The Sharon Art Studio is San Francisco’s largest public community center for the arts.
Housed in the landmark Sharon Building in Golden Gate Park near the Children’s Playground, the Sharon Art Studio was established in 1968. In 1974, a fire gutted the building and the program was relocated to the old Fleishacker Pool Building near the San Francisco Zoo. In 1980, the program was moved again to temporary housing at the Randall Museum while repairs were being made to the Sharon Building.
Ten years after the 1974 fire, the Sharon Art Studio once again opened the doors of the Sharon Building to the public. The Studio, once a fledgling arts and crafts program, had grown and diversified its offerings, serving several hundred people annually in the pursuit of artistic growth and expression.
In 1991 a group of students founded the non-profit Friends of Sharon Art Studio (FOSAS) in order to advocate on behalf of the Sharon Art Studio’s program and facility. For more than 20 years FOSAS has partnered with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to sustain and enhance the studio and its programming. In September of 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding was drafted and accepted by the Recreation and Park Commissioners, formalizing the partnership between the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Friends of Sharon Art Studio and ensuring the ongoing existence of the Sharon Art Studio program. Since then, the Sharon Art Studio has continued to offer a broad range of affordable arts and crafts classes in disciplines such as ceramics, glass, metal, drawing, and painting. Annually, the program serves approximately 1,000 children and teens and 2,000 adults and seniors.
HISTORY OF THE SHARON BUILDING
By Pat Morrigan*, FOSAS Co-Founder
At the end of the 19th century, Senator William P. Sharon of Nevada left in his will a bequest of $50,000 for the beautification of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. News of the bequest came just as many parts of the Park were being planned, and a lively debate started in San Francisco over how best to use the Sharon bequest. Among the suggestions were to build a German-type beer garden and dance hall, a music pavilion, or a lake, but the executors of the bequest decided to erect a marble gateway into the park at the Stanyan Street entrance. After public outcry over this decision, the executors were persuaded to agree to fund the installation of a Children’s Quarter.
Architects Percy and Hamilton were selected to provide the design for the Sharon Building, which was to serve as the center piece of the Children’s Quarter. When the building was dedicated on December 22, 1888, it was fully equipped with water fountains, ice cream fountains, soda places, dairy rooms, storerooms for playthings, and stables in the cellar for goats. Over the following years, the Sharon building’s rooms were used always for the use of children.
On April 18, 1906, the Great Earthquake and fire of San Francisco did tremendous damage to the Sharon Building. The playground was re-opened within 6 weeks, but the building took a lot longer to repair.
In the mid-1960’s, the Recreation and Park Department started the Sharon Art Studio arts and crafts program in the building. Figure drawing and ceramics classes were housed on the main floor, and on the third floor balcony several large looms were the center of the textile department. The glass department was started around 1970.
In 1973 the building was gutted by a fire, and for ten years the art program moved around to various temporary locations in the city, while the Sharon Building was being renovated. In 1984 the renovations were complete, and the building once again opened its doors to the public as an art studio.
*Excerpts taken from, The Making of Golden Gate Park, the early years: 1865–1906, by Raymond Clary