“re:home: a For Free Freedoms exhibition” and community action center explores themes of homelessness and immigration, and encourages conversation and action
By Nina Tabios
The city of San Francisco is home to over 880,000 people, yet the idea of ‘home’ may mean something different to those disenfranchised by escalating costs of living and urban policies.
The perception of ‘what is home?’ is further examined at the “re:home: a For Free Freedoms exhibition” and community action center at the Minnesota Street Project, where artists examine San Francisco’s most forefront regional struggles: strict immigration laws, disparate opinions on homelessness, and the flight of the creative class.
Candace Huey, an instructor for the School of Art History (AHS) at Academy of Art University, was one of three curators challenged with the idea of considering San Francisco’s status as an arrival city, where large numbers of immigrants relocate to start anew. Along with Amy Kisch (AKArt Advisory + Collect for Change) and Suzanna Zuber, the curators’ main focus was about what it meant for San Francisco to be a homeland and in what cases did it fail to be a home for certain groups. Conveying that message through the art, the curators also wanted to inject a sense of activism into the gallery show through an adjacent Community Action Center.
“What’s unique about this exhibition is we’re using art to communicate these messages but there’s also this component which is really about action,” said Huey, a native San Franciscan. “It’s not just an art show, there’s also a community action affiliated with it.”
According to Huey, the art presents the issues surrounding homelessness, immigration, and displacement, while the community action center allows visitors to participate in the conversation. Guests intrigued by installations such as Laura Boles Faw and Summer Lee’s illuminated letters that dialed in on displacement can head to the Community Action Center and read up on Artadia, a non-profit that supports visual artists with unrestricted funds they can use to fund materials or cover bills. Those touched by the audio portraits told in SOUND MADE PUBLIC’s recycled banana box setup can support a resource like Lava Mae, which drives buses converted into showers through homeless encampments, through a pop-up shop purchase, which sends part of the proceeds to the featured organizations. At the time of the gallery opening, Butte County was battling fires so Huey extended the displacement resources and donation opportunities to those affected by the Camp Fire.
“Being able to see that despite all these issues that are happening at the moment, there’s at least some positive [through events like these],” said Simone Segal, one of Huey’s exhibition interns and an AHS B.F.A. student. “This is a place people can come together about it and there are a ton of resources provided at the space and you’re able to delve into the issue that you feel most connected to and find a way to help. So it’s not only the artwork; it’s also a way to resolve the issues.”
Segal, along with 2016 AHS graduate Kim Selvaggi were recruited by AHS Director Gabriela Sotomayor to help Huey with the exhibition. They did a little bit of everything—from installation to outreach to social media—and learned the ins and outs of manning a gallery, both on the artist and visitor side.
“I really wanted representation from the Academy, so I asked [Sotomayor] for her top students,” Huey said. “They gained very hands-on experience on how to conceptualize, how to produce, how to install, how do you actually work in a gallery. They are art history majors so the experience would be invaluable for their futures.”
Huey is also the founder and principal of re.riddle, a curatorial company that showcases site-specific exhibitions and pop-up events in San Francisco, Paris, and London. Her focus is to curate socially-engaging and multidisciplinary exhibitions of contemporary art in hopes to spark thought-provoking conversations, as exemplified through the “re:home: a For Freedoms exhibition.”
“I hope [‘re:home’] moves people to activate some action, whether that’s a donation to the causes or even the physical effort to do something. Artwork can be used to activate change so that there’s motion and movement,” she said. “[‘re:home’] is about how can we make San Francisco a more welcoming arrival city for people and how can San Francisco be more home-like to everyone.”
The “re:home: a For Freedoms exhibition” and community center is open at the Minnesota Street Project on 1275 Minnesota Street through Dec. 29. For more information, please visit minnesotastreetproject.com.