School of Art

In Memorium: Joe Hawley

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Joe Hawley of Cloverdale, California, who passed away died peacefully on April 19th, 2023, just a few days after his 85th birthday. He was surrounded by his family and loved ones, and knew he was loved by students and colleagues far and wide. His great skill as a teacher, his endless artistic creativity, and his playful spirit will be forever missed.

Joe Hawley was a shining star in the ceramics world from a very young age, and is considered a pioneer in the early California Glass Arts movement. He became a tenured professor of ceramics at San Jose City College at just 21 years old, while completing his MFA in Glass Sculpture at San Jose State University. Shortly after, he moved on to become a professor at San Francisco State University, where he taught art for nearly three decades. 

Teaching ceramics and glass at SFSU, and through his unique and indomitable creative spirit, he influenced countless creative minds over the years. His "Events" of the 1960's, in collaboration with artist Mel Henderson, are the stuff of legend, notably his Oil and Yellow Cab events, which were featured in the BAM/PFA show State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970. Joe founded the Hot Glass Department at SFSU, one of the first university hot glass shops in the country. He also taught regularly at the University of Hawaii, where—besides having a very good time—he founded Raku Ho'olaule'a, an annual beach-fired ceramics event which has been going strong for over 45 years. 

Besides teaching and his extensive involvement in many of the creative "Events" in the 60's, Joe Hawley spent years collaborating with industrial ceramics companies such as Gladding McBean and Mission Clay Products, where he created many of the large-scale ceramic pipe sculptures that he is known for. His extensive travels around the world also became a catalyst for much of his work, such as "Song of India,” a series of hanging and stacked pieces that were created after a sabbatical to the glass bead factories in India. 

Joe retired from SFSU in 1995, moving into the old Alder Glen District County School, a turn of the century one room schoolhouse located just outside the community of Cloverdale, which he turned into his studio and art gallery. From there— for nearly 30 years—he continued his relentless exploration of art and sculpture through ceramics, glass, and mixed media, including metal, polyurethane foam, plastic toys, found objects, bronze, and concrete. His on-site creative projects include a 40' concrete art wall called "The Edge" and, famously, a woodpecker-riddled wall of the schoolhouse, which he gallery framed and embellished with colored glass. He called this his "Collaboration with Woodpeckers." Though Joe is now gone, the woodpeckers continue on with this work. 

Joe Hawley loved the community of Cloverdale deeply, and was very proud of the little town he lived in. He supported and participated in the Cloverdale Alliance and Cloverdale Sculpture Trail over many years. He also loved beer and live music and up until very recently could be found enjoying the lively outdoor events of the area, especially Friday Night Live and Tuesday nights in the Healdsburg Plaza.

Joe was the last of his generation, predeceased by his sisters Hazel and Vivian and his brother Warren. He is survived by his loving daughter Jorin and her partner Hannes, his long-time girlfriend Wendy, and his devoted caregiver Robin. He had a loving family, a huge group of friends, and a giant student fan base, so his loss is truly and deeply felt.

We will all be dutifully looking after the woodpeckers for him.  

Interviews of Joe speaking of his life and career can be found at


Campus arts scene revs up with live events

If you feel like smashing your laptop like SF State student Kenna Tanaka, you might want to take a pause and instead check him out in the play “Dealing Dreams.” It is one of dozens of arts events taking place on campus this Fall.

After going mostly virtual during the pandemic, SF State’s performing arts community is getting busy again in real life

The San Francisco State University campus feels like college again: Classrooms are full, there’s a line for the salad bar in the student union and students are rehearsing anywhere they can find the space. As remote learning has given way to in-person instruction for the most part, so have the arts. Dozens of student performances and exhibitions are taking place in the flesh throughout the school year. Consider attending an event this Fall semester to support your peers and to get a dose of the arts in your diet.


Members of the SF State Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble rehearse for their upcoming performances. Photo by Kindrid Parker.


The annual “New Moves” concert promises to reveal students’ most private thoughts and most profound convictions. Student dancers perform original work choreographed by students as a way to address the human condition. With this year’s theme of “Paradox,” the performance explores familial dynamics, political activism, gratitude to mentors, cultural mosaics and belonging. Performances run Oct. 20 – 23 in McKenna Theatre. 

“Movement is so pleasing. It can calm you. It can interest you. It intrigues you. It will take you through a variety of different emotions,” said Dance major Onara de Silva, president of the San Francisco State Student Dance Alliance and a choreographer and performer in “New Moves.” “It’s almost like watching a movie, just in real time.” 


“Dealing Dreams” is a modern-day story of newly minted college graduates coming face-to-face with the harsh realities of assimilating into adulthood. As with all SF State theatre productions, students comprise the entire cast and crew.  

“I encourage everyone to come and see the upcoming production in theatre, ‘Dealing Dreams,’ because it is going to be entertaining and full of laughs,” said actor Kenna Tanaka, who plans to graduate in 2024. “It’s a show that you definitely do not want to miss.” Performances run Nov. 3 – 10 in The Lab in the Creative Arts building. 

Coming in December, students perform the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Doubt: A Parable” in the first main-stage production of the year. Set in 1964, "Doubt” encapsulates the tension and uncertainty of the 1960s through the microcosm of a Catholic boys school. Performances run Dec. 1 – 9 in the Little Theatre.   


Music has been part of the SF State curriculum since its founding in 1899, when the course “The Pedagogy of Music” offered training in a variety of topics to aspiring teachers. The tradition continues to this day with frequent free performances presented by the SF State School of Music. Many of them take place at 1 p.m. Upcoming highlights include the SF State Orchestra and chamber music ensembles, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble, classical guitar students, the SF State Chamber Singers and University Chorus. Knuth Hall. 

The Depot is the place to be on school nights — Monday to Thursday, that is — for open mic comedy and music, student punk bands and guest artists. Lower conference level, Cesar Chavez Student Center. 


The Martin Wong Gallery spotlights a different student artist every week, both in IRL and on Instagram. Since the pandemic began, students have been encouraged to create an additional 1:8 scale miniature version of their exhibition to display on social media. Inside the gallery space, they often paint directly on the wall, as first-year student Sophia Sanchez did in her recent graffiti exhibition. Another recent exhibition captured an immediate response to the killing in Iran of Mahsa Jina Amini, in paintings by student Jasmine Mirzamani. The Martin Wong Gallery is located in room 286 of the Fine Arts building.  

The Associated Students Art Gallery hosts free exhibitions throughout the semester and often posts calls for student participation on its Instagram account. Its next show, “The Cave: An Odyssey of the Self,” opens Oct. 26, featuring works centered on the highs and lows in students’ personal journeys of identity, growth and transformation. “We love featuring artwork that focuses on themes of social justice and culture,” Assistant Director Danny Oliveras said. The gallery is on the Terrace Level, Cesar Chavez Student Center. 

Just after Thanksgiving, the 35th annual Student Stillwell Show will debut, showcasing the best undergraduate student artists as judged by their peers. As always, the exhibition will also include student-selected highlights from SF State’s collection of works by Leo D. Stillwell, a watercolor artist who died at the young age of 22 in 1947. The exhibition runs Nov. 29 – Dec. 8 in the Fine Arts Gallery.   

Visit the SF State calendar for a full list of events. 

Student creates mural honoring essential workers

Emma Wakefield completed the mural, commissioned by the Lake County Arts Council, days before graduating

A new muralism class at San Francisco State University has already extended its reach far beyond campus, into rural Lake County. Utilizing both art-making skills and business savvy learned in the class last fall, a student won a grant to create a large mural honoring essential workers.

Emma Wakefield endured sweltering heat for a week in May to paint the Essential Workers Appreciation Mural, a project of the Lake County Arts Council. Days later, she graduated from San Francisco State with a bachelor’s degree in Art and a minor in Education.

The mural shows a child sleeping with a stuffed animal under a large quilt with images of first responders, a teacher, a power-line worker, a mail carrier, a grocery store clerk and others. Measuring 44 feet wide and 13 feet tall, it covers the full back wall of the Meals on Wheels Thrift Store in Lakeport, about 120 miles from San Francisco. It was dedicated July 1 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In researching the mural, Wakefield learned about the varied, vital roles of essential workers. “It was very, very cool to see all these people who were incredibly brave during [the pandemic] and willing to go out and continue their work and face the danger of basically a plague,” Wakefield said.

The mural fits the overarching theme in all of Wakefield’s art: finding beauty in daily routines. “I would like my art to be something that people know they can look at and get a warm feeling from,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable, to feel safe and to see the world through a new view. Something you do every day can be beautiful.”

Wakefield says she wouldn’t have thought to apply for the $8,000 grant if she hadn’t taken the “Murals and Public Art” class, where Lecturer Daniel Velasquez (B.A., ’16) aims to impart far more than artistic techniques. He also provides students with an understanding of the entrepreneurial aspects of careers in the arts, including governmental funding and contract negotiation.

“Assignments are focused around real-world opportunities that they seek out, stumble into and create for themselves,” Velasquez said.

SF State was Wakefield’s first choice for college. She was excited to move to an urban area. This shows in her “Sci-Fi in SF” series of drawings that reimagines the cityscape and SF State campus in a futuristic society.

“When I came to San Francisco, I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s a building taller than four stories! I was like, ‘This is the future!’” said Wakefield, who grew up in Loch Lomond in Lake County.

She jokes that the entire Lake County population could fit in Oracle Park, the 42,000-seat home of the San Francisco Giants and the SF State Commencement.

“Attending San Francisco State, as a whole, changed my life,” she added. “I met a bunch of people from different backgrounds and different cultures, talking with them and learning more about them — and seeing something outside from my very small town.”

Learn more about SF State’s School of Art.

Beyond Binary

Exhibition runs Saturday, September 17, 2022 to Thursday, October 27, 2022.

Beyond Binary focuses on the exploration of a gender spectrum, across cultures and generations, in the formation of personal and collective identities and visual narratives. Beyond Binary celebrates trans and gender-nonconforming artists who engage the body as both a form and site of social sculpture and who challenge established narratives of art history to become more inclusive, while working across media and transdisciplinarily. Through this project we are participating in the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC), a platform fostering collaborations between arts institutions that aim to make their public commitment to social justice and structural change. FAC seeks to generate cultural awareness of feminist thought, experience and action. Read more about the Feminist Art Coalition from their website and also read more about the Feminist Art Coalition in an article from the NY Times.

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Gallery's Sharon E. Bliss and Kevin B. Chen in collaboration with independent writer and curator Roula Seikaly. Participating artists: Cassils, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Craig Calderwood, Wells Chandler, Jeffrey Cheung, Ben Cuevas, Demian DinéYazhi', Nicki Green, Juliana Huxtable, MCXT (Monica Canilao + Xara Thustra), E. "Oscar" Maynard, Vivek Shraya, Beatrice L. Thomas, Eli Thorne, Alok Vaid-Menon, Chris E. Vargas, Leila Weefur, Jess Wu, and Asri Wulandari.

Fine Arts Gallery

Exhibition showcases photographer, curator who worked at SF State for 45 years

Alumna Irene Poon became a leading art historian during her career, focused on building recognition for Asian American artists

Five days a week for 45 years, Irene Poon would report to the San Francisco State University Art Department and work on its vast collection of images stored on slides. Along the way, she became a renowned photographer and a leading historian of Asian American art.

Now, the Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State will honor Poon with a retrospective exhibition. “Moving Pictures: The Photography of Irene Poon” will be on display from July 2 to July 29. It showcases Poon’s print photography and highlights from her personal collection and from working as a curator and community activist. Other artists whose works are featured include Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Wong and Benjamen Chinn.

Poon developed her passion for fine arts photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Born and raised in the historic neighborhood, she has continued to document the people that make it such a unique place. In the 1960s, she began exhibiting her photography as she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Art from SF State. Poon, now 81, has seen her photography on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), de Young Museum, Crocker Museum of Art and many more venues.

“Irene Poon is a brilliant artist and scholar whose powerful work in photography has been recognized since her early exhibitions at the de Young and SFMoMA. She was a friend of legendary figures like Imogen Cunningham and an integral figure in the Art Department at SF State for decades,” said Professor Emeritus of Art Mark Dean Johnson, who has written about her work. “Poon was also central in establishing SFSU as a center for Asian American art historical scholarship.”

Poon joined the Art Department (now known as the School of Art) staff in 1965 as the slide curator. By the time Poon retired from the University in 2010, the slide collection she was responsible for had grown from 36,000 images to almost 300,000. In 1995, Poon co-curated the exhibition “With New Eyes: Towards an Asian American Art History in the West” for the Fine Arts Gallery. It was the first exhibition to recognize and celebrate the Asian American art renaissance of the American West, covering the Gold Rush to the 1960s.

Poon’s 2001 book “Leading the Way: Asian American Artists of the Older Generation” (Gordon College) showcases 25 notable artists who had never been in a textbook. Poon had admired many of them since childhood and was determined to give them their overdue recognition. Johnson said Poon’s book “is an invaluable testament to both her personal scholarship as well as her own place in that history.”

An opening reception for “Moving Pictures” takes place 1 – 3 p.m. Saturday, July 2. Visitors to “Moving Pictures” must reserve tickets in advance and present their proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door.

Learn more about the SF State School of Art.

Spring/Summer SF State Magazine available online

The new issue spotlights School of Art Director Victor De La Rosa, innovative University programs and a slew of amazing alumni

The cover story of the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of SF State Magazine takes an in-depth look at an alumnus who came back to campus as a professor — one who challenged the University to bring more diversity to the classroom. Now director of San Francisco State University’s School of Art, Victor De La Rosa has made it his mission to give students more access to the BIPOC mentors he was looking for as a fledgling young artist.

Read the full story.

New SF State School of Art director weaves diversity, inclusion into curriculum

When Victor De La Rosa was an Art major at San Francisco State University in the 1990s, he longed for a Latinx faculty mentor. Then he became one. Now, as the director of his alma mater’s School of Art, he is seizing the opportunity to make a wide impact of his own.

“I have a personal goal, which is to start to assemble a faculty that reflects the students that we serve,” said De La Rosa, who joined the San Francisco State faculty in 2006. “Now I’m able to respond directly and immediately. I don’t have to wait.”

SF State and many other art schools have committed to new diversity initiatives in direct response to the murder of George Floyd last year. New classes at SF State include Mexican American art history, muralism, “Art as Social Function: Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” and “Studio X,” a public art course taught by a different Bay Area artist each semester focusing on BIPOC student challenges. The School of Art also established a stipend award for Black students, and De La Rosa has participated in a College of Liberal & Creative Arts leadership development program based in equity and social justice.

“The art world, too, hasn’t created equal opportunity in this country,” he said. “It hasn’t always responded, even though artists are incredible social changemakers [and] incredible mirrors for our society. The field of art has really been an exclusive club, and it doesn’t fully mirror the population of this country.”

“When Vic was elected as director of the School of Art, I knew this was going to show our students of color — and especially Latinx students — that they, too, can start imagining themselves as professors and leaders in the university,” Art Professor Santhi Kavuri-Bauer said. “He understands the significance of his position and what it means to students who have similar backgrounds as himself: the first in their family to attend college.”

De La Rosa was raised in San Leandro as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother and Mexican American father from Texas. He took some semesters off from SF State to pursue career opportunities in apparel design, but would always eventually find his way back to the Fine Arts Building — with the support of faculty such as Candace Crockett.

“I realized that education was the way to disrupt the cycle,” he said, “and I want to do that for other students.”

De La Rosa (B.A., ’99) earned MFAs from UC Davis and the Rhode Island School of Design, where he was a President’s Scholar and won an award of excellence.

“I meet students today who are from similar backgrounds to me when I was growing up: first-generation, parents from another country,” he added. “To me, it’s exciting because I know the potential. I know the possibility if you apply yourself, work hard and hang in there.

“The students are hungry for it because they also did not get that type of role modeling in the arts in high school or junior high school. It’s so refreshing to them.”

Victor Saucedo, a senior and founding member of the SF State chapter of the Art Student Union, had stopped making art until he took “Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” with De La Rosa.

“He opens up the floor to everyone to start speaking where they’re coming from and their truth,” Saucedo said. “He told us to challenge the system a bit. … He is one of the most open professors I’ve ever had.”