The theme this month at CRB is “Place.” Our bookshop, graduate seminars and programs occur inside Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is located at Yerba Buena Gardens. Yerba Buena Gardens comprises two city blocks redeveloped in the late 1980s and early ’90s, opening in 1993. We are in what is now commonly called South of Market, or SoMA, a busy urban space with Bay Area residents who work downtown and visitors rushing to nearby cultural institutions, such as SFMOMA, Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, as well as conventions taking place at Moscone Center. This place has proved to be a vibrant interlocutor for us as we witness the daily motion through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the CRB and experience the sounds and voices on the streets and in the park.
For many, including CCA graduate students and faculty, our downtown situation provides regular intersection with SoMA’s civic, retail and cultural life. This is a good thing. It requires them to physically move beyond the buildings and classrooms of CCA’s campus. They are immersed in and reminded of this vibrant cultural place—San Francisco. But like many urban spaces SoMA was not always the dense and chaotic site it is today. And as we began to learn more about where we are each day, we looked toward the beautiful portrait of this South of Market place chronicled in photographs by Janet Delaney in her book Janet Delaney: South of Market, published on the occasion of her 2015 exhibition at the de Young. The book has a selection of photographs taken between 1978 and 1986. It shows the sites and people whose shops and industries made up the neighborhood south of market. The cover photograph coincidentally is a startling desolate portrayal of the bustling location where Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Curatorial Research Bureau are today.
We use Delaney’s elegiac portrait of south of market before SoMA as the departure point this month for thinking about place, gathering together a selection of books that invite us to discover, wander and sort through spaces that we intersect each day.
James Voorhies, Chair, CCA Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice