San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

7 Nov

The most positive outcome of November 5’s hearing on the fate of seven proposals for the rehabilitation of The Palace of Fine Arts was that San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Commission and staff paid due attention to the outpouring of comments regarding the fate of the 1200 seat theater in the graceful relic of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Comments by supporters of the the Center for Global Arts and Culture’s proposal were responsible  for the decision that the 1200 seat theatre will remain in situ and needs to be incorporated in any final proposals.

This information was delivered in Room 416 at San Francisco’s City Hall presided over by Commission President Mark Buell and I believe Gloria Bonilla, the only non-native member of Rec and Park’s Commission.

A list of the experts who evaluated the seven proposals was read, including real estate agents and a theatre manager. I wished the Commission had supplied us with their names on a third piece of paper attached to the list of items on the agenda, of which 4 and 5 concerned the fate of the proposals. Clearly stated fiscal backing weighed heavily in the decision of the three proposal selected.

Headed by Robert Cole, former executive director of Cal Performances, and Julie Mushet, Executive Director of World Arts West, a number of the hearing attendees presented the case to include The Center for World Arts and Culture as number four to submit proposals.

Individuals providing their two-minute comments included homeowners in the nearby Marina area and individuals native to San Francisco. Most favored  the Palace’s use as a museum to tell the history of San Francisco. Only one  had experience in complex operation of a museum, representing almost a clear divide to the performing arts advocates. They also  represented San Francisco prior to The Free Speech Movement and the monumental mid-twentieth century shift in the arts and in society at large.

Robert Cole made the point that none of the three proposals selected by the Commission reflected any knowledge or experience in managing a theatre. It was clear the proposals for food concessions lacked the expertise that Alice Waters gave  for the Center for Global Arts And Cultures. Cary Shulman, Administrator for the City’s Art Funds, as  part of the Center’s Boards of Directors, was ignored.

One woman urged the Commission to examine the phrasing of the retention of the theatre to ensure it remains in its existing location, size and with the necessary enhancements proposed by the Center for Global Arts and Culture.

President Mark Buell rejected inclusion of the Center for Global Arts and Culture’s request for final proposal submission stating the advisers were experts and it would be “unfair” to the remaining three rejected proposals, proposals which markedly veered from the original use of the building in 1915 — which was for ART.

A suggestion was made that the accepted three proposals made use of the theatre expertise of Cole and Mushet.

All I can say is “Stay Tuned,” and “Pray!”

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