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Mildred Howard Launches Residency Program for Local Youth as Part of Community Engagement for New Southeast Community Center

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SFPUC Contact: Will Reisman, 415-551-4346

SFAC Contact: Rachelle Axel, 415-252-2237



July 7, 2021

Mildred Howard Launches Residency Program for Local Youth as Part of Community Engagement for New Southeast Community Center
First Exposures will facilitate mentorship program for aspiring young photographers

San Francisco, CA – Acclaimed Bay Area artist Mildred Howard, who has been selected by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create a cornerstone sculpture for the future Southeast Community Center at 1550 Evans Avenue, will begin working with young artists in residence on Thursday. Offered in partnership with local nonprofit First Exposures, the residency will provide virtual mentorship, and learning and exhibition opportunities for aspiring photographers between the ages of 15 and 21, from Bayview-Hunters Point, Tenderloin, Mission, SOMA, Outer Sunset and Oakland.

“As a recipient of a commission from the City, there’s a public service aspect to this work, an element of activism,” said Howard. “I felt there was a need to see beyond the usual representation of artists and seek out young people to learn how they experience and see their own communities. We did outreach to targeted areas to find young people who would not have otherwise had this opportunity. It’s important that if a young person has serious interest in the arts, they understand and learn from other artists what it’s like to navigate this field. It’s a discipline and involves hard work, it’s a business. Not only will they have the opportunity to work with and learn from practicing artists, successful people who are in the early stage of their careers, but also see their work presented in public spaces and be available for purchase. Sometimes we get the best work from someone who has never picked up a camera.”

The First Exposures summer residency, which runs July 8 – August 12, is a component of Howard’s commissioned artwork, community engagement and collaboration. A nationally lauded organization, First Exposures provides youth with the opportunity to develop their photography practice with guidance from a professional artist who serves as both mentor and role model.

For this program, in addition to Howard and Teaching Artist Sophia Schultz Rocha, other artists will be brought in as lecturers, including Kija Lucas, Leila Weefur and Felix Quintana. Ten youth artists will meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 – 4 p.m. and will be paid a stipend. They will have an opportunity to exhibit their work in large Decaux kiosks downtown and at the community center.

“Partnering with Mildred Howard to support the creative vision and voice of young artists has been an exciting development for First Exposures' summer residency this year,” said First Exposures Program Associate Aneeta Mitha. “The residents will have the opportunity to learn from Mildred, a successful working artist, hear from artists in the community, and experiment with their photographic approach with the support of their Teaching Artist, Sophia Schultz Rocha. I'm thrilled that I'll have the chance to witness this talented and motivated cohort grow as artists and deepen their role in the SF Bay Area community.”

“I feel grateful and excited for the opportunity to develop my storytelling skills under Mildred Howard’s mentorship,” said Frida C., age 19, who is one of the 10 selected artists in residence. “As an artist and activist, my goal is to find ways to center love and joy through photography. During this residency, I want to learn how to create short stories through triptychs and explore themes of friendship, optimism and perseverance.”

The existing Southeast Community Facility (SECF), located at 1800 Oakdale Avenue, was constructed in partnership with the Bayview-Hunters Point community to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Southeast Treatment Plant expansion in the 1970s and 1980s.

The new community center was developed after an extensive engagement process with Bayview residents. Set to open in early 2022, the community center features a signature sculpture by Howard at the entrance, as well as a large, state-of-the-art special events space, office and co-working space for community non-profits, low-cost childcare, a café with Wi-Fi, public artwork throughout the space, among other amenities.

“This center has always been intended to be a reflection of the neighborhood it serves, and Mildred’s artwork and connection to the community, enhanced by her partnership with the First Exposures program strengthens that bond,” said SFPUC Acting General Manager Michael Carlin. “The SFPUC is proud to be part of a program that fosters the next generation of talented artists.”

“We are delighted about this Mildred Howard commission and her centerpiece sculpture at the Southeast Community Center,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Ralph Remington.  “Not only is it exciting to have an artist of Mildred’s stature contribute a meaningful cultural asset that engages in a dialogue with the Bayview community and our city, her work mentoring young photographers is the crown jewel of this collaboration. We should all be thinking about how young artists will shape San Francisco in the future, and an opportunity like this one can spark the creative growth and civic engagement of our city’s young people.”

An internationally celebrated, award-winning artist, Howard is best known for her sculptural installations that invoke collective histories and personal narratives. Her sculpture design for the new Southeast Community Center takes its inspiration from “traditional Ivory Coast currency to memorialize the unsung contributions of the African-American community in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood.”

As part of the agency’s mission to be inclusive of environmental and community interests, the SFPUC has committed to working with the SFAC, local artists, and residents to create public art that recognizes and celebrates the people, values, and history of the Bayview community, and inspires appreciation and respect for the environmental resources entrusted to the agency’s care.

About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates and delivers clean power for municipal buildings, residential customers, and businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at

About the San Francisco Arts Commission
The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) is the City agency that champions the arts as essential to daily life by investing in a vibrant arts community, enlivening the urban environment and shaping innovative cultural policy. The SFAC envisions a San Francisco where the transformative power of art is critical to strengthening neighborhoods, building infrastructure and fostering positive social change. We believe the arts create inspiring personal experiences, illuminate the human condition, and offer meaningful ways to engage with each other and the world around us. We imagine a vibrant San Francisco where creativity, prosperity and progress go hand in hand. We advance artists’ ideas to improve the quality of life for everyone through a united cultural sector whose contributions are vital and valued. Learn more at: