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Still Hybrid After All These Years 

Intersection for the Arts turns 40, right at home in the Mission

Wednesday, Jun 15 2005
Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco's oldest alternative art space, is turning 40 this year. Its name is now synonymous with the Mission District, and as hipsters flow out onto the street after an evening of experimental theater, art, or jazz, it's hard to imagine the organization existing anywhere other than on that scruffy block of Valencia between 15th and 16th streets.

But before taking over an ex-mortuary and furniture store in the Mission in the 1980s, Intersection had been equally inseparable from its original location in North Beach. As "Intersection, A Center for Religion and the Arts" in the 1960s, the organization focused its energies on attracting the flower children of the era to spirituality through music, poetry, art, and performance. Although Intersection was housed in a church at 756 Union St., its connection with organized religion was pretty loose (and would formally come to an end in the early 1970s). In those days, North Beach honchos like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Michael McClure read their poetry to standing-room-only crowds.

Back then, Intersection was probably regarded as being so North Beach; today it's unreservedly Mission. Yet no matter the neighborhood, the stuff that goes on under the organization's auspices has always defied categorization. From the world premiere, in 1979, of the musical piece Duykers the First conceived by the internationally acclaimed tenor John Duykers with director George Coates, a percussion soiree starring playwright and actor Sam Shepard, and the "Midnight Series" season of experimental work featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Geoff Hoyle, to more recent world-premiere plays by Jessica Hagedorn, Dave Eggers, and Denis Johnson, beat-box flute performances by Tim Barsky, and glass/ installation art by Jamex & Einar de la Torre, Intersection has playfully propagated multiple identities.

Intersection for the Arts' 40th anniversary festivities focus on celebrating the soul of the organization as a champion of fused art forms, an explorer of new directions, and a playground for emerging and established artists alike. A week's worth of revelries (including a splashy fund-raiser and a free block party featuring readings and performances by Intersection alumni, an art exhibition, and a panel and reception at the Commonwealth Club) reaches its apotheosis with "Hybrid Art Evolving" -- two evenings of in-house panel discussions and performances exploring the evolution of hybridized art forms. Trailblazing panelists including artist and educator Tim Rollins, choreographers Alonzo King and Robert Moses, lighting designer Stephanie Johnson, writer Ntozake Shange, and composer Marcus Shelby reflect on the progression of hybrid performance, interdisciplinary art, and art as activism. Each evening concludes with the Hybrid Project 1965/2005, featuring new and groundbreaking work by emerging artists.

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Chloe Veltman


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