Wendi Norris, owner of the gallery of the same name. (Photo by Steven Brandsetter)

11 Most Influential Women in the San Francisco Art World

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This is a woman's world.

Well, maybe not yet. But if the pussy-hat-wearers and #metoo whistleblowers and #timesup advocates and Hollywood starlets and badass female chefs have anything to say about it (and you know they do!), it will be soon. But did you know that the art world is already at the cutting edge?


According to a study by The National Center for Arts Research, women are already conquering the art world. Ladies have leading roles at 48 percent of American museums, and 54 percent of our small and midsize galleries are female-owned. In fact, some of the country's most prestigious art institutions are directed by women—including Lisa Phillips, of New Museum in New York; Anne Pasternak, of Brooklyn Museum, and Martha Tedeschi, of Harvard Art Museums—who pioneer innovative new programs and promote up-and-coming artists and burgeoning communities.

The Bay Area, unsurprisingly, is in step with this revolution, with fearless women of power at every major museum and dominating our gallery scene. Meet the local ladies who are changing the rules and shaping a supportive environment to bolster both local artists and our city's reputation as an international leader in art.

(Courtesy of SOMArts)

Maria Jenson, executive director of SOMArts

The basics. "When I moved to San Francisco from L.A. in 2009, I arrived with a proposal in hand for a project to assist emerging artists and galleries still reeling from the recession. I met two key contacts: art historian Peter Selz and business leader Chip Conley. These men took an outsider, a woman of color, seriously. When Chip agreed to move forward with my proposal for the ArtPadSF fair in 2010, I found the catalyst. After that I took on a role in external relations at SFMOMA during their three-year expansion. The main emphasis of my work was to connect the museum to the community. Now, as SOMArts' executive director, I have seen the power of crowd-pleasing exhibitions and events, and we embrace these projects precisely because of our mission of inclusion."

In progress. "We're launching a Performance Residency this spring and we're working with Guillermo Gomez-Pena's La Pocha Nostra to produce a performance workshop festival in the summer of 2018 focused on issues of local history, place making and land use."

The Bay Area can do better. "I believe that the Bay Area is poised to reinforce its world-leading position in the arts. There is tremendous work to do given our current social issues, and we're at a place where we can't afford to lose our artists and performers to other locations outside of the Bay Area. Given that governmental support for arts and culture continues to dwindle, it's forcing everyone to come together to do the heavy lifting. San Francisco and cities across the Bay Area need to address serious affordability concerns that are preventing artists from living here long-term. It is also going to be important that all arts and culture organizations continue to lower the bar for entry and make their events affordable and accessible to all. We need to reframe these pressures and challenges as opportunities. The Bay Area is a place for new ideas, social engagement, and concern for the future."

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