A Festival of Transformative Art at YBCA

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Black Women Rock do a tribute to 1970's rocker Betty Davis at YBCA's Transform Fest

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s chief of pedagogy, says he was thinking recently about President John F. Kennedy's call for the U.S. to send a man to the moon.

"Kennedy reminds us that the future is made of stumbles, hubris, and innovators who are humble enough to pursue it," Joseph says.

Kennedy sparked the public imagination with the moonshot. And now Joseph and the YBCA have invited a group of artists for Transform Fest, a festival focused on the question, “where is our public imagination?”

"How does creativity and forethought show up in public space," Joseph told me by phone. "In my mind, it’s scientists, artists, it’s folks that are looking towards where we might go if we put down our dogmatic swords and look to a cultural horizon."


The festival features a mix of the global and the local, including a musical tribute to funk pioneer Betty Davis, performed by poet Jessica Care Moore and her ensemble Black Women Rock!, with East Bay singer Zakiyah Harris joining in. San Francisco dance company Capacitor premieres a new piece. And my co-host Gabe Meline is also excited for another chance to see The Burden, a terrific short film by Swedish director Niki Lindroth von Bahr. It’s the best representation of loneliness featuring singing fish heads you’ll ever find, and it’s part of a short film program on May 13.

Campo Santo featuring Britney Frazier, Delina Patrick Brooks
Campo Santo featuring Britney Frazier, Delina Patrick Brooks (Destiny Evans)

Transform is also hosting the San Francisco theater company Campo Santo and its new project from writer and director Roger Guenveur Smith. Their show Casa de Spirits is about gentrification and liquor stores in the Tenderloin. Campo Santo is always tapping into the beauty and sometimes the weirdness of the public imagination.

Transform Fest is at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco from May 9 through May 20. Details here.