Sharon Art Studio History

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

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