Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces


Making a Scene, which received critical support from the National Endowment of the Arts, spotlights a rich history of Bay Area artist-run, independent and alternative spaces, as well as the pioneers and contemporary trailblazers of social justice who utilized these spaces as a catalyst and megaphone.

Archival material from more than 20 individuals and spaces, and art and installations by more than 30 current and historic Bay Area artists, unite the featured spaces’ disparate, yet overlapping and contingent histories of cultural engagement, community development and social justice.

“In pursuit of a place that honors their unique voices and uplifts their communities, artists and activists create and activate alternative spaces, both physical and temporal. Making a Scene emphasizes how under-invested communities boldly forge places where they can create on their own terms, and, in doing so, interrupt a visual arts paradigm that typically favors largely white, upperclass commercial epicenters.” – SOMArts’ Curator for Inquiry & Impact, Melorra Green.

Featured artists and activists created and activated alternative spaces during a time when the United States was alive with radical movements that uprooted and exposed various levels of police brutality, discrimination, and lack of representation for their communities.
Making a Scene includes a direct call-to-action that invites the Bay Area to contribute to the collective memory of the region’s spaces in two ways, transforming the exhibition into an incubator for exploration, discovery and contribution. In partnership with Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, anyone can contribute audio, scan newspaper articles, and catalog lost stories and histories to a Wiki Site, “Collective Memory” – while visiting the exhibition or online here from anywhere in the world.


Building on its current partnership with SOMArts, Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) will install a temporary broadcast studio within the exhibition in which visitors can record their impressions of the exhibition, share memories of the community arts spaces on view or just “make a scene.” Community Producers from SF Commons, San Francisco Public Access TV–– which will telecast select portions of the footage–– will also use the space to remotely broadcast select shows from SOMArts. Also on view will be community and artist-produced media from BAVC’s archives, along with select ephemera from the organization’s near 40-year history.


“EcoSexuals” Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens exhibit a 7-monitor “Pollination Pod,” a mobile museum of alternative sexual identity, and activate the gallery with a special performance during the opening event, Thursday, July 9, 2015, 6pm to 9pm. After marrying the Earth, Stephens and Sprinkle have conducted 17 wedding performances in the span of 8 years in 8 countries that included over 3,500 people. They will conduct a “Water Commitment Ceremony” in their Pollination Pod. Bay Area Society for Art and Activism will facilitate contributions to the Wiki Site “Collective Memory.”

Emory Douglas offers revolutionary art created when he worked as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded in the 1980’s.

On view will be “Media Burn” by Ant Farm (Chip Lord, Doug Michels, Curtis Schrier, Uncle Buddie), a classic video art piece examining and satirizing the media through performance and spectacle. Sandwiched between clips of real media coverage of the event, the piece includes footage of a 1975 Independence Day performance intervention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in which a pyramid of television sets were stacked, doused with kerosene and set ablaze. Then a modified 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz, piloted by two drivers who were guided only by a video monitor between their bucket seats, smashed through the pyramid destroying the TV sets.

René Yañez, founder and former Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Galería de la Raza in San Francisco’s Mission District, exhibits archival material as well as an altar installation. Yañez was one of the first curators to introduce the contemporary concept of Mexico’s Day of the Dead to the United States with a 1972 exhibition at the Galería, a tradition he has continued for over 40 years through producing art and curating exhibitions that have galvanized a large community of Latino and Chicano artists.

Sunshine Velasco captures the essence of moments in Bay Area history where young people have “made a scene” in response to numerous cases where black men, women and transgender people’s lives were taken by police officers, security guards or vigilantes. In Velasco’s photography you will find documentation of actions including 3rd World Activists Unite in Solidarity for Black Lives Matter, Million Man March in Oakland, and Queer and Trans Community Action in both the Castro district of San Francisco and downtown Oakland.


In response to witnessing the digital colonization of the people of Central and Southern Africa in 2009, Marlon Ingram conceived, in partnership with Shem Shobin and other creative partners, the “Indigenous Tips for a Modern Now” as a conceptual marketplace that proposes alternative ways of assimilating today’s cellular lifestyle, and avoiding environmental and physical impacts of technology.

Making a Scene was curated by Melorra Green with Sandra Ramirez and Roula Seikaly. Exhibition historical consultation and archival material was contributed by Tom Marioni, Chip Lord of Media Burn, John Held, Bayview Opera House, Mission Cultural Center, and San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.

Making a Scene Exhibiting Artists:
Bay Area Video Coalition
Black Magic Arts Collective
Brittney Cathey-Adams
Lenore Chinn
Duane Deterville
Emory Douglas
Caleb Duarte
Carmina Eliason
Chelsea Elisabeth
Alyssa Eustaquio
Kathleen McDonald
Nannette Harris
Taraneh Hemami in collaboration with Invisible Venue
Marlon Ingram
Lucia Leal
Judith Leinen
Ajuan Mance
Aambr Newsome
Jeremy Novy
Carolina Quintanilla
Sandra Ramirez
William Rhodes
Ross Robinson
Sage Stargate
Refa Senay
Annie Sprinkle
Beth Stephens
Darryl Thompson
Elizabeth Travelslight
Sunshine Velasco
Lexa Walsh
Red Poppy Art House
René Yañez
Madison Young

Contributors of Ephemera & Artifacts to Making a Scene:
African American Art & Culture Complex
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
Bay Area Society of Art & Activism
Bay Area Video Coalition
Bring Your Own Art
Circus Center
Crown Point Press
Emory Douglas
Femina Potens
Galería de la Raza
John Held
The Living Room Project
Chip Lord
Malidoma Collective
Tom Mariani
Pomo Afro Homos
Queer Cultural Center
San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Lexa Walsh
The Upper Room

One night only, Saturday, July 18, 2015, performances 9pm to midnight, doors at 8:30pm, Night Light: Multimedia Garden Party blankets SOMArts Cultural Center in luminous art installations, including audiovisual performances and performative interventions by 30 artists, and digital and cinematic projections by 27 artists. Tickets are $12 in advance & $15 at the door; advance tickets guarantee entry on the night of the event:

Now in its fifth year, Night Light utilizes SOMArts’ post-industrial indoor space and grounds, including the garden path, street-side loading bay, theater, Bay Gallery and Main Gallery to display a multitude of applications of light in art. This year Night Light evolves in a new direction: as an homage to the Bay Area’s rabble-rousers, trouble-makers, independents and outliers in conjunction with Making a Scene.

SOMArts’ exhibition programs are generously supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission and The San Francisco Foundation, and are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts. Making a Scene is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.



Special thanks to Ninkasi Brewing whose generous donation helps SOMArts in fostering creative risk-taking, promoting cultural connectivity and learning, and instigating accessible, multifaceted participation in the arts.

Top to bottom: courtesy of Marlon Ingram; courtesy of Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle; Queer and Trans Community Action #3, photography courtesy of Sunshine Velasco; courtesy of Marlon Ingram