San Francisco public art project unveiled

Johanna Poethig, whose “Celebrate Ability” project is about to be unveiled at the Hamilton Recreation Center, has been making public art in San Francisco and around the world since the 1980s.

'Ability' is the theme of the public art projectThe six mosaic medallions that make up the project play with words and images of California native species to highlight shared abilities. The goal was to come up with designs that would appeal to the broad range of community members who use the center.

Poethig, an associate professor in CSU Monterey Bay’s Visual and Public Art Department, explained that Hamilton Rec Center is located near San Francisco’s Japantown, the Western Addition, and the Fillmore District. Asian American families and elderly residents are drawn to the special programs at the center. Youngsters use the basketball courts, swimming pool and playground.

“It’s an example of how these city rec centers are so essential for fostering a healthy urban life,” Poethig said. “My artwork reflects this by playing with the idea of ‘ability’ in a way that can include everyone and also remind us of where we live – California. We need to honor our natural life in our urban areas,” she said.

The texts were chosen in a discussion with the staff. The “Enjoy-ability” mosiac highlights the Adapt-ability is essential for everyoneswimming pool at Hamilton. The “Endure-ability” medallion uses the crane, a common image in Japanese art. It honors the elderly residents of the area, some of whom endured internment camps during World War II.

“Flex-ability” represents the idea that everyone needs to exercise, and be flexible in our intellect, too. “Adapt-ability” is essential and “Response-ability” fosters consciousness about the environment.

“And the ‘Ability’ mosaic honors that we all have abilities to develop and celebrate,” Poethig said.

The center is located at 1900 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco. The opening reception will be held at noon on April 6.

The Hamilton Rec Center is just one of many sites in San Francisco where she has created public art. Others include the Civic Center post office, the I-Hotel, several buildings in the Tenderloin, the Juvenile Justice Center, Rochambeau Park and the South of Market area.

Inside of the Hamilton Recreation CenterA founding faculty member at CSUMB, Poethig has worked in collaboration with other artists, architects, urban planners, design teams, arts commissions, specific communities and cultural groups during her career.

She was raised in the Philippines through high school and has lived in Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland since coming to the United States. She received her BFA at University of California, Santa Cruz and her MFA at Mills College in Oakland.

Her paintings, sculpture, video and installations explore surfaces, symbols and artifacts of culture, history, archeology and futurist narratives, human nature, political satire and the colonizing metaphors used by consumerist, capitalist marketing. 

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