The city, which is commonly associated with the tech industry, has reportedly struggled to come bounce back after Covid caused many workers to stop going into their offices. With a 20 percent office vacancy rate that has only kept climbing, the city seems emptier than it was back in 2019.
Leaders at art institutions see the event, known as the San Francisco Free Museum Weekend, as a way to bring citizens back together.
“The San Francisco Free Museum Weekend couldn’t come at a better time,” said Jay Xu, the director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum, in an interview with Datebook. “As we re-emerge from the challenges of the past months, Bay Area museums are here to help our communities reconnect with each other and with the artists that inspire them.”
The Free Weekend comes on the heels of a report by the New York Times which traced San Francisco’s status as a vibrant center for the arts to a veritable ghost town. Many have disputed that report’s thesis, claiming that it was focused on the exodus of mega-galleries at the exclusion many other members in a rich local scene.
While the Free Weekend alone is a drop in the bucket, it’s a gesture that recognizes that there are some major barriers to seeing art.
“In these economically challenging and politically divided times, museums provide a critical place of discourse, reflection and inspiration,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, said in a statement quoted by Datebook. “Increasing access to art spaces and removing barriers to experiencing art is crucial.”
On December 3rd, admissions fees will be waved at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s de Young Museum and Legion of Honor, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of Craft and Design, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the GLBT Historical Society Museum, the American Bookbinders Museum: Letterform Archive, SF Camerawork, the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye, the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, and the Minnesota Street Project.
On December 4, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of African Diaspora, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Children’s Creativity Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the Exploratorium will join these institutions.
Special exhibitions on view that will also be free for museum-goers include retrospectives of painters Diego Rivera and Joan Brown at SFMOMA and a celebration of painter Bernice Bing at the Asian Art Museum.