Museum of Craft and Design gets permanent home

By Michael Raffety 4-22-13

San Francisco’s art museums feature permanent collections, with some pieces rotating in and out of storage. They enhance their popularity with traveling exhibits from other museums, whether it is the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or the Asian Art Museum.

Recently I was introduced to another museum in San Francisco, one that by design, has no permanent collection. The Museum of Craft and Design has been around since 2004, originally housed in the “Union Square District,” though I confess I never saw it in the Union Square area, which we have explored somewhat thoroughly on Thanksgiving Days, admiring the shop windows, fashions and jewelry displays decorated for Christmas.

A fire at the downtown location in 2010 sent the museum on an itinerant journey of “pop-up” museums.

But now they have a permanent home in something of a warehouse district, surprisingly  flanked by Victorians on an adjoining street near Interstate 280. It’s called the Dogpatch neighborhood and it’s way out on Third Street past the China Basin drawbridge and AT&T Baseball Park. Finding parking is hell. Take a cab or catch the No. 22 Muni bus, which stops two blocks short of the museum or the Metro T Train Sunnydale to 20th or 23rd Street. The T Train can be caught underground downtown.

Located at 2569 Third St. between 22nd and 23rd streets, it is a spacious building with three artists featured, all sculptural. And there is workshop space reserved. It is 8,500 square feet with 4,000 square feet of flexible exhibition and workshop space. Originally the American Can Co. since 1915, it was redesigned for a street entry with rollup door in the rear.

The two big shows now through June are a survey of sculptural conceptions by Bay Area artist Michael Cooper covering 17 works from 1968 to 2011 and jewelry artist Arline Fisch, who used crocheted and knitted copper wire to form a display of colorful jelly fish and anemones.

Cooper’s work is very imaginative, constructing trikes and twisted pistols out of wood, a go-cart-like creation made from a plastic deck chair. He works with both metal and wood, making complex sculptures and statements on contemporary life.

A third artist is Rebecca Hutchinson who created a “natural forest” that looks somewhat like a kelp forest, but it is white and made from porcelain paperclay, paper and other materials.

Cooper’s work will be on display through June 30; Fish’s jelly fish will be there through June 23 as will Hutchinson’s.

The museum opened April 6. Admission is $8 for seniors and for students it is $6. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

• • •

For the best free artwork on display for the next two years, the Bay Bridge is a sight to see. Computerized light artists Leo Villarreal began in September 2012 installing 25,000 white, energy-efficient light-emitting diodes along 1.8 miles miles of the suspension portion of the Oakland Bay Bridge. The algorythm-driven display opened last month.

It clicks on at dusk and runs until 2 a.m.

I’ve been switching out compact fluorescent bulbs in my house for LED bulbs. Replacing 60-watt bulbs in the can lights of our kitchen and kitchen nook with compact fluorescents reduced our wattage from 540 to 117.  Then changing to LEDs reduced the total wattage consumed to 81. Three 75-watt floodlights in our living room were replaced with three LED floods. Total wattage for the three floods went from 225 watts to 33 watts and the lights were brighter. Replacing compact fluorescents with brighter but lower wattage LEDs in my wife’s bathroom made her very happy with the increased brightness of the light. I’ve done the switches in stages. Each time I go to Home Depot the prices of LEDs have gone down. The bulbs are guaranteed to last 10 years.

Villareal’s LEDs are obviously smaller, otherwise the bridge would look more like a huge searchlight. The privately funded project cost $8 million. Operational expenses are $11,000 a year.

The suspension cables total five miles. The display is only on the outer, north face and is not visible to drivers on the bridge.

It’s fascinating to linger along the Embarcadero not far from the Ferry Building and watch the changing displays of lights on the Bay Bridge. It brings the gray-painted span to life. The Bay Bridge was completed in 1936, six months before the more colorful Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay Bridge carries 280,000 cars a day on two decks. The 540-foot tunnel through Yerba Buena Island will connect with a self-anchored suspension bridge that is still under construction. That new bridge was supposed to open on Labor Day this year, but it is looking more like sometime in 2014 because some 3-inch wide bolts snapped off that help anchor seismic shear keys and bearings to a concrete beam. Engineers are working on a repair plan.

Meantime the fabulous light show continues through rain, fog and clear weather, enhanced by the lights along the horizon from the Port of Oakland.


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