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Balboa High students exploring an art installation in Los Altos

A Year of Art with SFMOMA


Using the through line of "Artists Investigating the City," the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Balboa High School teamed up during the 2013-14 school year to deliver a series of projects, artist visits, field trips, and interactive experiences to the juniors and seniors in Balboa’s Creative Arts for Social Transformation (CAST) Academy, about 180 students in total. The partnership activities this year focused on the premise of artists who look to their surroundings and the urban environment to create installation-based and interactive works.

In the fall, students went on a field trip to the museum, where they picked up one of Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) artist David Wilson’s “art walk maps” and followed the artist's directions and drawings on a walk through the Financial District and Chinatown. Along the way, they paid close attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of the city, and documented their journey on audio recordings, photographs, video recordings, and drawings. The students returned to their classroom to organize their images and used Wilson’s Open Studio lesson as a follow-up activity. A few weeks later, David Wilson visited the students and spoke with them about his work and process. He then spent time looking at the images that the students collected on their field trip and reviewed the work they had made in response to his Open Studio activity. Students also showed this work at the Out of Site Youth Arts Summit at SOMArts in December.

In January, CAST students took a field trip to Los Altos to experience SFMOMA’s exhibition Project Los Altos. There, students were able to explore the art installations that had been placed throughout the town and spent time looking and writing about their reactions to several pieces that held particular interest to them. Every student followed a worksheet that walked them through the steps of observation, analysis, and interpretation for two works, one of which was a Chris Johanson piece. The next week, Chris Johanson visited Balboa and engaged in a discussion with the students who went on the field trip about his art work and his own journey to becoming an artist.

The year of programming concluded in April, when 5 artists presented a panel discussion for the entire school that explored a multitude of ways that professional artists are investigating the city through their work. Artists included Janet Delaney, Bill Fontana, Jon McNeal from Snøhetta, Rigo 23, and Michelle Tea.