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Movers and Makers

Jewelle Gomez
Val Wilmer

Poet in Motion: Jewelle Gomez stays busy as executive director
of the Poetry Center.

Honoring 50 who nurture
San Francisco's creative scene

By the Metropolitan Staff

In an issue filled with so many changes, we felt it appropriate to continue our predecessor publication SF Live's tradition of annually honoring the 50 figures chosen by their peers as most representative of San Francisco's creative excellence.

1. Christina Auguello
As co-producer of the San Francisco Fringe Festival and artistic director of EXIT Theatre, Auguello is a champion of little theater. The Fringe has grown to present some 300 companies from around the world, while EXIT offers consistently interesting work from its headquarters on the edge of the Tenderloin. "The power, the drama, the laughter, the challenge, the artists, the audiences of theater excite me. To be making theater happen in the Bay Area is a dream come true," Auguello says.

2. Tandy Beal
Her status as founder and head of the Santa Cruz-based Tandy Beal & Company contemporary dance troupe would be enough by itself to ensure Beal's standing. But when you add her key role in saving the beloved Pickle Family Circus from oblivion, it's clear Beal deserves a pole position in the Indy 500 of artistic recognition.

3. Willie Brown
Standing astride the cultural landscape like a hat-wearing colossus, Brown envisions SF as a new Athens of cultural refinement and ... oh, forget it. We'll leave the hagiography to Herb Caen and simply note that, love him or hate him, da mayor's administration promises to shape the city's artistic scene in a major, major way.

4. Lily Cai
Planting her seeds in SF as a dancer and choreographer since her arrival in 1983, artistic director Lily Cai continues to grow as a prominent member of the dance community. Known to synthesize traditional Chinese dance forms with a contemporary American perspective, Cai's innovative work blossomed in 1988 with the establishment of the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company.

5. Enrique Chagoya
"I laugh and I start to paint and that's what tells me what to do," artist Enrique Chagoya once told a Bay Area reporter. Indeed, it is apparent that the muse of comedy inspires the work of the Mexican-born professor of art at Cal State Hayward. Trained in Mexico City and the Bay Area, Chagoya brings fort h steely political commentary sheathed in dark humor, addressing the problems that many Mexican Americans experience when trying to swim against the bleached tide of Anglo culture.

6. Club Foot Orchestra
The Club Foot Orchestra has entertained everyone from Third Street artists to the white-tie crowd (at least the band was wearing white tie and tails) with their setting of a film festival's worth of silent films to their own original music. Richard Marriott, Beth Custer and the ensemble know that more than half of the movie experience comes from listening to the music.

7. Emil De Cou
Since 1993 Emil De Cou has waved his wand as the conductor of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, considered one of the finest ballet orchestras in the world committed to performing a vast repertoire. He shares conducting assignments with music director Dennis de Coteau, is principal conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Pops and also has edited and performed several unpublished works by Charles T. Griffes.

8, 9. Jeff Diamond and Karen Larsen
Part of the reason why San Francisco is a major market for independent film is the efforts of these two publicists, who do their best to level the playing field between the behemoths of the film industry and the smaller but more important pictures such as Breaking the Waves and Welcome to the Dollhouse.

Yuriko Doi
Noh Way: Yuriko Doi, founder of Theatre of Yugen, is known for her collaborative works.

10. Yuriko Doi
Doi, founder and artistic director of Theatre of Yugen since 1978, is one of the world's most respected directors of Kyogen and Noh theatre styles. She does some amazing work, including such ground-breaking collaborations as next season's teaming of flamenco dancer La Tania as the groom and a Kabuki actor as the bride in a modern adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding. The company's annual Noh Christmas Carol has been a hit for three seasons.

11. Will Durst
Not a stand-up comic so much as a cottage industry, Durst deserves major kudos for keeping alive the guttering flame of political comedy through his consistently funny stand-up routines, numerous Comedy Central television appearances, and hosting duties on the We Do the Work PBS series.

12. Erik Ehn
One of the region's most exciting (and prolific) playwrights, Ehn has a rich résumé, including such musical and nonmusical stage shows as Wolf at the Door, A Capella Hardcore, Gravity's Drain and Clubhouse, teaching work at Santa Clara University and San Francisco State, and service as board chairman of Intersection for the Arts.

13. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
What can be said about this beloved poet/Beat icon/City Lights bookstore owner that hasn't already been shouted from the rooftops by the man's many admirers? City Lights' publishing arm also deserves kudos for its excellent work during the Gulf War, providing a printed outlet for the opponents of that particular conflict.

14. Sally Jo Fifer
As executive director of the Bay Area Video Coalition, Fifer directs all programs and is responsible for financial, administrative and technical activities. Her background in media arts includes seven years as BAVC's program and development director and her work as the editor of Video Networks and co-editor of Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art.

15. Bob Fisher
From his humble start as a comedy promoter (Fisher helped launch Paula Poundstone, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Ellen De Generes, among others), Fisher has gone on to make his mark as a producer of Rick Reynolds' acclaimed one-man shows Only the Truth Is Funny and All Grown Up and No Place to Go. And now he's joined up with that other Fisher king, John, by co-producing the local wonder Medea: The Musical, which just might go on to national fame.

16, 17. Robert Futernick/Dakin Hart
Both of the Palace of the Legion of Honor, these two are the geniuses behind the Thinker (along with the Web designers at Kinotrope, whom we thoughtlessly forgot to mention in our November 1996 profile), currently the hottest art-oriented site on the World Wide Web. By making available all 60,000 of the Legion of Honor's works in a searchable format, Hart and Futernick have taken the museum's mission of accessibility into exciting terrain. Art lovers are champing at the bit for them to do the same for the de Young's collection.

18. Jewelle Gomez
In the dense literary jungle of San Francisco, the vivacious and indefatigable creativity of Gomez remains one of the most outstanding stands of foliage. Gomez, executive director of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State, has seen her poetry, fiction and criticism grace the pages of The New York Times and such anthologies as Daughters of Africa. She has received two Lambda Literary Awards, and the stage adaptation of her novel for Urban Bush Women, Bones and Ash: A Gilda Story, is touring the U.S.

Lou Harrison
Betty Freeman

Sensual Mathematician: Composer Lou Harrison begins a ninth
decade of creativity.

19. Lou Harrison
Harrison, once quoted stating that "music is ... sensual mathematics," is today's Renaissance man. In addition to teacher and composer, Harrison's identities include music critic, animal nurse, florist, dance accompanist and forestry firefighter. He also is a calligrapher, poet, painter and writer. Celebrating his 80th birthday in 1997, Harrison is currently designing a straw-bale house for a high-desert getaway.

20. Dennis Harvey
A little snippy at times, to be sure, but Bay Guardian theater writer Harvey was cited by respondents as a key force in the recognition of local theater. And while the tourists may not consult his reviews before deciding whether to see The Phantom of the Opera or Beach Blanket Babylon, Harvey's reviews have the power to make or break independent and neighborhood theaters.

21. Stan Hill
This dynamic conductor, arranger, clinician and vocal coach has a career spanning the elementary, secondary, university, church and community choral spectrum. In his eighth season as artistic director for the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, Hill is also in his 25th year as choral director. His vision for the chorus has been marked by dramatic growth, including a tripling of the membership, a doubling of the audience and the release of five recordings.

22. Dawn Holiday
The unsung heroine behind the success of Slim's, Holiday helped guide the club from a twinkle in Boz Scaggs' eye to its current status as the one of the nation's finest live music venues. A titan in the field of Bay Area live music promotion, Holiday was a longtime box office manager for the Bill Graham Presents machine, and also helped build the Paradise Lounge into the professionally run, eclectic nightclub it is today.

23. Robert Hurwitt
It's tempting to compare the dean of San Francisco theater criticism to former New York Times critic Frank Rich, and not just for the far-reaching influence the men have wielded in their respective theater communties. The two men have also themselves acted, though Hurwitt's stint with the SF Mime Troupe beats Rich's performance in the little-seen film A Small Circle of Friends hands down. However, we'll forsake the glib comparisons to simply state the obvious: Hurwitt's criticism displays a knowledge base, analysis and style seldom seen in dailies' arts coverage.

24. Margaret Jenkins
Since she formed her San Francisco-based companies in 1970, Jenkins' creative efforts have influenced dance around the world. She has choreographed more than 75 works, and her artistic visions have garnered her a Guggenheim Fellowship, the San Francisco Arts Commission Award of Honor and two Isadora Duncan Awards.

25. Robert Henry Johnson
Known for innovative and creative choreography with live musical accompaniment, Johnson is the recipient of the Bay Guardian 1995 GOLDIE Award for choreography, two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and KQED Focus Magazine's first "Annual Stolichnaya Arts Achievement Award" for contemporary dance. Since the formation of his dance company in 1993, Johnson has performed throughout the Bay Area, and in L.A. and New York City to growing acclaim.

26. Rhodessa Jones
Actress, dancer, singer, writer and teacher Jones is co-artistic director of Cultural Odyssey and the director and founder of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women. Recently she was commissioned by the New England Foundation for the Arts, as well as the San Francisco Art Commission, to create a new work, a meditation on aging. For the past 15 years she has toured nationally and internationally, occasionally collaborating with her brother, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones.

27. Ned Kahn
Without further commentary, Kahn retains the title of thaumaturge within the artistic community. He is renowned for capturing the most tumultuous essences of nature within his work, and presenting them in a fantastic display of visual and theatrical appeal. Kahn has worked with such media as water, fog, sand and circular airflow to reveal the natural dynamism in art and new ways of seeing art in nature. The internationally recognized artist has been a central force behind many Exploratorium exhibits.

28. Victoria Kirby
Currently a public-relations consultant specializing in arts organizations, Kirby has walked just about every avenue of creative expression in San Francisco. Her murals have enlivened the walls of 24th and Capp streets, and rooms at the New Langton Arts exhibition and the M.H. de Young Museum. In addition to being a painter and printmaker, she's a vocalist, narrator and composer for educational films and has performed in Stuart Sherman's Slight at the San Francisco International Theater Festival. If that doesn't prove her versatility, she also created and performed in her own stage production, In the Red , and has worked as a freelance writer, translator and photographer for The Drama Review.

29. Randall Klein
During a weekend visit to San Francisco in the 1980s, Klein sensed a potential and opportunity in the city's jazz scene, and not too long after he co-founded the Jazz in the City Festival (retitled the San Francisco Jazz Festival in 1990). As executive director today, Klein guides the large-scale organization toward a steady and organic growth. Drawing on a diverse range of musical sources, it has been dubbed the biggest and most acclaimed jazz festival in the United States.

30. La Tania
Flamenco dancer and choreographer La Tania has taken Bay Area stages by storm. Born in France, La Tania moved to Spain at an early age and immersed herself in the world of flamenco. She has toured four continents and is one of a new generation expanding with fresh choreography. Her premiere duet with Andres Marin, Por La Verea, is indicative of La Tania's dramatic movements, fast turns and expression of life.

31. Anne Lawrence
It was through Lawrence's efforts that the Academy of Art's contributions to the mayor's inauguration and the recent Herb Caen celebration were realized. She has been with the Academy of Art since 1992 and recently was promoted to vice president of galleries and promotion. She also has organized and executed Academy contributions to the Legion of Honor, the Asian American Arts Foundation, the Asian Museum and a photography competition.

Liz Lerma
Multicultural Multimedia: As director of the Arts Commission's education program, Liz Lerma touches all of SF's diverse communities.

Photo by Ann Wettrich

32. Liz Lerma
As the director of the community arts & education program of the San Francisco Art Commission, Lerma supports cultural arts activities and arts education in San Franciso's diverse communities, encouraging collaborations among artists, arts and service organizations, schools and community cultural centers. She is also a visual artist who works with clay and mixed media to create sculpture that reflects both personal family history and multicultural perspectives.

33. Anita Monga
Anita Monga has been the cinema programmer at the Castro Theater since the late '80s. Her repertory programming genius has graced such venues as the Roxie Cinema (in the early '80s), the Cento Cedar Cinema in Polk Gulch, the Pagoda (while it was a rep theater in the '80s) and the late York Theater in the Mission District. Rumor has it she and husband Peter Moore also throw one hell of a Christmas party.

34. Patricia Kristof Moy
Executive director Patricia Kristof Moy has tirelessly headed the Stern Grove Festival for more than a decade, bringing 10 free concerts each summer to hundreds of thousands of viewers. The logistics of bringing in famed performers and presenting them outdoors is herculean, but Moy also has added outreach programs which bring performers to venues around the Bay Area (Marin's JCC, the Capp Street Project, etc.) for free previews. Next summer will be the festival's 60th anniversary.

35. Jack Mueller
Mueller is the president of the National Poetry Association and is responsible for the legendary Spaghetti Factory Open Readings in North Beach in the 1970s. Currently Mueller is editorial director of REALCONTENT, a creative consortium providing cultural content to the World Wide Web and television networks. Mueller has organized and raised funds for nine National Poetry Week Festivals, four Cafe Arts Month celebrations, 12 annual Poetry Film Festivals and a number of major art exhibits, including the recent ReBeat Festival and Virtual Cafe at the SOMAR.

36. Sandra Phillip
Appointed curator of photography for the SFMOMA in 1987, Phillips is known for her innovative and challenging photography shows. Under her direction, the photography department has presented the acclaimed works of Sebastiao Salgado, Florence Henri, Helen Levitt and Wright Morris. Currently Phillips is contributing to the inaugural exhibition Public Information: Desire, Disaster, Document.

37. Rudy Picarelli
Currently the president of BRAVO, Picarelli works with his army of 250 volunteers to contribute a staggering 10,000 plus hours each year to the SF Ballet, serving in a myriad of activies throughout the year. For more than two decades, Picarelli has been a moving force behind BRAVO, hand-selecting volunteers and matching them to jobs.

38. Janis Plotkin
Plotkin joined the Jewish Film Festival in 1982, and while working as a community organizer she developed an interest in the use of media as a tool for communicating values, history and culture. Today, as director of the festival, Plotkin hopes that it will stimulate talented filmmakers to continue to make films on Jewish subjects. "The festival explores the diversity of our culture and teaches us more about ourselves in a positive way," Plotkin says.

39 Eugene Price
Currently a freelance publicist for several independent theatres, Price continues to support the arts community with his consistent attention and devotion. He has co-written and co-produced a number of cabaret and theatre productions and since 1985 has been a theater critic for the S.F. Bay Times. Price has received awards as the chair of Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and as producer of the annual BATCC awards gala.

40. Larry Reed
Devoted to exploring the theatrical use of shadows, Reed's Shadowlight Productions are just as intriguing as they are elegant. Bringing stories to life with powerful black-and-white shadows projected onto a giant screen, Reed's most recent production, The Wild Party, merges J.M. March's jazz-age poem and film-noir stylings to a live jazz score. Reed is one of the few westerners ever invited to appear at the Indonesian National Shadow Theatre Festival.

41. The Residents
Not the most influential band from San Francisco, and not the most popular or long-lived. Just the best. Before the Sex Pistols, they held the cult of personality in contempt by playing with masks on; before the wave of tribute albums, the Residents were rearranging the music of the Beatles (on their first album, Meet the Residents, c. 1976) for their own purposes. The Eyeball Boys stuck around long enough to be the subject of a tribute album last year; and if Phil "Snakefinger" Lithman had lived, the unofficial "Fifth Resident" would no doubt be as much a subject of cult worship as Syd Barret, Robin Hitchcock or Eugene Chadborne.

42. Emily J. Sano
As director of the Asian Art Museum, Sano just keeps hitting them out of the park. The guiding force behind two of the decade's best exhibits--Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan, and Treasures of Imperial China--Sano should provide future wonders after the museum moves to its new home at the Old Main in 1999, allowing the institution to stage even more ambitious shows.

Thomas Samson Simpson
Keba Konté

Operating Solo: Thomas Samson Simpson promotes African
American culture as founder of the Afro Solo Theater Company.

43. Thomas Samson Simpson
"My goal is to use theater as a means to communicate who we are, showcase the diversity that exists within our community and share the human spirit that binds all people," Simpson says. As actor, producer and writer, Simpson founded the Afro Solo Theater Company to nurture and promote African American art and culture through solo performances. Since 1994 he has produced the annual AFRO SOLO Festival, featuring artists giving voice to the unique experience of being black in America.

44. Michael L. Smith
The philosophy of American Indian Film Institute producer Smith resonates directly within the core of his efforts: filmmaking, along with storytelling, dancing, singing, painting and craftwork. Smith's ambitions are to restore the ever-threatened values of Native Americans, and additionally to provide resources to expand opportunities and provide financing for visionary American Indian filmmakers. "The goals of the AIFI are inherently educational: to encourage Indian and non-Indian filmmakers to bring to the broader media culture the Native voices, viewpoints and stories that have been historically excluded from mainstream media," Smith states.

45. Michael Smuin
It was only three years ago that Smuin started his own troupe, the 12-member Smuin Ballets/SF company. Known for his sexy, modern style, Smuin himself has called his lean and muscular moves "guerrilla ballet," distinct for its use of recorded music and grand jete technique. He directed the SF Ballet for 12 years, danced in and directed the American Ballet Theatre, and has done just about everything in between--like winning Broadway's Tony Award for choreographing Anything Goes.

46. Linda Steinberg
Steinberg is an irreverent teacher of the survival tactic. Her vision seems to lie somewhere between quotes from Pablo Picasso--"Art is not to decorate apartments; it's an instrument of attack and defense against an enemy"--and Woody Allen--"Art, all art, is merely an expression of something." Now the executive director of the Jewish Museum, Linda Steinberg has taken a refreshingly confrontational stance, especially in curating the current exhibit, Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Jewish Identities, which simultaneously pokes fun at itself and the stranger-than-life, nearly mythical stereotypes that germinate from fear and misunderstanding.

47. Michael Tilson Thomas
The legendary wand of Michael Tilson Thomas has conducted just about every strain of music from Sibelius to Mozart. Tilson Thomas' international renown is rooted in his appointment as assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the age of 24. His efforts include work for the BBC (productions of Struass' Till Eulenspiegel), the creation of a musical background for the voice of Audrey Hepburn (From the Diary of Anne Frank, 1991) and a humanitarian project commemorating the relief workers and survivors of the Kobe earthquake. He is currently the San Francisco Symphony's 11th music director.

48. Those Darned Accordions
Our ambassadors of good will to Lithuania are also a clearinghouse of information on that most San Franciscan of instruments, the piano accordion. They're honored here for their former cognitive-dissonance-inducing trick of drive-by accordioning: breaking in unannounced on gatherings and serenading startled victims with a multi-accordion version of "Lady of Spain." In a year when everybody was doing covers, TDA's version of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" on No Strings Attached (Globe Records, PO Box 5523, Mill Valley, 94942) was one of the best; it had--by way of octogenarian singer Clyde Forsman's shy vocals--a little drama instead of a lot of disco sleaze.

49. Pearl Ubungen
Choreographer/performer Ubungen's works address serious contemporary social issues through innovative use of postmodern dance with elements of theater, monologues, popular culture and original live music. As founder and artistic director of the Tenderloin Dance Project, Ubungen is noted for her commitment to community-based, site-specific work and for her captivating physicality and lyricism. She has worked hard to bring dance workshops and performances to the Tenderloin since 1991, most recently with Take Me to the Tenderloin, Now!

50. Brenda Way
As founder and artistic director of ODC/San Francisco, Way has choreographed some 52 pieces over the last 20 years, including commissions for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, SF Ballet and Oakland Ballet. Way is a national spokesperson for dance today, has published widely and has received artistic support from the National Endowment of the Arts since 1977.

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From the January 1997 issue of the Metropolitan

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