Early this year, San Francisco’s Treasure Island was passed over by filmmaker George Lucas in favor of Los Angeles for locating his museum and art collection, despite wooing by Mayor Ed Lee.
But while the man-made island lost out on the $1.5 billion Lucas art prize, it will still see tens of millions of dollars of public artwork.
As a result of a 1 percent art fee on private development of the planned 8,000 residential units and 550,000 square feet of commercial space on Treasure Island, during the next two decades up to $50 million is expected to go toward public art under a program managed by the Arts Commission. The funding is expected to result in up to 30 permanent artworks and multiple temporary art projects.
The commission recently approved the Treasure Island Arts Master Plan, which includes the adjacent Yerba Buena Island, that will guide the funding. It has also announced a request for art proposals for the first batch of anticipated funding.
Jill Manton, the Arts Commission director of Public Art Trust and Special Initiatives, helped draft the Treasure Island Master Plan.
She told the Arts Commission that the goal is to “make Treasure Island a destination for the arts. We think that we have all the ingredients to make this happen.”
The commission is asking for large scale, site-specific art installations proposals for Building 1 Plaza with a budget of $1 million, a $2 million budget for the Waterfront Plaza and a $2 million budget for the Yerba Buena Hilltop Park.
While the money isn’t yet in hand, the request for proposals comes “in anticipation of impending development which will drive the fee revenue,” Treasure Island Director Bob Beck said in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.
Waterfront Plaza, designed by AECOM, “is an important site that will serve as the gateway to Treasure Island.”
“It is the primary point of entry to the island whether arriving by ferry, public transit, bicycle or vehicle,” according to the Arts Commission. “The 2.4 acre site will feature a public plaza, ferry shelter, and coastal landscape.”
For this $2 million art project budget, the Arts Commission said it’s a “a significant, high profile opportunity for a monumental sculpture or sculptural installation with multiple components that will be a beacon for the island to be located in the vicinity of Waterfront Plaza.”
“This artwork will mark an important point of entry to the island, greeting residents and visitors upon their arrival,” the Arts Commission’s description of the project states. “It should have an iconic presence and be grand and bold. It will be visible from the Bay and the San Francisco shoreline. This will be the first in a series of large scale sculptures to be installed over time along the shoreline of the adjacent waterfront linear park.”
The first project to be completed under the program is the Yerba Buena Hilltop Park artwork slated for spring 2019. The other two art projects are set for installation in spring 2020.
Artists must apply by Oct. 16.
“The artworks will be the new treasures of the island. … will make Treasure Island a great place to visit and a magnet for cultural tourism,” Manton said. “We have a goal to feature projects not just by local artists or national known but the internationally renowned. We’d love to elevate the work of our local artists and pair them with those who are household names.”
The master plan includes doing a feasibility study to also create an artist-in-residence program, which may include poets and musicians, for three to six months where participants would receive a stipend and studio space.
The plan also calls for a re-occurring event called the Treasure Hunt where art docents will guide people on foot, bicycles or shuttles to view the artworks island-wide. And the plan includes artist-designed signage providing historical information and stories.
Treasure Island art decisions will require approval by the Treasure Island Development Authority, which is overseeing the development and the cleanup of the site by the U.S. Navy.
Beck said that new infrastructure construction has begun on Yerba Buena Island with new water storage reservoirs. “The first new homes will be available on Yerba Buena in 2020,” he said.
Treasure Island was constructed in 1936 and 1937 to host the Golden Gate International Exposition World’s Fair held in 1939-1940. The Navy used the property from 1941 until 1997 and is responsible for the cleanup of the soils contaminated by radioactive materials like radium-226 before transferring to lands to San Francisco. The Navy used the island base for such things as repairing World War II ships with radioluminescent gauges and dials, and a radiological safety school.
“We will be closing on our third land transfer from the Navy this month and anticipate another transfer to occur before the end of the calendar year,” Beck wrote in the email. “These two transfers will be relatively small, but, in aggregate, about two-thirds of the land to be transferred will be transferred by year’s end. The completion of all Navy cleanup activities is expected in 2021 with the final land transfer in early 2022.”
The development team for the island includes Stockbridge Capital Group, LLC, Wilson Meany and FivePoint.