The Randall Museum, one of San Francisco’s lower-profile but locally cherished museums and learning centers, reopens Saturday, after 18 months of COVID-related closure. In celebration, the environmentally focused Randall, collaborating with a similarly minded organization, SCRAP, is hosting a special exhibition of new artwork created from repurposed materials.
Located on a woodsy hill in the Castro District, and operated by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the 1937-born Randall Museum is a family-oriented facility focusing on science, nature, the environment and the arts. It isn’t the only Bay Area museum of that sort, but its community atmosphere, neighborhood setting, and free-admission policy distinguish it from grander-scale sites such as the Exploratorium and California Academy of Sciences and give it a distinctive appeal.
“We are so excited to welcome back kids and families to the museum,” says Tiffany Loewenberg, executive director of Randall Museum Friends, the nonprofit that supports the Randall. “We were lucky to be able to stay open throughout the pandemic for the families of frontline workers through our resource hubs and camps, but are delighted to welcome everyone back starting in October to experience our exhibits and programs.”
Those presentations include a special attraction: “RePurposeful: The Art of Collage and Assemblage,” a juried exhibition put together by Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts and presented in partnership with the Randall.
Founded 45 years ago, the Bayview District-based SCRAP is an art-making and environmental organization devoted to the creative reuse of objects deemed useless or waste-bin ready.
“RePurposeful” contains 45 works by Bay Area artists who have turned discarded and unwanted items — newspapers, cardboard, fabric, furniture, expired credit cards — into art materials.
While transforming everyday items into art materials is hardly new — consider Picasso’s conversion of a bicycle seat into a bull’s head, or Rauschenberg’s use of his bed in one of his combines — the practice, in current times, reflects not only creative spirit but an environmental purpose involving recycling and sustainability.
The featured artworks include: Andrea Bergen’s amusing “Baghead Cheetah” (hand-cut paper and gel topcoat on wood panel); Abel Manalo’s “Inclusion” (watercolor on Arches paper, wood frame with Acyrlite), which features a multicolored image of the American flag; and Mary Anne Kluth’s “Yosemite 4 OS Study” (hand-cut archival photos), a landscape in collage form.
Both eye-catching and purposeful, Mariana Nelson’s “New York Times” consists of plastic bags, most of them the blue sheaths that wrap the delivered newspapers. “Some of the plastic bags I salvaged from recycling centers that usually ship plastic to China, because it’s cheaper to ship contaminated plastic than it is to dispose of it in the U.S.,” explains Nelson in the exhibition catalog.
A ticketed fundraising preview of “RePurposeful” is set for Friday at the Randall. Admission starts at $100; tickets can be purchased on the Randall website.
“We can’t wait for kids to experience the repurposed objects made into art in our new lobby setup,” Loewenberg says. “This partnership with SCRAP has enabled us to create something new, more beautiful, and more purposeful.”
Guests at the reopened Randall can also enjoy the museum’s longtime attractions: live-animal habitat-focused exhibits featuring California wildlife; an ocean-themed display; native plants; and a geology area where attendees can learn about rocks, minerals, and earthquakes.
A favorite exhibit is “Riding the Rails,” featuring model trains, which visitors can steer around a model of urban San Francisco, and a scale model of a caboose, which children can board.
The Randall additionally hosts free and low-cost classes and workshops for young children, teens and adults, though the pandemic has limited some aspects of these programs. Subjects have included woodworking, ceramics and new technologies. Scheduled for the morning of Oct. 2: a drop-in hat-making workshop.
Named for Josephine D. Randall, The City’s first superintendent of recreation, the museum, originally called the Junior Museum and catering mostly to children, first opened its doors in 1937, on land now occupied by City College of San Francisco.
In 1951, enabled by bond funding and the efforts of Randall, the museum moved to its current building, designed by local architect William Merchant, on a 16-acre hill in Corona Heights.
In 2015, the museum closed for a lengthy renovation, and in 2018, its grand reopening took place. Then came COVID.
“Creativity thrives when people are together,” says Loewenberg, describing the atmosphere that the Randall Museum seeks to reestablish as it prepares to welcome the public, live and in person, again.
IF YOU GO: Randall Museum/RePurposeful: The Art of Collage and Assemblage
Where: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
When: Oct. 1 fundraising preview, Oct. 2 reopening
Tickets: $100 for Oct. 1 fundraiser, free for general museum Oct. 2
Contact: www.randallmuseum.org, (415) 554-9600