confirmed that Ms. Thomas’ requests will be submitted to the public record.
Spike Kahn, Director of Felt Factory, said she’s speaking on behalf of the greater arts community. She explained their mission statement. She explained this is a case in point of what they’re trying to stop. She said she is looking for actionable change. She said that apologies don’t correct the problem that black women have been silenced in the art world and requested Lava Thomas’ vision be realized if Ms. Thomas is interested. She said to listen when black women speak.
Dana Hemenway spoke in support of Lava Thomas, the demands of See Black Womxn and asked their demands be addressed. She commented on the selection process of the Maya Angelou project and shared her disappointment of the outcome since it silenced the contributions of a black woman. She urged the commission to move forward with Lava’s proposal. She explained that the Commission should not only advocate for contemporary art but acknowledge the power they could activate to update their client’s views. She asked if a client had a white supremacist or sexist agenda if the SFAC would follow their clients wishes.
Dana King said she is a member of See Black Womxn, a semifinalist for the current RFQ process and a semifinalist of the 2019 RFQ. She spoke on the process of selecting Ms. Thomas. She said Dr. Maya Angelou’s spirit is being dragged through an unnecessary political process. She said that this is a case of malfeasance when the Mayor intervened. She said that the RFQ should stay suspended until transparency, equity, diversity, access, inclusion and accountability are part of the process. She explained her concerns with the timeframe to meet the deadline of the ordinance. She explained why this is not an issue of contemporary versus classical sculpture.
Angela Hennessy, member of See Black Womxn, said it was an honor to serve as a panelist on the 2019 RFQ panel. She explained her outrage by the rejection of the panel’s decision and described her concerns around the 2019 RFQ process. She asked to change the legislation and proposed increasing the original amount of the ordinance. She described her concerns if the 2020 RFQ was to continue and also explained her concerns with pausing the RFQ for only 60 days.
Ana Teresa Fernandez spoke in support of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She explained how she is disturbed with the treatment of Lava Thomas in this process. She said that the Arts Commission’s behavior did not exhibit their mission statement. She said that the Arts Commission should be protecting artists and their voice. She asked to do justice for Maya Angelou, Lava Thomas and all artists of San Francisco. She asked that Lava Thomas’ voice be brought into existence.
Deborah Stein said she is shocked to see this happen to an incredible black women artist like Lava Thomas. She added that she supported Angela Hennessey’s statements. She said that there can’t be restorative justice unless the decision is reversed. She described important key art historical points relating to Lava Thomas’ proposal. She proposed asking Lava Thomas if she would accept her original proposal being constructed.
T. Rasheed, co-founder of See Black Womxn, stated that, during a meeting with commission leadership, it was made clear that this process was conducted behind the scenes by Mayor London Breed and carried out by Supervisor Stefani. She explained how Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn have been working to settle the issues and their request for clarify have been ignored. She described a number of demands to reach redress and restorative justice. She also encouraged the commission to amend the legislation.
Claudia Leung, former Arts Commission staff, said she was as part of the Community Investments team. She said explained that the Community Investments department was originally created because of the role community activists played. She compared these actions with what is currently happening in the public art realm. She described the labor that black women have played in the process and thanked Lava Thomas for her statement. She said that is it imperative that the SFAC staff and commissioners work to undo biases. She commented on the aesthetic framework to correct historic injustices and reinforce equity. She said she hoped that a true critic of white and western dominant notions of artistic excellence can be shared with project sponsors. She commended staff members for supporting Lava Thomas and asked that there are not negative repercussions for staff. She spoke in support of the demands of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn.
Xaviera Simmons spoke in support of Lava Thomas, the San Francisco black community and See Black Womxn. She asked the commission to find resources of repair for Ms. Thomas and gave reasoning why. She said that teachable moments need to be compensated. She noted that black women are vessels for shift but never receive compensation for this work.
Karen Lipney spoke in support of See Black Womxn Collective and supported the motion to suspend the 2020 RFQ process. She asked the Arts Commission to make a commitment to black artists and transparency. She described the harm historically caused to black women artists and the impact of exclusion has played. She asked for an inclusive history.
Kate Rhoades spoke in support of the demands of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She called on the commission to read the demands and meet them. She said that Lava Thomas should decide when restorative justice is done. She asked SFAC leadership to listen to their staff. She thanked Ms. Thomas and See Black Womxn for their work to abolish white supremacy.
Katy Kondo spoke in support of pausing the project and echoed the previous comments that a pause is a start. She said that it’s a time to make meaningful action. She said this process must be seen through with due diligence. She asked the commission to address the demands of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn and asked the commission to listen to all parties involved including staff. She said that it’s the commission’s responsibility to move the work forward and she urged them to take the time to get it right.
Lindsey White said the actions of the SFAC leadership are a disgrace to the arts community. She asked to cease the 2020 RFQ until restorative justice practices that are deemed acceptable by Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She added that the Bay Area arts community wants to see Ms. Thomas’ project realized. She said that it is crucial to start with public apologies and she asked to pay Ms. Thomas for all of her labor. She requested SFAC leadership meet the demands of See Black Womxn and needs to address institutionalized racism.
Julia Goodman spoke in support of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn and described their efforts for creating restorative justice. She noted that Maya Lin’s experience navigating the conflict around her design of the Vietnam Memorial 30 years ago. She said that Lava's design was beautiful and powerful on many levels. She explained that revoking Ms. Thomas’ proposal is a great loss for the Bay Area. She said she is grateful for Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn’s work in this process and shared a quote by Dr. Brittney Cooper.
Maysoun Wazwaz, attending as a member of the public, acknowledged that it’s been a year since the Visual Arts Committee voted against Ms. Thomas’ proposal and described events that have unfolded since then. She said that Ms. Thomas’ requests to understand what happened had been met with silence until now. She said she is worried that conversations will be performative and that there are no intentions to meet the demands of Ms. Thomas and the See Black Womxn Collective. She urged the commission to listen to Ms. Thomas and work towards restorative justice with her.
Anne Trickey, attending as a member of the public, commented on Commissioner Keehn’s point that the software cut off Lava Thomas. They said that there is no reference to software in the public comment instructions. They also mentioned that Commissioner Keehn directed staff to not call on members of the public and requested that some members of the public be muted. They noted that training for commissioners and a restorative justice process can happen within 60 days.
Libby Black stated that she supports Lava Thomas, the See Black Womxn Collective and their demands. She noted that again black women are educating people for free. She asked for transparency in the process and asked that Lava Thomas’ original proposal move forward. She added that 30 or 60 days is not enough time to pause the process.
Taylor Brandon, speaking on behalf of No Neutral Alliance, said they support Lava Thomas. She said that Lava Thomas and the See Black Womxn Collective have done the work and commented on how damaging it has been their physical health. She said that Lava Thomas deserves to be paid. She said that she echoes all demands and statements that have been made and agreed that 60 days is not enough time to fix this issue.
Davina Semo submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I am writing to express my support for Lava Thomas’ sculpture in honor of Dr. Maya Angelou. I was so happy to see her work chosen for this site. I was horrified to witness the rescinding of this opportunity for her, as I have never seen this happen in my professional career. If SFAC didn’t want to choose her work, that’s one thing, but to publicly announce it, and then take it away, is extremely disrespectful, and wrong. I was further incensed to witness the call for proposals to be reissued! This is unacceptable. It is especially shocking that this could be done in San Francisco, to a Black woman, who is creating a work to honor another Black woman. I am writing to demand that Lava Thomas’ work be re-approved by SFAC, and that she is paid more than the initial call, to compensate her for this distress.
Jaime Austin submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I am writing in support of artist Lava Thomas’ request for a full explanation outlining how the decision to cancel her 2019 commission unfolded. I have grave concerns regarding the lack of transparency in the 2019RFQ and encourage you to consider the systemic racism inherent in representational public art, and how it has played out in this situation. By not valuing the time and work of Thomas, the process has specifically alienated women and African Americans—the two groups it was meant to uplift. Instead of moving ahead and restarting a new selection process, the VAC should halt the RFQ2020 selection process, issue a full public apology to Thomas, and take a deep look at the flawed process that led to this debacle. Legislators were not elected to design public art monuments. This is the job of artists. Let’s not allow politics to steal their voice. Reinstate Thomas’ original proposal.
Amanda Williams requested to suspend the 2020 RFQ and reinstate Lava’s original proposal. She described her experience with being part of a civic process and what it can offer to artists and a city. She spoke about the disrespect towards both Dr. Maya Angelou and Lava Thomas. She explained her disappointment in the process that unfolded. She asked to reverse the ruling and to not move forward with the 2020 RFQ.
Jessalyn Aaland submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I'm a Bay Area artist (who has worked with SFAC), curator, and former SFUSD teacher in support of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. I urge SFAC to not move forward with the 2020 RFQ and to complete Lava’s original proposal, with restorative justice for Lava. SFAC must take the time needed to do this right, not rush. SFAC should take into consideration the great distrust artists have of SFAC due to this process, and should address this by revisiting the approval process and related legislation to make sure it upholds the democratic ideals it espouses. As a former SFUSD teacher, youth need to experience public art about and by artists who resemble them, especially in contemporary aesthetics outside traditional approaches to monuments. Losing Lava’s sculpture would be a lost opportunity for San Francisco. Please also listen to your staff as you move toward justice, they are your greatest asset.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an email statement from Anonymous:
They thanked the Commission for providing the public space to the mishandling of the 2019 RFQ and to Lava Thomas. They added that Ms. Thomas and the communities that support her work will begin to convey the gravity of the harm and disappointment this commission and the agency’s leadership has caused. They spoke about how the Arts Commission has upheld institutionalized racism and white supremacy, how the Commission’s lack of concern has conveyed where their investments lie and they questioned the Commission’s commitment to their racial equity statement. They asked the Commission use this opportunity move forward and make change. They requested to suspend the 2020 RFQ until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions toward redress and restorative justice are made.
Jane Norling submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
Please suspend the re-issued RFQ for a public work honoring Dr Maya Angelou. As a woman artist, pubic artist, former San Franciscan now Berkeley, and human enjoying art in public spaces, I was thrilled with Lava Thomas’s selection for the artwork honoring Dr Maya Angelou outside the San Francisco Public Library. Her project design exemplifies a new approach conveying the essence of beloved public figures such as Angelou and the deeply humanitarian creativity and imagination (sparked by Black Lives Matter) of our new times. Lava researched her subject, thought way outside the conventional box of figurative sculpture. And, why not a book in front of the library. Lava’s design is the right one for the location and times. The selection/deselection process treated her cruelly. Please do the right thing and proceed with an exiting new public artwork in San Francisco.
Astria Suparak submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I request that the 2020RFQ for a Statue to Honor Dr. Maya Angelou be suspended until the 2019RFQ is resolved. Artist Lava Thomas' demands for redress and accountability should be fully considered by the San Francisco Arts Commission. The Arts Commission, Mayor London Breed, and Supervisor Catherine Stefani must recognize the harm this botched process has caused within the city's arts communities and on the reputation of the Arts Commission nationally. It has bred distrust towards the officials involved and towards any future commissions the city undertakes.
Christa Palazzolo submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I'm writing as a constituent of San Francisco, as an artist, and as an arts supporter, in response to your handling of Lava Thomas's Maya Angelou public art proposal. I am writing to request that you SUSPEND the 2020 Maya Angelou RFQ process until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions toward Redress and Restorative Justice are made. I was shocked and upset that you scrapped Thomas's democratically won design in favor of yet another "traditional" statue. The monument to Dr. Maya Angelou cannot be built on the backs of Black Women who have been disrespected and dismissed. Where is the accountability?
Rodney Ewing submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
The fact that you still don't see the relevance and hypocrisy in the wake of BLM and the dismantling of racist statues across the country, while still attempting to silence Lava Thomas and her work is disturbing! The fact that you have undermined the review process does not only create scepticism among the artist population in SF, it does not reflect well for you as an organization. Speaking for myself, you no longer have my trust, and you are participating in systematic and institutionalized racism. SUSPEND the 2020 Maya Angelou RFQ process until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions toward Redress and Restorative Justice are made. Live up to your DEI statement!
Amy Tavern submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
Many arts organizations in the Bay Area continue to represent White Supremacy. This is evident in SFAC’s choice to rescind Lava Thomas’ acceptance and recommit to old ways steeped in a tradition that benefits white people and not only excludes Black artists, but also discounts and erases their achievements. SFAC’s perpetuation of systemic racism is also evident in their choice to silence Lava during a recent meeting. It is our job as white people to listen to people of color and the action of silencing her was beyond disrespectful, regardless of any time limit rule. It is critical to make amends to Lava and Black women artists by accepting Lava’s demands and those of See Black Womxn. SFAC must be held accountable and take responsibility for their actions. I stand with Lava Thomas and artists of color.
Iris Moore submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I add my voice to the many supporters of Lava Thomas' approved proposal of 2019 for a Maya Angelou monument in front of the library.In addition to obvious problems in your procedure and blatant disrespect of the artist, made obvious by the RFQ2019 debacle, there was a total disregard of the expertise of the jury of art professionals who overwhelmingly approved Ms Thomas' proposal. Their decision was rooted in an understanding that not only does the content of our monuments need to change but the FORM has to challenge the status quo as well.The colonial, racist shape of statues carries meaning, and as Black artists struggle with this question, it is up to institutions like you to support them.
Tamara Dunn submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
My name is Tamara Dunn, MD and I am a supporter of See Black Womxn. I am writing to request that you SUSPEND the 2020 Maya Angelou RFQ process until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions toward Redress and Restorative Justice are made. You have the opportunity to make this right. The See Black Womxn collective has been working tirelessly with Lava Thomas to settle this issue and they have been ignored. This is unacceptable and I am hoping for immediate resolution of this situation.
Camille Messerely submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
My comment is in support and solidarity of the artist Lava Thomas and the list of demands developed between her and the See Black Womxn collective. In my understanding of the current two weeks after Thomas was notified that her proposal was selected, she was told that her proposal would not be approved, without explanation. The Visual Arts Committee and Supervisor Catherine Stefani and the Board of Supervisors violated their own code of ethics, mission statement, and values. They also violated city ordinance 243-18. This is institutionalized racism and sexism. I want to echo the demands of Lava Thomas and the See Black Woman collective. I will close my comment by demanding that the 2020RFQ for a statue to commemorate and honor Dr. Maya Angelou be suspended until the 2019RFQ is addressed and actions toward Redress and Restorative Justice are made. Do better. Be accountable.
Alicia Escott described her disappointment with the 2019 RFQ process and the actions of Supervisor Stefani. She also noted her disappointment that Supervisor Stefani, her colleagues or higher ups have failed to apologize. She continued to describe the need to uplift new ways to honor those that have paved new paths. She said that Lava is a great artist and that she understood this cultural moment before the tearing down of the monuments happened. She noted how powerful it would have been if her monument would have been erected now. She urged Supervisor Stefani and her colleagues listen to Lava Thomas. She said she hoped that San Francisco will ultimately be graced with Ms. Thomas’ work.
Elizabeth Thomas asked the commission to reconsider Lava Thomas’ demands that are not currently being met. She talked about the egregious behavior of the City and commission during this process. She shared her disappointed on how Lava Thomas has been treated and described the root of the issue occurring across the country. She mentioned that she has not heard the word censorship. She explained that this process is an example of censorship. She asked the commission to consider its role and think about the actions it must take moving forward.
April Banks spoke in supports Lava Thomas and noted the lack of transparency of the process. She said that as another black women artist, she needed to add her name in support of Lava Thomas and other artists doing this work. She said the RFQ should be canceled and that there is no reason why time can’t be taken to address the issue properly.
Ashara Ekundayo was called on but had technical difficulties.
Oben Abright stated that he is a semifinalist in the 2020 RFQ and was fourth in the 2019 RFQ. He explained that it would be difficult for a white male artist like himself to accept the commission if his proposal was chosen because of all of the issues involved. He noted there is equal significance between artistic merit and who the artist is. He said he agrees that the process has been tainted and criteria flawed. He stated that the project should be awarded to a black female artist and he said he hopes the outcome honors Dr. Maya Angelou.
Lexa Walsh submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I'd like to comment that I believe the Reissued 2020 RFQ for a Statue in Honor of Dr. Maya Angelou should be SUSPENDED until the 2019 RFQ is addressed and actions towards Redress and Restorative Justice are made. Lava Thomas deserves not only a public apology, but also transparency regarding all of the details of this debacle.
Katherine Vetne submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
My name is Katherine Vetne, and I am a San Francisco based artist and constituent. I am making this comment today in support of Lava Thomas. I demand that the reissued 2020 RFQ for a Statue to Honor Dr. Maya Angelou be suspended until the 2019 RFQ is addressed, and until Lava's demands towards redress and restorative justice are made. The actions taken by the SFAC and local politicians around the 2019 RFQ offer disappointing information about where the City of San Francisco stands on supporting its Black women artists, constituents, and creative community. The SFAC has a chance to convey a different message to San Franciscans this time around, and I hope it takes advantage of this. I urge you to meet Lava Thomas's demands towards redress and restorative justice.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an email statement from Kenturah Davis:
They are writing support of Lava Thomas and noted that they are shocked that embarrassment hasn’t coaxed the Commission away from their decision to reverse her commission. They described the audacity of the process and explained how disingenuous this public art process has become. They stated that the commission is wasting money by reinstating the RFQ which is problematic in this crisis. They questioned the Commission’s commitment to increase representation of women in the public realm and asked for the reasoning for rejecting Ms. Thomas’ design. They urged the Commission to not “be a Karen”.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an email statement from Kimberley Swig:
Kimberely Swig stated she objected to the unfair and tainted process of choosing a monument in honor of Maya Angelou. She said that the awarding of the commission to Lava Thomas, and then apparently in a back room deal, stealing it from her, shows a total lack of integrity on behalf of the entire committee. She questioned when the rule change after the fact when Lava Thomas followed the design brief as outlined by the committee. She questioned the reasoning of how the process unfolded and asked how to ensure a fair process moving forward. She ended with a quote from from Dr. Maya Angelou.
Ranu Mukherjee submitted the following email statement read by Commission Secretary Ventre:
I am writing regarding the consideration of a public monument to honor the legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou. I support my fellow artists Lava Thomas and 'see black womxn' in asking that the reissued RFQ for a sculpture to honor Dr. Maya Angelou for the SF Main Library be suspended until actions of redress and restorative justice are made. This is a matter of dignity and respect due the artist and by extension our artistic community- her excellent proposal could have been a visionary work for our city. In addition, the insistence that a figure such as Dr. Angelou would be best represented in the form of statuary that has historically served to monumentalize colonial histories, is beyond disheartening. As an artist, educator, woman of color and parent, I feel this question in itself warrants a pause and reconsideration.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an email statement from Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen said that the failure in upholding Lava Thomas’ proposal has undermined the racial equity work of the Commission, eroded the public trust in the SFAC’s processes and reinforced a preexistent public opinion that this agency is anti-Black. They continued to explain the harm caused to Ms. Thomas and the right of all black women. They described the issues of systemic and institutionalized racism nationally. They also asked Commissioners how they can dismantle white supremacy and asked how they will recommit to racial equity. They explained how it is vital all parties involved in this project work to understand how white supremacy is embedded in monument-making, and the way in which monuments are part of a larger mythology of whiteness. They acknowledged that this is a process must be community-driven, and led by Black, Indigenous, and other Artists of Color. They explained that the biggest tragedy of the situation is that the statue that is ultimately created in honor of Dr. Maya Angelou will now also symbolize the silencing of a black woman. They asked the Commission how they will choose to move forward.
Commission Secretary Ventre read an email statement from Lorna Meyer:
Lorna Meyer stated that we have learned that process and the elegant execution of the facts leads us to the truth. She discussed the affect that the decision making process can have on an outcome. She commented that the reversal of the RFQ created injustice and it is a poor reflection on those in elected and appointed positions in the city of San Francisco. She explained that if the RFQ process continues, the monument will not reflect the ideals and spirit of Maya Angelou but that the work will always remind us of the breakdown of the democratic procedure and the unfairness and inequality that exists in our society. She said she hoped the commission and the city will reverse this decision.
Tanya Zimbardo thanked for members of the public for speaking today and those that are listening during today’s meeting. She explained her thoughts on how the 2019 RFQ was handled. She said that many assume that the decision was made by the Supervisor and from a higher level. She commented that it’s time that the commission listen to the outrage of the community and asked they meet with Mayor Breed to move forward. She urged the commission to not set a poor precedent for creating sculptures in the future.
Sriba Kwadjovie spoke in solidarity of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She said that what has happened has been disrespectful to Lava Thomas, black women and the legacy of Maya Angelou. She asked to meet the demands of Lava Thomas and See Black Women ollective. She asked to grant the original commission.
Anonymous played a recording of Maya Angelou reading poetry.
Connie spoke in support of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She asked that SFAC take action towards restorative justice and that they ask Mayor Breed and Supervisor Stefani to apologize to Ms. Thomas. She described how the actions of the 2019 RFQ process unfolded including Supervisor Stefani’s actions. She also spoke on the intent of Lava Thomas’ original proposal and how her idea would have expanded the public's idea of what a monument can be. She said she agrees that the renewed 2020 RFQ be suspended until redress and restorative action take place.
Ashara Ekundayo spoke in support of Lava Thomas and the demands of Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She said she is appalled by the lack of respect shown to Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn. She asked to suspend the 2020 RFQ until the commission takes the time needed to address many issues. She asked that Lava Thomas be paid for the sufferings she’s endured. She said she demanded justice and called for end to censorship. She said that this is an opportunity to move towards redress and restorative justice and that she ask that the commission listen to and honor black women moving forward.
Nicole Shaffer spoke in support of the demands made by Lava Thomas and the See Black Womxn. She also thanked Lava Thomas and See Black Womxn for their work in shaping the demands and helping make the bay area art community a better place.
There was no additional public comment.
The following email statement was submitted by Elena Diebel before the deadline for requests for written public comment ended:
I stand with Lava Thomas and the See Black Women collective in demanding immediate suspension of the 2020 RFQ until the “2019 project is resolved and acknowledged with a public statement conducted with restorative justice practices that are transparent and deemed acceptable by the See Black Women collective.” What happened to Lava Thomas was unjust and the SFAC must take accountability for their actions. Thank you.
The following email statement was submitted by L Judson before the deadline for requests for written public comment ended:
Integrity and respect must be central in public art. What happened to Lava Thomas with regards to the Maya Angelou project is disturbing. You cannot move forward without addressing and acknowledging the extent to which the process of 2019RFQ was wrong and actions toward redress and restorative justice are made. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/heatherknight/article/Artist-s-visio... “Artists in the Bay Area work hard for very little reward, and to be disregarded this way, it’s unconscionable.” Thomas said. The fact that this process lacked integrity, it lacked honesty and it lacked accountability defied everything that Dr. Angelou stood for.” An injustice has occurred, and it must be repaired before you move forward. A monument to Maya Angelou cannot proceed without it being addressed that a black womxn was disrespected, dismissed, lied to and used as a pawn.
Commissioner Musleh left the meeting at 5:05 p.m.
Commissioners continued to discuss the motion. President Ordeñana clarified that the Commission will provide a response to Lava Thomas’ requests.
President Ordeñana called for the roll call vote.
The motion carried unanimously by the following vote:
Ayes: Ordeñana, Stryker, Askew, Collins, Ferras, Jung, Keehn, Parker Pennington, Schnair, Shelby, Shiota, Walker, Woolford
RESOLUTION 0803-20-094: Motion to pause the current selection process in order to give all of the stakeholders time to engage in a meaningful way and to ensure we have clarity and transparency moving forward.
- Racial Equity Update - Presentation by Sandra Panopio, Senior Racial Equity & Policy Analyst
President Ordeñana introduced Senior Racial Equity & Policy Analyst Sandra Panopio. Ms. Panopio presented an update on the agency’s current racial equity work and the proposed goals and timeline for the upcoming year.
Commissioner Parker Pennington asked about Ms. Panopio’s involvement in the Racial Equity in the Arts working group. Ms. Panopio said she would find out more information on how to get involved.
Commissioner Walker noted she would like present the racial equity recommendations from the Recovery Task Force.
President Ordeñana thanked Ms. Panopio for her continued racial equity work.
There was no public comment.
- Committee Reports and Committee Matters
President Ordenana reported that the Executive Committee met. He shared the Executive Search update given at the meeting which included reporting that a staff listening session occurred, a community survey was sent out for feedback and that Ms. Phillips is working on an ad brochure. He noted the importance of sharing the application to collect a diverse pool of candidates. He reminded commissioners of the application timeline and he encouraged commissioners to send the names of any interested or prospective candidates to Ms. Phillips.
Commissioner Collins left the meeting at 5:51 p.m.
There was no public comment.
Commissioner Stryker reported on the Civic Design Review Committee. She said they welcomed Commissioner Askew at the last committee meeting for his first meeting. She said they reviewed three projects but wanted to highlight one of the projects. She described the post phase 3 improvement projects at the Bayview Opera House by Walter Hood and Hood Design Studio.
There was no public comment.
Commissioner Keehn thanked commissioners and members of the public for the conversation around the Maya Angelou sculpture. Commissioner Keehn had no further items to report for the Visual Arts Committee.
There was no public comment.
- Consent Calendar
President Ordeñana introduced the consent calendar items.
Commissioner Woolford, seconded by Commissioner Ferras moved to approve the consent calendar items, as presented.
There was no public comment.
The motion carried unanimously by the following vote:
Ayes: Ordeñana, Stryker, Askew, Ferras, Jung, Keehn, Parker Pennington, Schnair, Shelby, Shiota, Walker, Woolford
RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-095:
Approval: RESOLVED, that this Commission does hereby adopt the following items on the Consent Calendar and their related Resolutions:
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-096: Motion to approve the Civic Design Review Committee Meeting Minutes of July 20, 2020.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-097: Motion to approve the Visual Arts Committee Meeting Minutes of July 15, 2020.
Civic Design Review Committee Recommendations (July 20, 2020)
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-098: Motion to approve Phase 3 improvements of the Bayview Opera House Project.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-099 Motion to approve Phase 1 of the New Treasure Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Visual Arts Committee Recommendations (July 15, 2020)
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-100: Motion to approve Bridging the Bernal Cut, a mural design by artist Andre Jones. The mural will cover both sides and the base structure of the Richland Bridge, which connects College Hill and Glen Park over San Jose Avenue. The painted mural will be two panels, each measuring approximately 40 ft. by 40 ft. The project is funded by Community Challenge Grant and the San Francisco Department of Public Works. The painted mural will not become part of the Civic Art Collection.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-101: Motion to approve California Fauna, a mural design by artist Amanda Lynn. The mural will be installed on Blanken Avenue/CA 101 Underpass between Gillette Avenue and Executive Park Blvd. The painted mural will measure approximately 14 ft. by 150 ft. The project is funded by grant agreement between the San Francisco Arts Commission and 1Brush. The painted mural will not become part of the Civic Art Collection.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-102: Motion to approve revised final design of Tomie Arai’s artwork for the North Platform Wall of the Central Subway: Chinatown Station.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-103: Motion to retroactively approve the removal from public display Valencia Street Posts by Michael Arcega due to public safety concerns, as allowed per the Policies and Guidelines of the Civic Art Collection, Section 7.2.1, Provisions for Emergency Removal.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-104: Motion to retroactively approve the removal from public display Movement: The First 100 Years by Man Lin Choi, located in Sue Bierman Park, for conservation and eventual relocation, as allowed per the Policies and Guidelines of the Civic Art Collection, Section 7.3.3: The condition or security of the work cannot be guaranteed and the Arts Commission cannot properly care for the work.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-105: Motion to retroactively approve the removal from public display Christopher Columbus by Vittorio Di Colbertaldo due to public safety concerns, as allowed per the Policies and Guidelines of the Civic Art Collection, Section 7.2.1, Provisions for Emergency Removal.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-106: Motion to approve Stiff Loops IV by Gerald Walberg as re-installed at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, in the location between Bldgs. 1-10.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-107: Motion to approve the following finalists for the 2021 Art on Market Street Kiosk Posters Series, as recommended by the Artist Review Panel: ABD/Skywatchers (Deidre Visser), Kimberley Arteche, Katie Dorame, Crystal Herman, Packard Jennings, and Lindsay Stripling.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-108: Motion to approve the final design of Sirron Norris’s artwork for the Southeast Treatment Plant Construction Fence along Evans Avenue. Artwork will be on display for one year beginning in August 2020.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-109: Motion to approve artist Sanaz Mazinani’s Construction Document phase deliverables, including final imagery, material and fabrication mockup for the artwork at the Golden Gate Park Tennis Center.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-110: Motion to approve artist Emily Fromm and their conceptual proposal for a commissioned artwork as part of the 2D art program at 49 South Van Ness.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-111: Motion to approve artist Val Britton and their conceptual proposal for a commissioned artwork as part of the 2D art program at 49 South Van Ness.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-112: Motion to approve artists Kim Anno, Carter-Lynch (Stacey Carter), and Paul Madonna and the artwork proposals for the SFO C3C Secure Connector Wall project as recommended by the artist review panel.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-113: Motion to authorize the Director of Cultural Affairs to enter into a contract with Kim Anno for an amount not to exceed $133,333 for the design, engineering, fabrication, transportation and installation consultation of an artwork for the SFO C3C Secure Connector Wall project.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-114: Motion to authorize the Director of Cultural Affairs to enter into a contract with Carter-Lynch (Stacey Carter) for an amount not to exceed $133,333 for the design, engineering, fabrication, transportation and installation consultation of an artwork for the SFO C3C Secure Connector Wall project.
- RESOLUTION NO. 0803-20-115: Motion to authorize the Director of Cultural Affairs to enter into a contract with Paul Madonna for an amount not to exceed $133,333 for the design, engineering, fabrication, transportation and installation consultation of an artwork for the SFO C3C Secure Connector Wall project.
- New Business and Announcements
Commissioner Woolford thanked Commissioner Collins for his leadership during his tenure as President and CEO of the local YMCA and congratulated him for his 17 years of service.
There was no public comment.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:05 p.m.
posted 8/17/2020, 5 p.m. adv
A recording of this meeting will be available online after the meeting at the following address: https://sfgov.org/arts/audio-archive-8.
Translated written materials and interpretation services are available to you at no cost. For assistance, please notify Commission Secretary Alyssa Ventre, 415-252-2255, Alyssa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Materiales traducidos y servicios de interpretación están disponibles para usted de manera gratuita. Para asistencia, notifique a Commission Secretary Alyssa Ventre, 415-252-2255, Alyssa.firstname.lastname@example.org