Honoring the Legacy: Bonnie Ora Sherk’s Transformative Impact on Urban Spaces

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In a groundbreaking exhibition, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture pays homage to the late artist, environmental educator, and landscape planner, Bonnie Ora Sherk. “Bonnie Ora Sherk: Life Frames Since 1970” is the first posthumous solo exhibition and major survey in the Bay Area, spotlighting Sherk’s pioneering work in reclaiming urban spaces for community engagement.

Bonnie Ora Sherk

Bonnie Ora Sherk’s Innovative Legacy

Decades ahead of her time, Bonnie Ora Sherk’s visionary projects in 1970s San Francisco laid the foundation for a global movement to reclaim overlooked urban landscapes. Her projects, including Portable Parks I-III and Crossroads Community (The Farm), conceptualized new uses for urban spaces, influencing the rise of urban farms, parklets, and repurposed green spaces like New York City’s Highline and the Presidio’s Tunnel Tops.

Exhibition Details

The exhibition, curated by Tanya Zimbardo, presents Sherk’s early performances and site-specific interventions from the 1970s and 1980s. It includes film, video, photographs, collages, works on paper, artist books, and ephemera. Sherk’s expansive vision through “A Living Library” (1981-present), aimed at transforming urban landscapes, is explored with proposals and drawings.

Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture hosts the exhibition at Gallery 308 from January 13 to March 10, 2024. The opening reception is on January 13, 2024, from 2-4 p.m., offering free admission.

Legacy of Portable Parks and Crossroads Community

Sherk’s early public installation, Portable Parks I-III (1970), transformed urban “dead spaces” into green environments, foreshadowing the pop-up urbanism movement. Crossroads Community (The Farm), located beneath a freeway interchange, engaged communities until 1987. The site eventually became Potrero del Sol, a permanent park.

Portable Park

Collaborative Spirit and Educational Legacy

The exhibition captures Sherk’s collaborative spirit as the founding president of The Farm (1974-1980) through video, photography, and posters. Sherk’s era is celebrated with a pop-up community garden by John Bela, co-founder of the modern parklet. The catalog dedicated to Sherk features historic interviews and writings, showcasing her profound impact on contemporary art.

Continued Impact and A Living Library

Sherk’s bicoastal nonprofit, A Living Library (A.L.L.), established in 1981, continues her vision for community-oriented environmental projects. Active locations include Roosevelt Island, NYC, and San Francisco at Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park Nature Walk and OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park.

Conclusion and Celebration

As the exhibition runs until March 10, 2024, FMCAC plans a celebration of the publication launch and a pop-up urbanism/urban planning symposium. Bonnie Ora Sherk’s legacy extends beyond her medium, intertwining with the fabric of urban environments, leaving an indelible mark on art, ecology, and community engagement. Join the celebration of a remarkable artist at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

Exhibition Details

Title: Bonnie Ora Sherk: Life Frames Since 1970

On view: January 13-March 10, 2024

Location: Gallery 308, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

Opening reception: January 13, 2024, 2-4 p.m.

Admission: Free

*Note: The Winter Fort Mason Art Walk on January 19, 2024, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., across the campus, offers an additional opportunity to engage with the vibrant art community.*


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