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A center for the arts in the center of the city.

World-class architecture and multicultural art meet in San Francisco

AFTER A 30-YEAR gestation period, the city of San Francisco has given birth to the civic equivalent of triplets. They are the remarkable new buildings and park that make up the Center for the Arts and Esplanade Gardens, on Third Street between Mission and Howard streets, across from the Moscone Convention Center. The completion of these projects is a major step in the city's long-delayed, much-revised redevelopment plan for Yerba Buena Gardens, a south-of-Market Street neighborhood composed of commercial, residential, and cultural facilities, an expansive garden, and even a waterfall.

The mom and pop, if you will, of the cultural side of this multimillion-dollar undertaking are Baraka Sele and Renny Pritikin, directors of the center's performing and visual arts programs, respectively. Their ambitious mission: to respond to the Bay Area's cultural diversity by providing a showcase for a wide range of artistic expression, from painting to performance art.

To celebrate the opening of the center, Sele and Pritikin are staging The Great Open House during the week of October 12. Inaugural events, many of which are free, will be held in the center's 750-seat theater, in its art galleries, and on the Esplanade Stage, as well as throughout the grounds. On October 16 and 17, for example, more than 40 local artists and arts groups will perform. One group that is not local but will also be performing free is The Desperadoes, a 50-member steel pan orchestra from Trinidad. The group is in town to heat up the new theater with evening concerts from October 13 through 16. Ticket prices range from $7 to $28.

As for the visual arts, the Pritikin-organized opening exhibition, In Out of the Cold, examines the end of the Cold War through paintings, kinetic sculptures, computer arts, military and cultural artifacts, films, and videos by 32 local, national, and international artists. The show, which runs from October 12 through December 5, is free through October 17, $3 for adults and $1 for children thereafter. Gallery hours are 11 to 6 Tuesdays through Sundays, until 9 Thursdays.

Steel pans and avant-garde videos notwithstanding, the center's buildings and grounds are themselves worth a visit. On the north is the long, low, visual arts structure, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki--this year's winner of the Pritzker Prize, the architectural Nobel--in association with the San Francisco-based architecture firm of Robinson Mills + Williams. Curving light scoops, a stairway treated as a monumental diagonal stripe, and shifting bands of glass and aluminum give this building a machined elegance, as if to say that whirring turbines are manufacturing artistic electricity within. The handsome Opts Cafe overlooks the two-story lobby.

On the south is the taller and more massive Center for the Arts Theater, designed by New York architect James Stewart Polshek, whose credits include the restoration of Carnegie Hall. Transparent and solid cubes--resembling a giant's building blocks--form the building's abstract composition. The tallest block is the seven-story tile-surfaced tower sheltering the fly house behind the stage. A pair of two-story glass entrances cleverly put the spotlight on patrons as they arrive and depart. Working together, Maki's and Polshek's buildings embrace the new 5-acre Esplanade, which features an elliptical central greensward and a walk-through waterfall.

For a complete schedule of events or for ticket information, call (415) 512-1000.
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Title Annotation:San Francisco, California
Author:Gregory, Daniel
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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