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The Best Block for Feeding Your Inner Artist: Fort Mason Center

The army-post-turned-arts-district mixes music, galleries, and improv.


Read more Best of San Francisco 2017 here.

Fort Mason isn’t just one of San Francisco’s most picturesque locales: It’s also one of our strongest arts districts, a designation reinforced by several world-class installations staged by the nonprofit Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (including the ongoing Sophie Calle installation Missing, on view through August 20).  

1. SFAI 
Pier 2, 415-641-1241
The biggest shot in the arm to Fort Mason is the imminent opening of San Francisco Art Institute’s graduate campus at Pier 2 this fall. The $17 million renovation will host 35,000 square feet of gallery space and more than 170 artist studios, giving the area one thing it can sometimes be in short supply of: foot traffic.

2. Magic Theatre
Bldg. D, 415-441-8822
Even through some tough financial times, the one constant at Magic has been the consistently stellar productions put on in its 144-seat theater. Even with a planned expansion to Mid-Market, Magic remains the area’s anchor artistic tenant.

3. BATS Improv
Bldg. B, 415-474-6776
As the city’s longest-running improv company and school, BATS has quite a legacy at Fort Mason’s 200-seat Bayfront Theater. Among BATS alumni are Greg Proops (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Ellen Idelson (who wrote for Ellen and Will & Grace), and Larry Pisoni (Pickle Family Circus).

4. SFMOMA Artists Gallery
An extension of the downtown museum, this gallery features solo and group shows of mostly early-career Northern California artists, and also houses the museum’s art-placement services division.

5. Blue Bear School of Music
Bldg. D, 415-673-3600
Since 1971, some 30,000 students have taken classes at Blue Bear, ranging from camps for four-month-olds through recording classes for teens to band jam sessions for the gray-hairs.

6. Mexican Museum and Museo Italo Americano
Mexican Museum: Bldg. D, 415-202-9700; Museo Italo Americano: Bldg. C, 415-673-2200
These two aren’t long for their current digs: The Mexican Museum is planning a $30 million move in spring 2019 to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Meanwhile, the Museo is preparing for a move to 940 Battery Street. Catch them both before they outgrow their waterfront homes.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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