History

Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) is a sprawling aromatic herb of the western and northwestern United States, western Canada and Alaska. What is now San Francisco, California was originally named Yerba Buena by its Spanish settlers in the 18th century because of the abundance of the herb in the area.

In 1980, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) initiated plans for a new neighborhood to be called Yerba Buena that turned a once dilapidated area of the city into an urban oasis which today features housing, open space, retail, cultural institutions and the Moscone Convention Center.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), the project's anchor cultural complex, was developed as the result of years of community input and planning with scores of Northern California artists, as well as cultural, educational and civic leaders. YBCA's mandate was to feature culturally diverse, community-based, national and international contemporary interdisciplinary arts, culture and entertainment. YBCA was also designed to participate in experimentation, change and the discourse and debate between the arts and public life.

Incorporated in 1986, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was built by SFRA using funds from private development in the Yerba Buena Gardens district. Under an operating agreement, the Agency supports the security, operations and maintenance of the facilities, and YBCA is responsible for raising funds through contributed and earned revenue for its artistic and educational programs. The non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, originally incorporated as Yerba Buena Gardens Cultural Center, Inc., was created to operate and program the facilities.

YBCA's two landmark buildings include galleries, a flexible "Forum" space and film/video screening room designed by Fumihiko Maki in association with RMW, and the Lam Research Theater designed by James Stewart Polshek. YBCA opened to international acclaim in October 1993.

From the ground up, YBCA was designed to embrace and celebrate a diversity of arts, cultures, and audiences. Created on the model of the European Kunsthalles, with no permanent art collection, YBCA bridges the seemingly contradictory worlds of pop culture, contemporary art, and community aesthetics. Exhibitions, performance, film/video, and community engagement programs are organized thematically in an effort to connect art and community life, and a host of community engagement programs each year connect audiences with art, artists and ideas.

Each year over a quarter of a million people attend one of hundreds of YBCA exhibitions, performances, screenings and community engagement programs. Major accomplishments include presenting and hosting the work of more than 2,200 visual, performing, and media artists (the largest percentage of who are Bay Area residents) and commissioning and presenting 125 world premiere exhibitions and performances.