Thursday, October 25, 2018 will likely be remembered for the celebratory atmosphere and the gathering of students, alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and public officials who saw the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts. It most certainly will be remembered for the “backhoe ballet,” perhaps the first choreographed performance on Van Ness Avenue featuring construction equipment.
But such was the mood at 200 Van Ness Avenue that day, a mix of feelings of accomplishment, heartfelt thanks, and whimsy, signaling a milestone had been hit on multiple levels. With a successful fundraising drive, the building plans firmly inked on paper, and holes in the ground, the Bowes Center appears more a reality now than ever before.
The event featured a number of distinguished speakers including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, SFCM President David Stull, and SFCM Board Chair Timothy Foo, as well as architect Mark Cavagnero and SFCM Student Council Chairperson Mia Skolnick.
“This place has become a hub for artists everywhere, and now that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has decided to take it even a step further, to come up with this innovative plan to produce 420 units of housing for their students—it’s absolutely amazing,” said London Breed in her remarks. “Today is a great day. It’s a great day for San Francisco, it’s a great day for the arts community…”
“We don’t do projects like this without people who believe and actually put substantial resources behind it, and I can’t tell you how fortunate we are in San Francisco,” said David Stull, “because when you look to Davies Hall, the Opera, the Conservatory, to the Ballet, to SFJAZZ, to the museums, to the incredible cultural life that we enjoy here, it is because actually a very small handful of people for generations have made those things happen for this city and are making this building happen right now.”
President Stull highlighted the many generous individuals who made the Bowes Center project happen, noting their dedication to the Conservatory and its future. “The people we have in this city who believe in this kind of work are not to be found in many places in the world,” he said. “They just aren’t.”
“The Bowes Center will mean so many wonderful things for our future,” said Mia Skolnick. “Its proximity to the incredible arts partners in the Civic Center area, beautiful new spaces for collaboration among students, faculty, and visiting artists, and most importantly, it means that SFCM can reach and inspire even more of the musicians of the future.”
The crowd riding a wave of energy and optimism, two backhoes performed a “ballet” to the Triumphal March from Verdi’s Aida, accompanied by SFCM brass musicians. As the audience dispersed, it seemed the summer of 2020 was right around the corner.