The cast of San Francisco Arts Education Project’s “Bio Exuberance” devised dance, poetry, visual art, costumes and Zoom backgrounds to create a film collage from home. (Courtesy SFArtsED)

Youngsters reinvent gallery show as film

SFArtsEd students inspired by Zoe Farmer’s nature-themed works

Although Bay Area mixed-media artist Zoe Farmer’s first year as the San Francisco Arts Education Project’s artist-in-residence has not concluded as planned due to the pandemic, she’s pleased with the alternative outcome – a dazzling seven-minute film premiering online on Aug. 1.

“The idea of community didn’t seem like something that could connect through the use of Zoom, but it absolutely did, which kind of surprised me,” says Farmer, who describes herself as a collector and maker who works with “natural sculptural forms and organic materials as a way to mimic, preserve and connect to the natural world.”

Farmer — who says she is “interested in what biology has to teach us about collaboration reconnecting and interconnecting to each other and nature through the processes of making” — was slated to show her work, and work created by youngsters she mentored, in a July exhibition at Minnesota Street Project gallery, with an accompanying performance by the young art students.

But when coronavirus caused The City to shut down public spaces, SFArtsED — a nonprofit in which kids and teens get hands-on experience in visual and performing arts, led by practicing artists – changed course.

Mentors and students got to work on “Bio Exuberance,” a short film showcasing poetry, artwork, costumes, sets and dance by 12 young artists working at home, and based on Farmer’s notions that adornment and self-expression characterize the diversity of creatures found in nature.

Premiering at 4 p.m. Aug. 1 on SFArtsED’s social media pages, the movie features Amalia Duque, Samantha Gangitano, Lily Hannan, Zofia Rose Hope-Csikszentmihalyi, Parker Lee, Stella Nureyev-Hilburn, Stella Simmons, Agatha Sterkel, Malena Sutter, Audrey Thornton, Diego Vaznaugh-Sanchez and Trisha Yee.

The kids, ages 10 to 13, met three times a week via Zoom with mentors. They wrote verse with Emily Keeler, SFArtsED artistic director; made dances with Natalie Greene; designed colorful backdrops and costumes with Tiersa Nureyev; and created marine life-inspired cyanotypes, or photographic prints, with Farmer, an avid diver as well as artist.

Malena Sutter explores nature’s diversity in the film collage “Bio Exuberance” from the San Francisco Arts Education Project. (Courtesy SFArtsED)

Filmmaker Pete Belkin, involved in the process at the start, brought the individual pieces together seamlessly, giving the impressive final piece a professional feel.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and we are so pleased and proud of the inventiveness of our ‘Bio-Exuberance’ film,” says Keeler, who called Farmer’s work “profoundly encouraging at any time,” but “all the more important and resonant in these times, when resilience and deep community are demanded of us.”

SFArtsED leaders say that when Minnesota Street Project galleries reopen, there will eventually be a “Bio Exuberance” exhibition. Until then, guests can view the movie online at SFArtsED’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel ). Donations are encouraged, too. Visit

Stella Nueyev-Hilburn is one of 12 students who helped devise costumes, props, poetry, and dance for “Bio Exuberance,” a film collage created by the San Francisco Arts Education Project. (Courtesy SFArtsED)

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