Art is about thinking outside the box. And the frame. And borders of any kind, for that matter.

Special projects moving beyond even city boundaries.

We could not have created such wonderful projects without the support of some very special funding partners – Crankstart Foundation, The Germanacos Foundation, Ms. Aiko Cueno, Macy's, The Creative Work Fund, Miranda Lux Foundation, The Stocker Foundation, The Walter & Elise Haas Fund, LEF Foundation and many others. Thank you!

A workshop inspires a famed book. An exercise takes kids’ work beyond “refrigerator doors” and into public art exhibits. A creative exploration focusing on the notion of home is seen from SFMOMA to Washington, D.C.

Since 1996, imaginative Special Projects involving students, teaching artists and school artistic staff have invigorated the process of creating together. These projects inform us of new, impactful ways to communicate and create with each other while better stimulating the imaginations of kids. Along the way, we are able to create powerful dialogues with our audiences, families and communities.

Here are some stunning examples of what we mean:


Drawing on Youth displayed the work of seven high-school students in SFArtsED's Interdiscipliary Arts Program under the direction of Agelio and Delia Batle, with assistant artists Zoe Farmer and Tiersa Nureyev. The work, created between October 2014 and May 2015, included drawing, painting, sculpture and installation/performance and was exhibited at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery. See the photo gallery here.


INTERNATIONAL ORANGE: The Bridge Re-imagined. Under the guidance of curator and Master Teacher Richard Olsen, students from kindergarten to high school joined forces to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. The final exhibition at the Mills Building explored every aspect of what a bridge can be, both literally and metaphorically. Find out more here.


The making of a book, Ideas for Teaching the Arts to Children. What if visual artists were asked to dance? Or if singers were instructed to draw? This was the brainchild of legendary Remy Charlip, choreographer, performer and children’s book illustrator.

In the two years he was Master Mentor organizing workshops for our artist and classroom teachers, they saw that by learning new things, they could learn much about teaching itself.


Launching student work from refrigerator doors into professional galleries and public spaces Richard Olsen, one of our leading visual Artists-In-Residence began a series of special arts exhibitions involving both students and artists. The first exhibit was held in the Esprit de Corp Corporate Headquarters, bringing children’s work into public settings.

Later, Authentic Allies: Artists and Children panel discussions included visitors Jessica Davis, then of Harvard University’s Education Department Project Zero, the superintendent of schools Waldemar Rojas, the curator of 20th century art, The Berkeley Museum’s Larry Rinder and SFArtsED artist Richard Olsen at Rena Bransten Galley in conjunction with the 1996 exhibition. It literally brought kids’ work into the cultural mainstream.


The work of 3,000 students depicting ideas of home travels almost 3,000 miles. The Brick Project asked thousands of San Francisco school children to express their notions of home on wooden bricks with a variety of media. These works were featured at SFMOMA’s opening Family day in 1995, and the project went on to tour several U.S. galleries, ending at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. The “cities” created by these bricks won the Scholastic Art and Writing Award Best Design.


What happens when Artists and students speak to each other, relying solely on visual art? A completely enthralling exhibition, called, Authentic Allies: Artists and Children. This show featured various dialogues between SFArtsED Artists-in-Residence and their students shown side by side, and certainly sparked even more dialogue among all who attended. It clearly demonstrated the deep, collegial relationships between artists and the students they taught.


Pillowcases as an artistic medium to capture dreams. The evocative Dreams and Nightmares explored the world of the unconscious. Works from SFArtsED Artists-in-Residence and Residencies from the School of the Arts sculpture class were exhibited at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery. Included in this show were pillowcases, each depicting dreams and nightmares of the young artists.


Fifty solutions, arrived upon through art. Give and Take: Youth and Artists in Dialogue challenged students and noted visiting artists to come by solutions through visual art. Curated by Larry Rinder (now Director of Berkeley Museum,) artists and students solved specific questions using a variety of genre. This project hosted at the Mills Building in San Francisco in collaboration with ArtSource Consulting, also involved students instructed by Artists-in-Residence visiting artist's studios as part of the exercise. It was open for three months. And 2,000 people a day came through the show.


An abandoned school courtyard turns into gallery and GARDEN. Led by Ray Belder (public artist and sculptor) and Loretta Gargan (landscape artist) a 4,500 square foot courtyard at Francisco Middle school is transformed into a garden, outdoor classroom, gallery and quiet refuge for students and teachers. The GARDEN project became a centerpiece for learning science, mathematics, literature, design and studies of indigenous plants and animals. Neighbors, students from the nearby San Francisco Art Institute and members of Levi Strauss’ Community Involvement Team all helped to build this creative, giving space.


The GARDEN project inspires art outside its walls. In conversation with the GARDEN project, Richard Olsen curates a show of work from our visual arts residencies with a theme of the natural world at San Francisco Art Institute’s Diego Rivera Gallery.


MIX has students and teachers create portraits of each other. Add Artists from the San Francisco Art Institute. Kids studying visual art at two Artists-in-Residence schools. And a delightful exchange begins as they, led by Richard Olsen, one of our Artists-in-Residence, create portraits in all genres. One Artist's interpretation led to representations through molds of the students’ teeth!  The work was shown at the Mills Building in collaboration with ArtSource Consulting.


Collaborative quilts move from classes to museum. Anna Von Mertens, modern quilter, gave workshops about quilting to our Artist/Teachers who then brought the artistry home to students in their schools. The Quilt Project culminated in an exhibit at the ZEUM Theater in conjunction with the opening of a musical by our own SFArtsED Players: The Invisible Princess, based on a book by quilt artist and author, Faith Ringgold. A very genuine collaboration.


Thousands of butterflies, created by students, travel in unison. In The Color of My Dreams project, Artists-in-Residence students designed butterflies based on a common medium in collaboration with noted sculptor and public artist, Seyed Alavi. This spectacular show was first exhibited on the ceiling at ZEUM in Yerba Buena Gardens. And traveled to several sites including the Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco State campus and to the Richmond Health Center.


Students and elders sculpt through stories. Informed by a year of students and elders of the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center coming to know each other resulted in The Lantern Project. Led by Artists-in-Resident Rene Yung a large sculptural piece was created by Francisco Middle School Students, inspired by the stories they heard. The work was displayed at the Levi Strauss Corporate Headquarters in San Francisco.


Quilts cross an ocean of collaboration. Friendship Quilts, led by SFArtsED Artist Amina Mousa and classroom teacher Donna Hong engaged students across the globe. Children from Panorama Elementary School work with students in Amman, Jordan, in a quilt creation and exchange program.


How do artists see children? How do children see each other? Some insight lies in Through the Looking Glass: Images of Young People. This project was led by visiting artist and photographer Dawoud Bey. Bey led SFArtsED Artists-in-Residence in developmental workshops making photographs in school settings. His work, the work of past visual Artists-In-Residence (including Ray Beldner, Libby Black, Agelio Batle and Deirdre Daw,) work from our students and students from School of the Arts and Gateway Charter High School were curated in a show by Richard Olsen. The show explored the difference between ways in which children are portrayed by adults with the ways in which children and youth portray one another. It was all part of our 40th Anniversary celebration and was shown at the Mills Building in cooperation with ArtSource Consulting.