Our critics weigh in on local exhibits

Conservatory of Flowers. "The Modern Art of Orchids": A new "abstract" flower exhibit that includes hundreds of blooms. Through Feb. 26. 100 JFK (at Conservatory, in Golden Gate Park), 666-7001,

Contemporary Jewish Museum. "Intersections: Reading the Space": Through Feb. 26. 121 Steuart (at Mission), 591-8800,

de Young Museum. "Highlights of the Art and Architecture of the New de Young": Enjoy a 50-minute, docent-led tour. Through Dec. 31, 10:30 a.m. "Introduction to the Masterworks of the New de Young Collections": Enjoy a 50-minute, docent-led tour. Through Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. "Friday Nights at the New de Young": Designed to focus on the special exhibitions and permanent collections, "Friday Nights" features live music, artist demonstrations, films, dance performances, lectures, and tours. Visit the Web site for the schedule. Through June 20, 6 p.m. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at JFK), 863-3330,

Exploratorium. "Light as an Artistic Medium": The exhibition counterpoints the film installation of Moholy-Nagy's 1930s work with a cutting edge work from today, Aequator, by German light artist Thomas Bartels. Through March 19. "Traits of Life": A major exhibition area with 30 biology exhibits and demonstrations that help visitors understand the fundamental elements common to all living things from humans to amoebas. Daily. Free with museum admission. "Reconsidered Materials": Art exhibition featuring works by Andrew Junge, Ulrike Palmbach, and Flash in Tonyland, among others. Through June 18. 3601 Lyon (at Marina), 397-5673,

The Holocaust Center of Northern California. "Holocaust Center of Northern California": The newly opened center's first exhibit showcases its facilities, including a library with more than 15,000 historical volumes, a reading room for screening documentaries and holding educational talks, and ongoing displays of the center's thousands of photographs and artifacts. Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1-6 p.m.; Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. 121 Steuart (at Mission), 777-9060,

Judah L. Magnes Museum. "Houses and Housing": Group show on portability in Jewish art. Through May 15. Free. 2911 Russell (at Pine), Berkeley, 510-549-6950.

Lawrence Hall of Science. "Forces That Shape the Bay": The museum's permanent science park exhibit explores new ways to understand the bay. Daily. "Prove It -- A ChemMystery": Kids and adults attempt to solve crimes using the basic forensic skills they learn step-by-step at the exhibit. Daily. Free with admission, free-$8.50. Centennial & Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, 510-642-5132.

Legion of Honor. "17th-Century Painting in Holland: A Mirror to Dutch Society and Culture": A slide lecture by Maria B. Cheremeteff. Wed., Feb. 22, 10 a.m.; Thu., Feb. 23, 10 a.m. $3-$4. "Big Kids/Little Kids": Children aged 3 1/2 to 6 years and their parents take a gallery tour and then participate in a related hands-on art activity. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. Free with museum admission, free-$8. "Doing and Viewing Art": Kids aged 7-12 and their families tour the Legion of Honor's galleries before taking part in a hands-on creative workshop led by a professional artist. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. Free with museum entrance fee, free-$8. Organ Concert: Weekly organ concerts. Saturdays, Sundays, 4 p.m. free. New Century Chamber Orchestra: Classical music in the Gould Theater. Sat., Feb. 25, 8 p.m. free. "Politics and Wit: The Comic Genius of André Gill": In the waning days of the Second Empire, in 1860s France, an artist emerged of originality and satiric bite whose caricatures of the leading politicians, actors, writers, and artists were the talk of Paris. Through April 30. Ford Free Tuesdays: Get in free to the Legion of Honor every Tuesday, thanks to a grant from the Ford Motor Co. Tuesdays. Free. "After the Ruins": Through June 4. Free-$10. 100 34th Ave. (near Clement), 863-3330,

Museum of the African Diaspora. "Linkages and Themes in the African Diaspora": Along with "Made in Africa," the inaugural exhibit of this new major museum. Through March 12. St. Regis Hotel, 685 Mission (at Third St.), 358-7200,

Oakland Museum of California. "Edward Weston: Masterworks From the Collection": Through June 11. 1000 Oak (at 10th St.), Oakland, 510-238-2200,

Pacific Heritage Museum. "Rustic Splendors": Ceramics from China. Through March 25. free. 608 Commercial (at Montgomery), 399-1124.

Pier 45. "Amusing America": The evolution of modern amusement parks and their effects on the American cultural landscape are examined in this conglomeration of photographs, penny-arcade machines, and other ephemera. Daily, 10 a.m. Free. Fisherman's Wharf (Taylor & Jefferson), 552-1266.

Randall Museum. "Drop-In Art and Science Workshops": Each week kids and parents can participate in artistic activities that illuminate some aspect of science. Saturdays, 1 p.m. $3 per person. "Saturdays Are Special": Ongoing weekly drop-in, hands-on art and science workshops. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Free-$3. 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), 554-9600,

San Francisco Fire Museum. "Permanent Exhibits": Included among the items on display at this museum are antique fire extinguishers, old uniforms, cast-iron replicas of historic fire engines, hooks, ladders, and other ephemera. Daily. Free. 655 Presidio Avenue (at Bush), 563-4630.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. "Sparks, Waves, & Wizards: Communication at Sea": The permanent exhibit presents artifacts exploring the means of maritime communications. Daily. Free-$6. Fort Mason Building E (Marina & Buchanan), 561-7000.

The San Francisco Museum of Craft+Design. "Installation/Innovation": Textile art in the 21st century. Through May 29. 550 Sutter St. (at Powell), 773-0303,

San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum. "Maestro!: Photographic Portraits by Tom Zimberoff": The artist captures a generation of national and international conductors in his portraits. Daily. "150 Years of Dance in California": The exhibit spotlights over a century of dance in the Golden State with photographs and programs. Daily. 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), 255-4800,

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