David Hockney Treating Elementary School Students to the Opera

David Hockney's set design for Act III of SF Opera's "Turandot."  (Photo: Courtesy of Cory Weaver)

Roughly 50 elementary school kids from East Palo Alto are being treated this Sunday to a one-of-a-kind tour of SF Opera, led by the famous artist and opera set designer David Hockney.

Following  a pre-show workshop on Hockney’s set design, originally created for the opera company’s 1993 season, they’re expected to have a meet-and-greet with the artist himself before settling in for a matinee performance of Turandot.

Turnaround Arts, a non-profit that pairs artists with lower performing schools, connected ​Hockney with the Costaño School last January. He visited the school around then and taught a couple classes on how to paint on an iPad.

"We’ve been really, really fortunate to have David Hockney adopt our school. It’s pretty amazing," Angela Karamian, an arts specialist at the Costaño School, said. "The arts are relevant to everything they see in their classrooms. That’s a message I push all the time."

Hockney Puts Opera Set Design on Curriculum for East Palo Alto Students

Hockney Puts Opera Set Design on Curriculum for East Palo Alto Students

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The SF Opera idea came to Karamian not long ago while driving to work.  She heard on the radio that the SF Opera was performing Turandot, and that Hockney designed the sets.

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Malissa Shriver, who heads the California chapter of Turnaround Arts, says Hockney was game to reconnect with the kids, and bankroll a field trip to San Francisco.

"You know, David said to me after the first visit at Costaño, that he hadn’t been so excited and inspired in such a long time," Shriver said.

"The arts bridge so many divides," Shriver added. "You know, across language, across culture, across age. Here’s a man of 80 years old interacting and being loved by these children who are in 3rd and 4th and 5th grade, you know? I feel like in our culture, young people often don’t really have a lot of time for old people -- and vice versa."

David Hockney was a hit with the children of Costaño School back in January, but then it's fair to say they were a hit with him.
David Hockney was a hit with the children of Costaño School back in January, but then it's fair to say they were a hit with him. (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

SF Opera is also talking with the Costaño School about creating a class for 7th graders where they learn to write opera.

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