Children sit in a dark room, and look at an art installation creative of tiny moving lights on a wall

Your Arts & Culture Guide to San Francisco

Brighten your calendar with art, movies, and music in and around the Bay.

The San Francisco art scene is vibrant and dynamic with a rich history of artistic innovation, from the Beat poets of the 1950s to the psychedelic posters of the 1960s. Today, the city is home to a thriving community of contemporary artists who work in a wide range of media, from painting and sculpture to video and performance art. Overall, the San Francisco art scene is a testament to the city's creative energy and cultural diversity.

Want to experience it for yourself? Here's our round-up of the latest and most exciting cultural happenings around the city.

Music and Performing Arts

Hippest Trip - The Soul Train Musical at the American Conservatory Theatre

415 Geary St.

Experience the magic of the iconic TV show, Soul Train, in the Broadway-bound musical, Hippest Trip. Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of 1971's Chicago as pioneer Don Cornelius brings Black music, dance, and style to every home in America. Witness the rise of this groundbreaking show and the inspiring journey of the artists and dancers who shaped multiple generations. Don't miss this elegant and determined tribute to an unforgettable era of music and entertainment. Through October 1, 2024. Buy tickets here.

Group of men and women smiling at the camera
Creative Team: Dominique Morisseau, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Camille A. Brown, and Kamilah Forbes (c) Photo credit: Nicola Goode

SFBATCO New Roots Theater Festival at the Brava Theater Center

415 Geary St.

SFBATCO New Roots Theatre Festival spans three days celebrating new voices in the Bay Area. The festival unearths the development of new work and centers BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices. Two SFBATCO original projects will be presented, along with four projects by Bay Area legacy companies including Zaccho Dance Theatre, Campo Santo, Magic Theatre, AfroSolo, and SF Recovery Theatre. All six of these dynamic projects are in various stages of development, and the Festival offerings range from staged readings to fully memorized workshop productions. November 10 to 12, 2023. Buy tickets

Women jumping and dancing

The Velveteen Rabbit at ODC

190 3rd St.

ODC/Dance celebrates its 37th anniversary of the holiday tradition, The Velveteen Rabbit, directed by KT Nelson, with Bay Area students from ODC's Youth & Teen Program. Based on Margery Williams' beloved book, this charming performance promises festive costumes, lively characters, and a touch of holiday magic! December 2 to December 10, 2023. Buy Tickets

Before the Sword at the New Conservatory Theatre

415 Geary St.

Step into the enchanting world of a quaint British village in 1936, where the tale of author T.H. White unfolds. Captivated by the allure of blank pages, White yearns to embark on an extraordinary literary journey. Enter Freddie, a curious young misfit harboring a veil of secrecy that shrouds his past and future. The unlikely union of these two individuals catalyzes a magical connection, as White discovers his muse and fervently pens the enduring narrative of The Sword in the Stone – forever connected with his enigmatic student and the ancient legend. Through October 15, 2023. Buy tickets

image of man in historical costume kneeling by a sword in a stone

Border People at the Marsh

1062 Valencia St. 

Drawing inspiration from candid conversations and interviews conducted in various settings, including the courtyards of South Bronx housing projects, refugee safe houses along the northern border with Canada, and extensive travels along the southwestern border and into Mexico, this project brings forth eleven compelling monologues. These monologues represent the voices of individuals who inhabit and navigate borders, whether they be geographical or cultural.

Through these monologues, the audience gains intimate insights into the lives of the subjects, offering a raw, poignant, and at times, humorous exploration of the myriad borders that we all encounter and negotiate within the tapestry of our everyday existence. October 7 to Nov 18, 2023. Buy tickets.

Man looking at camera, sitting on a chair on a black background

Omar at the San Francisco Opera

301 Van Ness Ave. 

The recipient of the prestigious 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Music, this groundbreaking opera is a collaborative creation by Grammy-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels. The narrative unfolds as it follows the journey of a Muslim scholar from West Africa who, after being kidnapped and enslaved, finds himself transported over 6,000 miles from his homeland to the antebellum South. In a defiant act against the oppressive laws of the time, he embarks on the remarkable endeavor of penning his own story, leaving an indelible mark on history. November 5, 7, 11, 15, 17, and 21, 2023. Buy tickets

Man kneeling in front of large swathes of printed fabric

2023-2024 SFJAZZ Season 

201 Franklin St.

The 2023-24 SFJAZZ Season has been announced, celebrating the organization's 40th anniversary and 11th at the SFJAZZ Center. With more than 300 concerts, this season will showcase five new Resident Artistic Directors: Kenny Barron, Ravi Coltrane, Julian Lage, Howard Wiley, and Brandee Younger. The SFJAZZ Collective, an all-star resident ensemble, will also be commemorating its 20th year of performing. Buy tickets

Image of Jazz performers standing in a group

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

26 7th St.

Founded by Alonzo King in 1982, LINES Ballet is a renowned contemporary dance company that has consistently redefined the boundaries of ballet. LINES Ballet showcases performances that challenge our perception of the art form through collaborations with acclaimed composers, musicians, and visual artists worldwide. Its distinctive vision honors the timeless principles of the classical ballet tradition, encompassing linear, mathematical, and geometrical elements found in both Eastern and Western cultures. You can check out their schedule of events here

New Voices at Audium

1616 Bush St.

Merlin Coleman's thought-provoking show delves into the human practice of resource extraction and waste disposal. Through the tales of a quarry and landfill, Coleman presents the voices and perspectives of activists, artists, ecologists, and others tied to these sites. Through a captivating fusion of spoken word, music, and sounds, EXPLORATIONS of EXTRACTION and DECAY uncovers the beauty and significance of the human voice, shedding light on the broader themes of extraction, waste, and the eternal cycle of life. You're invited to join Join Coleman, sound engineer Eric Oberthaler, and media artist Catherine Hollander for an evening of poetic exploration enhanced by video projections showcasing quarry sites, refuse, and the human body as a landscape. Through September 30, 2023.

Performances at Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness Ave.

In the 2023–24 Great Performers Series by the San Francisco Symphony, audiences can anticipate a captivating lineup of eight programs, each showcasing world-renowned artists in both solo recitals and ensemble performances. These exceptional musical experiences will take place at Davies Symphony Hall throughout the season.

The featured artists encompass a stellar array of talent, including esteemed pianists like Yefim Bronfman, Evgeny Kissin, Daniil Trifonov, and Yuja Wang, as well as virtuoso violinist Ray Chen. The series also includes a performance by Joshua Bell & the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, an outstanding presentation by the San Francisco Symphony Brass ensemble, and a chamber music performance featuring violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Gautier Capuçon, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. October 15, 2023 to May 15, 2024. Buy tickets.

Sculpture in front of symphony hall lit up at night

City Arts & Lectures Fall Programming

275 Hayes St.

Since 1980, City Arts & Lectures has provided various programs featuring prominent individuals from the world of arts and ideas. These events include lectures, conversations, surprise performances, film tributes, and concerts. Renowned writers, critics, scientists, performers, and cultural figures from around the globe participate in these events, offering diverse perspectives on ideas, values, the creative process, and our understanding of the world today. You can check out their schedule of events here

Art & Experiences

The de Young Open 2023 at The de Young Museum

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.

Following the resounding success of the inaugural The de Young Open in 2020, the second edition of this triennial juried community art exhibition will once again showcase submissions from artists residing in the nine Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. The exhibited artworks will be arranged in a "salon style," occupying virtually every available space from edge to edge and floor to ceiling, thereby maximizing the number of works on display.

This exhibition is thoughtfully designed to both celebrate and bolster our local arts communities. Participating artists have the opportunity to offer their works for sale and retain the proceeds. Additionally, in keeping with the tradition established in 2020, they will acquire a selection of artworks from the exhibition to become a part of their permanent collection. September 30, 2023 to January 7, 2024. Buy tickets

Image of red and blue woven artwork by Lorraine Woodruff-Long

Designing Peace at the Museum of Craft and Design

2569 Third St.

Designing Peace is an upcoming exhibition exploring design's role in pursuing peace. The show will display design projects worldwide that aim to create and sustain lasting peaceful interactions. This exhibition considers how society can design for peace against global social, environmental, and economic inequities and ongoing conflicts. Visitors can expect 30 design proposals, initiatives, and interventions from over 20 countries, highlighting various design responses to the underlying causes of conflict. The exhibition also encourages visitors to reflect on their role in designing peace and offers opportunities for practical action. October 7, 2023 to February 4, 2024. Buy tickets.

Children riding on pink seesaws

SF Open Studios at the ArtSpan

934 Brannan St.

ArtSpan warmly welcomes everyone to immerse themselves in San Francisco's dynamic creativity during SF Open Studios (SFOS). Celebrating its 49th year, ArtSpan's annual SF Open Studios presents an open invitation to both residents and tourists, granting them the unique and complimentary chance to directly connect with local artists within their studio sanctuaries. Visitors can anticipate delving deeper into the artistic journey of each creator, gaining insights into their work and creative processes, and even acquiring pieces of art directly from the source. October 28 to November 19, 2023. 

Woman standing in front of her artwork

Por el Pueblo: The Legacy and Influence of Malaquías Montoya at the Oakland Museum of California

2569 Third St.

The impact of Chicano artist Malaquías Montoya, known for his political and social justice posters, graphic prints, and murals, is highlighted in the exhibition Por el Pueblo: The Legacy and Influence of Malaquías Montoya. Montoya's upbringing as the son of a migrant farmworker family and his close relationships with elders, teachers, and artists shaped his activist roots and community ties. The exhibition explores Montoya's collaborative artistic process, community focus, and intergenerational engagement, featuring photographs, historical ephemera, early works, and contemporary pieces by artists influenced by Montoya. October 6, 2023 to June 30, 2024.

Image of older man and child working on a screen print in black and white

Adrian L. Burrell: Venus Blues at the Minnesota Street Project Foundation

1275 Minnesota St.

Oakland native Burrell embarks on a profound exploration in Venus Blues, delving into the concept of history as a living, breathing entity, resilient even in the face of adversity and attempts at erasure. This exhibition takes center stage with Burrell's grand-scale sculptures and life-sized photographs, carefully crafted specifically for this showcase. Additionally, Venus Blues unveils a fresh iteration of the artist's ongoing cinematic project, The Saints Step in Kongo Time.

Within Venus Blues, a heartfelt homage unfolds, paying tribute to the enigmatic figures of the past and the formidable matriarchs—known as the Venuses—in Burrell's extended family. These women defy the conventional archetype of white Western beauty or mythological icons. Instead, they embody the profound impact of loss and rupture caused by the systematic tearing apart of families, homes, and homelands. Burrell's female ancestors, both acknowledged and anonymous, living and departed, emerge and reemerge throughout the exhibition. They manifest in family photographs, ripple through pools of water, echo in haunting monologues, flicker subtly, and materialize on screens. October 7 2023, to December 3, 2023. 

Women in white flowing outfits standing in front of an ocean

Mika Rottenberg: Spaghetti Blockchain at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St.

Don't miss Mika Rottenberg's exhibition, Spaghetti Blockchain. An innovative and internationally acclaimed artists, Rottenberg uses humor to confront the paradoxes of global capitalism. This exhibit features her most prominent videos, installations, and sculptures of the past decade - a vividly colorful collection that uncovers the surreal qualities of mass production and consumption. It's the first museum survey of her work ever to be presented on the West Coast. Through October 2023. Buy tickets.

Image of woman surrounded by blow up animals in small room.

RetroBlakesberg: The Music Never Stopped at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St. 

Embark on a journey through some of the most explosive moments in music history, as captured by the lens of Bay Area-based photographer Jay Blakesberg. RetroBlakesberg: The Music Never Stopped offers a captivating visual narrative through photographs of legendary musicians, shedding light on the evolution of San Francisco's distinctive music culture and its far-reaching impact. This exhibition unites over 200 photographs and related memorabilia, all captured between the years 1978 and 2008 when Blakesberg exclusively shot on film.

Originally hailing from New Jersey, Blakesberg's journey led him to San Francisco, where he fused his twin passions for music and photography. Within the frames of his photographs, we witness era-defining musicians and moments spanning an eclectic spectrum of genres, including rock, grunge, blues, psychedelic, folk, and everything in between. The exhibition showcases iconic figures such as the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, Soundgarden, and many more. Alongside these evocative images, visitors will find original ticket stubs, press passes, and other ephemera, collectively offering an immersive visual history of the sounds and narratives that have not only shaped the Bay Area but have also reverberated far beyond its borders. Through January 28, 2023. Buy tickets.

Photo portrait of Tracy Chapman

2023 Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center

934 Brannan St.

SOMArts is delighted to announce its partnership with the San Francisco Foundation in presenting the 2023 Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition. This exhibition provides an insightful glimpse into the future of visual arts in the Bay Area. This collaborative effort, made possible by the generous support of the San Francisco Foundation and its donors, showcases the work of 14 talented visual artists. These artists are drawn from regional MFA programs and their creative endeavors intersect with emerging artistic trends.

The Jack K. and Gertrude Murphy Award is bestowed upon an MFA student who demonstrates exceptional artistic potential. Edwin Anthony and Adalaine Boudreaux Cadogan, both of whom faced financial challenges during their own art education, recognized the transformative impact of scholarships on early-career artists. The recipients of the Murphy and Cadogan scholarships receive invaluable support for their MFA studies. Through October 6, 2023. 

NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Dr.

Thursdays in Golden Gate Park can only mean one thing: NightLife at the Academy! Enjoy drinks with the fishes and say hi to Claude the albino alligator while learning about a new theme each week. 21+. Buy tickets. Ongoing.

Art & Design Intertwined at Children’s Creativity Museum

221 Fourth St.

Art can connect us in many ways. Help your kids get a better understanding of art and design in our everyday lives while finding ways to use it as a communicator and problem solver in this thoughtful exhibition. Buy tickets. Ongoing.

Me Llaman Calle at SFAC

401 Van Ness Ave.

SFAC Galleries is excited to showcase Me Llaman Calle: The Monumental Art of Juana Alicia, a solo exhibition honoring muralist and multidisciplinary artist Juana Alicia Araiza. The exhibition highlights Alicia's notable mural works in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with a new series inspired by the Yucatec Mayan myth of La X'tabay. 

Bay Area Now 9 at YBCA

701 Mission St.

YBCA is thrilled to announce the ninth iteration of Bay Area Now, their signature triennial, opening Friday, October 6, 2023 as a centerpiece of YBCA’s 30th anniversary celebration.The only multidisciplinary survey exhibition of its kind in Northern California, BAN9 will span a broad range of creative practices including visual art, dance, performance, music, film, sound, new media, technology, fashion, poetry, and social practice, among others.Celebrating our diverse and resilient arts ecosystem, BAN9 will feature artists and collectives living and working across the Bay Area’s nine-county region. Through historical work, projects in development, and new commissions, BAN9 will transform YBCA’s entire campus. October 6, 2023 through Spring 2024.

Painting of a group people enjoying the desert

Biennal CounterPulse Festival at Counterpulse

80 Turk St.

The 2023 biennial CounterPulse Festival is a month-long celebration of astonishing performances unique to San Francisco. Join Counterpulse for experimental dance, raves, interactive game shows, a multi-venue drag extravaganza, workshops, panels, and more. This event will span the entire month of October.

Season of Black Art at The African American Art and Culture Complex

762 Fulton St.

The African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC) is thrilled to announce the Season of Black Art showcase in San Francisco. This remarkable event promises a captivating celebration of Black creativity and culture, with participation from a multitude of exceptionally talented Black artists and collectives. The showcase will encompass a rich diversity of artistic expressions, offering a truly immersive experience.

Throughout the Season of Black Art, attendees can look forward to a wide range of engaging activities, including thought-provoking speaker series, interactive presentations, and inspiring live performances. Celebrate the vibrant tapestry of Black art and culture during this extraordinary showcase. October 2023 to February 2024.

Pencils and Passion: A Student Art Exhibition at The Walt Disney Family Museum

104 Montgomery St.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is proud to present Pencils and Passion: A Student Art Exhibition—a celebration of the museum’s educational initiatives and the achievements of its students. Pencils and Passion is the 37th original exhibition produced by the museum. It highlights both past and current student artwork, recognizes the accomplishments of its alumni, and chronicles the development of The Walt Disney Family Museum Animation Academy. Through Fall 2023. Buy tickets.

Green and yellow wood block print of pagoda in the forrest

Under the Same Sun Contemporary Arts Festival at Edge on the Square 

800 Grant Ave.

The contemporary art festival in San Francisco's Chinatown is making its highly anticipated return for its second installment. This festival serves as the flagship program of Edge on the Square (Edge), an innovative cultural arts center situated at 800 Grant Avenue. It distinguishes itself by playing a pivotal role in driving the revitalization efforts within Chinatown. The event, spanning a single day, is aptly titled Under the Same Sun: Reimagining the Edges of Chinatown. Its primary objective is to draw both locals and visitors to the vibrant heart of Chinatown, offering an array of cultural art experiences, fleeting art installations, family-friendly activities, captivating performances, enlightening panel discussions, delectable food, and an interactive exhibition.

Throughout the neighborhood, festival-goers will discover twenty-one captivating activations, crafted by over 20 talented artists. These installations will be strategically placed, encouraging attendees to explore the rich tapestry of Chinatown and savor its distinct offerings. Join us for a day of artistic exploration and cultural celebration as we come together "Under the Same Sun" to reimagine the boundaries of Chinatown. September 30, 2023.

Women standing waving from indoor balcony with colorful art

Subscription to Mischief: Graffiti Zines of the 1990s at Letterform Archive

2325 Fourth St.

The innovative and communal nature of graffiti is being showcased in an unprecedented exhibition featuring independent publications. Subscription to Mischief offers a look into over 40 graffiti zines, with a particular focus on the making of "Skills Magazine". Greg Lamarche's archives and Letterform Archive's collection of graffiti magazines will be featured, displaying original works by prominent and lesser-known writers of the era through letters, throwups, and handstyles. The exhibition also highlights how magazines served as launchpads for creative careers and practitioners acted as documentarians, portraying a timeless tribute to graffiti culture's letterforms and snail mail-formed community. Through November 2023. Buy Tickets.

Collected images of graffiti

The Great Animal Orchestra at the Exploratorium

Pier 15 Embarcadero at Green St.

Don't miss the extraordinary collaboration of Bernie Krause, pioneering soundscape ecologist, and United Visual Artists (UVA) in The Great Animal Orchestra. On view is Krause's vast collection of recordings showcasing over 15,000 species worldwide. The Exploratorium invites all ages to immerse in this captivating audio-visual art exhibition. Discover Krause's fascinating journey from musician to ecologist and his contributions to popular music and film. Visit the website for more information on this incredible exhibit, and plan your visit to San Francisco. Through October 15, 2023. Buy tickets here.

Children sit in a dark room, and look at an art installation creative of tiny moving lights on a wall

Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego at The Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St.

Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962) is making his debut solo exhibition in San Francisco, marking a significant artistic milestone. Internationally acclaimed, Murakami not only stands as a prominent figure in global pop culture but also wields considerable influence in realms spanning fashion, consumer products, curation, and entertainment. Beneath the surface of his work, one discovers a nuanced exploration of human behavior, infused with historical and art-historical references, and a clever sense of humor.

In "Murakami: Monsterized," his latest exhibition, larger-than-life paintings and sculptures take center stage, with monsters serving as a central motif to delve into the complexities of our contemporary world. Murakami's recent creations suggest that the rapidly evolving and increasingly digital landscape we inhabit is teeming with monsters, some of which we have brought into existence and perhaps even personify. Blurring the line between the eerie and the delightful, these monsters embody the various forces and behaviors that both threaten and haunt us and offer moments of diversion and escapism amid the chaos.

This exhibition features several new works crafted in response to the global pandemic and the growing trend of virtual interactions. Paintings portraying distorted figures mirror the inflated egos of individuals relentlessly self-promoting on social media platforms. Simultaneously, Murakami's pieces documenting his venture into NFTs, including avatars, reflect an optimistic outlook toward a digitally liberated future. On through February 12, 2024. Buy tickets.

Takashi Murkami painting of a monster sitting on a cloud

Yayoi Kasuma at SFMOMA

151 Third St.

In conjunction with the Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love exhibition on Floor 6, SFMOMA will showcase the artist's monumental sculpture, Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023), on Floor 5. This bronze masterpiece stretches over 18 feet in length and stands at a towering height of more than 11 feet. Its sinuous contours wind gracefully through the space, creating an immersive experience for visitors as they find themselves encircled by its undulating walls.

Painted in a vibrant shade of yellow, Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love bears Kusama's iconic polka dots, meticulously arranged in a pattern that accentuates the convex and concave shapes reminiscent of gourds. Kusama herself has expressed, "Pumpkins have been a source of immense comfort to me since my childhood; they resonate with the essence of joy in life. They possess a delightful humility and charm, and I have, and always will, celebrate them through my art." October 14, 2023 to September 7, 2024. Buy tickets.

Image of Yayoi Kasuma sculptures, warped pumpkins with black spots

Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear at SFMOMA

151 Third St.

In November, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) unveils Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear, the most extensive exhibition of the artist's work to date. Curated by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, this survey encompasses Tillmans' iconic pieces in photography, video, and multimedia installations. It represents a diverse artistic practice unified by the artist's profoundly innovative philosophical approach, sensitivity, and a yearning for human connection. To Look Without Fear debuts at SFMOMA on November 11, 2023, marking Wolfgang Tillmans' inaugural solo exhibition in San Francisco.

The exhibition offers a comprehensive exploration of Wolfgang Tillmans' body of work, tracing the evolution of his artistic journey from the 1980s to the present day. Tillmans perceives the role of the artist as, among other things, "an amplifier." He delves into a myriad of photographic genres, constantly pushing the boundaries of how images can convey meaning. His creative journey spans from early experiments with a photocopier to his acclaimed portraiture, vibrant depictions of nightlife, documentation of social movements, and his abstract works created without a camera. Through this wide spectrum of subject matter, Tillmans' unwavering commitment to fearlessly engage with the world becomes evident. Buy tickets.

Wolfgang Tillmans, 1992, Lutz & Alex sitting in the trees

A Public Voice/Una Voz Pública at SFAC

1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Pl. 

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Art in City Hall program, in partnership with Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA), presents an exhibition showcasing the history of activism and cultural events in San Francisco through historical posters. The show is organized by decade, showcasing archival prints from 1972 to now. It will feature posters that capture the vital contributions to the political and community activism in San Francisco, highlighting issues such as clean air and water, tenants' rights, and access to healthcare, many societal problems that find resonance today. Through July 12, 2024. 

Author Brenda Tucker
Brenda Tucker

Brenda Tucker is the Director of Arts Marketing at San Francisco Travel. She has lived in San Francisco since 1998, after driving cross-country to a home she secured sight unseen. Brenda enjoys swimming out-of-doors year-round, being inspired by the incredible art scene in the City, and living in the best place on earth.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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