San Francisco, March 13, 2009 –– Southern Exposure (SoEx), one of the Bay Area’s oldest, most daring and accessible arts organizations, with a reputation for keeping creative chaos alive in the city, opens its new permanent art space in September 2009.

SoEx’s new space, at the corner of 20th and Alabama Streets, the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, is in the neighborhood the organization has long called home. “When we learned we had to leave our original space of 32 years in 2006 due to seismic issues we were determined to find a way back to the inner mission – it’s where many of the artists we serve congregate and where many of the youth we work with live.” says Courtney Fink, Executive Director of Southern Exposure. “We’re thrilled to be going back, but now with more room, better visibility, and greater accessibility.”

SoEx’s prominently located new 4,000 square foot arts space features high ceilings, natural light, and industrial roll-up garage doors, creating a sense of openness, and architecturally connecting the organization to the street, the neighborhood, and the life of the city. The design, by artist-turned-architect Richard Johnson of Richard Johnson Designs, offers two flexible program and gallery spaces, a dedicated youth education space for year-round programs, an open office plan, and a community drop-in area. “SoEx came to me with a sophisticated understanding of their program requirements,” says Johnson, “and encouraged me to push the design so that it could be completely adaptable to the vision or needs of individual artists, and also have a strong personality representative of SoEx’s reputation for risk-taking contemporary art.” The upcoming opening of the new space with a secured 15-year lease, offers a simple and flexible program that reinforces and amplifies the organization’s diverse needs, affording expanded possibilities for SoEx long into the future.

In order to further ensure SoEx’s long-term economic stability the organization is simultaneously conducting a comprehensive fundraising campaign called Funds for the Future, to raise $700,000, and is 70% of the way to that goal with only $200,000 left to go. “It’s the first time in our thirty-five year history that we’re asking the community for this level of support and the response has been great,” says Tracy Wheeler, Board President, Southern Exposure. “It’s an extraordinary challenge to find a large, affordable, long-term space for a non-profit organization in San Francisco. When people hear that we’ve done it, they get pretty excited.”

During their two-year search for a new arts space SoEx lead a nomadic existence, one that Metropolis magazine in 2007 noted, was an artful and unusual approach to relocation. Occupying two Mission-District storefront spaces and quickly gaining a reputation for discovering and championing many now notable artists working outside the gallery in public art, environmental, and social activist arenas, SoEx by extending its programming reach, became a thriving bastion for creativity in an urban setting.

“From kite-flying in corporate-owned public spaces to chalking the outline of a long-gone lake, the exhibits all take exploration of the urban milieu as an overarching theme.” Metropolis magazine - June 2007.

The opening of SoEx’s inaugural exhibition Bellwether will launch the official public opening of their new art space and will mark the beginning of a series of solo, thematic, and juried exhibitions that begin the organization’s inaugural year of gallery programming. Included in the inaugural programming is the continuation of SoEx Off-Site, an ongoing series of public art projects featured throughout the Bay Area that intervene and interact in the social and political spheres beyond the gallery.

SoEx’s inaugural exhibition, Bellwether showcases new works from 10 artists, including work by Ant Farm, Renee Gertler, Lordy Rodriguez, and Christine Wong-Yap, who were all asked to create multi-layered speculative projections of our ever changing and uncertain future. Whether by indulging in their hopeful fantasies or examining their trepidation, the inaugural artists will provide unique and perhaps unconventional tools and methodologies for envisioning and navigating the unknown. Bellwether, includes a gallery exhibition, public art projects, public program series, and publication, and is curated by Southern Exposure’s Curatorial Committee.

Internationally recognized for innovative gallery programs and exhibitions, SoEx has equally impressive education programs for youth and adult artists, including the SoEx Artist-in-Education program founded in 1989. “Considering our size and budget, SoEx is a very complex organization. Our new space and comprehensive campaign will continue to support the multitude of SoEx programs that help strengthen the local arts ecology,” says Ms. Fink.

The SoEx Artist-in-Education (AIE) program gives intensive arts education to over 200 high school aged youth each year. AIE programming takes place at SoEx and throughout the Bay Area, working in partnership with organizations including the Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club, Downtown High School, and JVS. The AIE program also provides teacher training and job opportunities to over 20 teaching artists annually and has employed almost 500 artists in its 20-year history. Notes Fink, “Along with new partnerships in our Artists in Education (AIE) program, a more visible community presence, and the launch of a new grant giving program, these developments have made the last two nomadic years some of the most exciting in SoEx’s history. With the opening of our new space this September, we’re thrilled to be able to now provide a dedicated space for our AIE programs, and give our Youth Advisory Board a place to explore youth-focused programming and learn how to conceptualize and create art projects and shows.”

In addition to new and invigorating programming implemented during the SoEx ‘nomadic years’, the organization launched Alternative Exposure, a re-granting program funded by the Warhol Foundation that annually grants $50,000 directly to individual artists and art collectives. Beyond the Alternative Exposure program, SoEx support for artists includes professional development workshops and an extensive relationships with non-profit and commercial galleries around the country that often result in exhibition and career opportunities. “It’s hard to imagine Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR) having the success we have had,” states Lee Montgomery, artist, “including our participation in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, without the support Southern Exposure has given us. In fact, during our SoEx Off-site project, the organization served as the perfect place for us to have a studio visit with the curators for the Whitney Biennial.”

For nearly 35 years SoEx has championed Bay Area artists, created a legacy of giving more funding to artists than any other organization of their size in Northern California, and has earned international recognition with programs that attract more than 25,000 visitors each year engaging a diversity of audiences in contemporary art practices. Founded in 1974 by a community of artists seeking an alternative to the commercial gallery scene, SoEx gained a reputation for being one of the most experimental alternative arts spaces in the country. While times have changed, and SoEx with them, the organization’s principles of being artist-run and unafraid to present risk-taking, noncommercial visual art continues to guide SoEx’s board and staff.

"The groups show has of late, evolved into the “group” group show, as in the case of this provocative exhibition of international collectives curated by Courtney Fink. Indeed this evolution has been accompanied by a change in the very nature of collectivity in art. Art historians often associate collectivism with self-assured polemics of the avant garde—futurism, constructvism, and surrealisim. But artists’ renewed efforts to collaborate today, whether by deploying the radio or internet, the archive or the lowly placemat, represents a real paradigm shift." ‘The Way We Work at Southern Exposure’ - Artforum, The Best of 2004

Further realizing what it means to remain true to their reputation, and continuing to push the boundaries of visual arts, the September 2009 opening of the new SoEx arts space, designed by emerging Bay Area architect Richard Johnson, marks the organization’s long awaited return to a permanent home. Building upon their 35 year legacy and incorporating the successes of the SoEx ‘nomadic years’, the upcoming opening brings with it opportunities for the organization to explore new gallery exhibitions and programming initiatives, and to redefine what it means to be the most daring and accessible visual arts organization in San Francisco.


For more information or images contact:
–Wendy Norris, Norris Communications
(415) 307-3853, [email protected]

–Courtney Fink, Southern Exposure
(415) 863-2141, [email protected]

Southern Exposure is a 35-year-old, non-profit, artist-run organization dedicated to presenting distinct, innovative, contemporary visual art, arts education, and related programs and events, in an accessible environment. Southern Exposure reaches out to diverse audiences and serves as a forum and resource center, providing extraordinary support to the Bay Area's arts and educational communities. Activities include exhibitions of local, regional, and international visual artists’ work, the presentation of art in public space, arts education programs, lectures, panel discussions, events, and performances. Southern Exposure is dedicated to giving artists—whether they are exhibiting, curating, teaching, or learning—an opportunity to realize ideas for projects that might not otherwise find support.

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