About the Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco
The Recology San Francisco Artist in Residence (AIR) Program is an art and education initiative that awards Bay Area artists access to discarded materials, an unrestricted stipend, and an individual studio space. These resources, along with comprehensive support, are provided to artists while they create a body of work and host studio visits during their four-month residency.
Since 1990, over 150 professional artists and 50 student artists from local universities and colleges have completed residencies. These emerging, mid-career, and established artists have worked across disciplines—including new media, video, painting, photography, performance, sculpture, and installation—to explore a wide range of topics.
The artist studios are located at the San Francisco Recycling and Transfer Center—a 47-acre facility that includes multiple recycling operations. The site is also home to a three-acre sculpture garden, designed by Susan Leibovitz Steinman, that is filled with sculptures made by former artists.
Artists source materials for their artwork from the Public Reuse and Recycling Area, affectionately known as “the dump,” and paint from the Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Throughout the residency, artists speak to groups of students and adults who visit the artists’ studios as they tour the company’s recycling and composting operations.
At the conclusion of each residency, Recology hosts a public exhibition and artist talk which draws hundreds of guests to the studios. Artists are expected to contribute one to three works made during their residency to Recology AIR’s permanent collection. Artworks from this collection are frequently curated into off-site exhibitions at galleries and public venues that serve to promote the artists, recycling, and reuse.
Recology AIR encourages the conservation of natural resources by providing artists with time, space, and reusable resources to create a new and impactful body of work. The Program further aims to create a more diverse and inclusive residency that amplifies perspectives from local Bay Area communities and inspires children and adults who engage with the program to re-imagine their role in creating a just and sustainable world.
The mission of the Artist in Residence Program is to empower all communities to conserve natural resources by providing professional Bay Area artists and university students with access to materials at the public dump, a workspace, stipend, and ongoing opportunities to exhibit work in public spaces.
Through our programming, we work to amplify the voices of systemically marginalized populations, offer a community space for learning, and host a public education program that inspires children and adults to reimagine their role in creating a just and sustainable world.
Art at the Dump: The Artist in Residence Program and Environmental Learning Center at Recology, published in 2020 in honor of the 30th anniversary of the program, features the work of artists who participated from 1990 to 2020. This is the third edition of the book, which was originally published in 2010.
Bringing Art to You
The Artist in Residence Program is bringing art and inspiration to you virtually! Each week we feature several past artists through our social media pages. These posts provide never before published details from a past exhibition, an interview with a past artist, or photos from a tour. Check it out on Instagram at @RecologyAIR.
Check out our panel series, Recology AIR Connects, where we focus on varying themes throughout the year, connecting artists and ideas.
Deborah Munk – Manager AIR / Educational Tour Program: DMunk@Recology.com
Ailsa Harju – Supervisor AIR / Educational Tour Program: AHarju@Recology.com
Artist in Residence Program
501 Tunnel Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94134
About our Founder, Jo Hanson
Photo left: Jo Hanson, founder of the Artist in Residence Program at her home on Buchanan Street in San Francisco, 1989 (photo by Lori Eanes).
Listen to Richard Kamler’s radio interview with Jo Hanson at ArtTalk.
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology was established in 1990 at the same time that recycling was being implemented in the city and county of San Francisco as a result of 1989 state law AB 939. This law required all jurisdictions in California to divert at least fifty-percent of their waste from landfills by the year 2000. Counties were required to have a County Solid Waste Management Plan to achieve this state-mandated goal, and as a result, the Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) was formed in San Francisco.
Part of San Francisco’s plan was to design an education program to promote recycling and resource conservation. The SWMP and Recology San Francisco (then known as San Francisco Sanitary Fill Company) worked together to create informational ads and brochures about recycling, develop classroom presentations, and organize tours of recycling plants. The goal was to teach people how to use curbside recycling bins and to encourage source reduction in order to promote a general awareness of how recycling helps protect the environment. Conceived by Jo Hanson, the Artist in Residence Program was the most innovative element of the education plan and the first program of its kind in the United States. Jo was a guiding force for the program and served as a member of the program’s board from 1990 until she passed away in March 2007.
Jo Hanson came to prominence in the early 1970s in San Francisco as an artist and activist and was a pioneering spirit in both the environmental and feminist art movements. After moving into a dilapidated Victorian house on Buchanan Street which she restored to landmark status, Hanson turned her efforts toward cleaning up her litter-strewn streets. Her personal act of sweeping one sidewalk turned into a celebrated public art practice and city-wide anti-liter campaign, Over time, Hanson expanded her work beyond her neighborhood, and organized community street sweepings, a children’s anti-litter art campaign for City Hall, and led a famous bus tour of San Francisco street dumping sites. Hanson’s community-inclusive strategies set precedents in public “ecoart,” created models for younger artists, and provided a representational voice in City Hall for those living in disenfranchised neighborhoods.
As a San Francisco Arts Commissioner for six years, Hanson championed the inclusion of underrepresented women and artists of color in the City’s art collections. She was instrumental in the Arts Commission’s restoration of the Coit Tower murals and the acquisition of artwork for the San Francisco International Airport. Hanson was also a driving force behind the preservation and restoration of Lucien Labaudt’s WPA-era murals at the Beach Chalet.
In the late 1980s, Hanson suggested to Recology and the City of San Francisco that they develop an artist-in-residence program at the city dump which would offer studio space and stipends for emerging and established artists to create artwork from the waste stream and raise public awareness about environmental issues. Now more than twenty years later, the Artist in Residence Program has been nationally recognized and awarded, and countless artists, children, and adults have benefited from Jo Hanson’s vision.