HISTORY OF HARVEY MILK ARTS CENTER
“Overlooking beautiful Duboce Park, the Harvey Milk Center is as unique as the Civil Rights leader it was named for. Originally dedicated to the Performing Arts, the building, commonly called “Drama, Dance & Music”, was headquarters for the Performing Arts Division of the Recreation and Park Department since its construction in 1954. Duboce Park itself, has been a location for arts programming since the early 1920s when the women volunteers of the San Francisco Urban Story League performed puppet shows and storytelling in the park for children.
The 23,125-square-foot center reopened to the public in 2009 after an impressive $12 million renovation to the 55-year old building. Dedicated now to the Visual as well as the Performing Arts, the Harvey Milk Arts Center has quickly become the City’s newest Digital Destination with state-of-the-art technological facilities including brand new Sound Recording Studio & Digital Labs.
Located in the southwestern side of Duboce Park, the Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Building is also home to the Recreation and Park Department’s exceptional Photo Center – the oldest (and one of the largest) public darkrooms for traditional black-and-white process printing still in existence in the United States. The building also features a multitude of arts and recreational programming in our expansive Ballroom, Dance Studio, Art Studios, multiple Exhibition Galleries and Scott Street Labyrinth.
Part of a quartet of Arts Centers under the Cultural Arts Division, the building was officially re-dedicated in 1979 to Harvey Milk as tribute to the slain City Supervisor after his assassination in 1978. The building’s recent redesign plays homage to the storied history of the recreational center and Harvey Milk, himself, in the form of a San Francisco Arts Commission suite of permanent art installations conceived of by artists Michael Davis and Susan Schwartzenberg. One of those pieces, “The American Dream: A Tribute to Harvey Milk” memorializes Milk’s words, “The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods…” fittingly upon the building’s Eastside.”