San Francisco art school renamed after Asawa


It's now impossible to miss the name Ruth Asawa School of the Arts displayed near the busy intersection on Portola Drive and O'Shaughnessy Boulevard.

Early on in her career as an artist, Asawa pushed for a school in San Francisco that would become a creative force for the arts. It became a reality in 1982, but it wasn't until today that the school unveiled a new marquee with her name. School board member Jill Wynns and a handful of art advocates were influential in making this possible.

"Once in awhile if we are very lucky we are present as history and justice rhyme. This is one of those moments," said Susan Stauter, artistic director of the San Francisco School District.

Awasa was born in California, but when she was 16 her life was turned upside down as she and her family were interned along with other Japanese Americans. Those years had a huge impact on her life and her work as an artist. As her reputation grew, so did her drive for art programs in California schools.

"She learned in her education how exciting it was to work with artists, work with professional artists, so she thought wouldn't that be great if professional artists came to work in public schools," said Paul Lanier, Awasa's son.

Actor and writer Peter Coyote attended Wednesday's ceremony. Years ago he served with Asawa on the California Arts Council.

"Art is what shapes and teaches us how to use the whole other half of our brain. So our culture is ignoring it and underfunding it in the same way they are funding their infrastructure," said Coyote.

Asawa did not attend the ceremony. She is 85 years old.

Art advocates say there is still a strong desire to build a new school of the arts closer to the Civic Center arts corridor. It would, of course, have the Asawa name.

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