Public Art Installations at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

in Culture, Recreation

This public art installation by Anna Sergeeva features snippets of love poetry whimsically placed around the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. If you’re feeling moved, head inside to the lobby to pen some love lines of your own! Photo credit:

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts boasts two free art installations for the public to view and explore – love @ first line  by Anna Sergeeva and The Monument as Living Memory by Caleb Duarte. Both of the pieces reflect our times in different ways; one addresses the need many people have in their lives for closeness and intimacy, and the other reflects on the great tumult and upheaval of these recent years.  In love @ first line, the opening stanzas from poems generated by the artist are playfully placed around the outside of the YBCA. Sergeeva was moved by the works of bell hooks (specifically All About Love: New Visions) to create these opening lines. To accomplish this vision, Sergeeva programmed a Python script  that combined 600 love poems from the Poetry Foundation’s collection and unfurled a smattering of new opening lines, which now adorn the outer walls of the Center.  Should these opening lines ignite in you a need to write your own odes or sonnets, worry not! Visitors are invited to come inside the lobby to write love lines of their own to loved ones who may be distanced. This piece is multisensory; there is an audio component that incorporates Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, and Cantonese. This installation is perhaps best enjoyed during daylight hours, and the lobby is only open during the Center’s hours of operation (Thursday – Saturday, 12 – 6 pm, closed Sunday- Wednesday.) 

Artist Caleb Duarte in front of an early iteration of the piece “The Monument as Living Memory” outside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2020. Photograph by Tommy Lau.

For The Monument as Living Memory, which stands proudly outside the Mission St. entrance, Duarte derived his inspiration from the activism he witnessed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  He saw those ungainly wooden boards that lined shop windows, symbols of the dereliction and uncertainty of the times, become powerful platforms for social change and self-expression. The artists’ and activists’ re-appropriation of those boards as canvases on which to decry injustices and fight for equity compelled Duarte to pursue this project. His voice is not the only one represented in the work; he has invited artists to refine and make additions to the piece periodically over an 8-month span, and collectively they created a larger-than-life artwork using the idea of a window-board as its starting off point. Illuminated spectacularly at night, this piece speaks to the collective power amounting to mythic proportions that will not be satisfied until the institutions failing the people are systematically destroyed. The installation will continue as an ongoing fixture, looming over the museum’s entrance, daring progress to halt.