Public Knowledge launches in Spring 2017 but has grown out of several years of thinking, planning, and relationship building. Here are some previous Public Dialogue activities that explored the role of the arts in civic life and engaged audiences beyond the museum’s walls.
Can We Talk About Art?

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the WPA and the museum itself, Deena Chalabi (SFMOMA’s Barbara and Stephan Vermut Associate Curator of Public Dialogue) invited artist Amanda Eicher to collaborate on Meeting Points, a day-long, city-wide event that took place on October 17, 2015, and explored the relationship between the two. Eicher’s response was “Can We Talk About Art,” a series of pop up conversations on around art and art-related subjects, led by members of the local community.

For more information please read Amanda’s essay on SFMOMA’s blog Open Space

Click below to see Eicher’s map of community contributors.

Chimurenga Library


Chimurenga Library is an ongoing installation and research project by Chimurenga, a Cape Town-based collective focused on Pan-African history and culture. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art commissioned a collaborative intervention based on this research that was presented at the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch from May 24 to June 29 2014.

The presentation comprised text, audio, video and library materials that explored the history of FESTAC ’77, the Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture, held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. FESTAC featured a month-long program included visual art exhibitions, music and dance performances and an extensive scholarly conference featuring the major black intellectuals of the day. Four hundred Bay Area residents participated in FESTAC, and it remains the largest Pan-African arts festival that has ever taken place. Yet despite its epic scale and ambition, today the story of the festival is neither widely known nor well understood.

Chimurenga Library at the SFPL was designed to invite library visitors to reflect on what this event was, how it was connected to a local Bay Area history, as well as wider histories of diaspora, and what it might mean for us several decades later.

Click more to see images from the research and installation as well as an audio recording from a panel discussion that took place at the exhibition opening. Featured speakers included Stacy Hardy of Chimurenga, Andrew Apter of UCLA, and Akin Adesokan of the University of Indiana at Bloomington.

The Field Trip – The Abstraction of Politics and the Politics of Abstraction


Hiding in plain sight in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has served as a Civil War outpost, an immigration station, a prisoner of war processing center, a Nike missile site, and, currently, a California State Park. How do these rich historical narratives connect to current social debates? On Sunday, September 22, 2013 SFMOMA convened a one-day roving symposium and tour of the island, speculating on contemporary politics, artistic abstraction, scientific imaging techniques, and the military’s Cold War-era psychic spying program known as remote viewing.

The Field Trip was a 5 mile walk created and led by artist Aaron Gach (co-founder of the Center for Tactical Magic), that included art historians, park interpreters, data analysts, and former military remote viewers in a series of site-specific discussions, presentations, and exercises across the island. These multiple perspectives blurred the lines between seemingly disparate subjects as we explored the ways in which we, as individuals and as a society, represent information through technology, art, and facilitated visionary experiences.