Performing arts museum may raise curtain on new location

A library-turned-museum that celebrates the history of the performing arts may open a new gallery inside the arts-packed 12-block Yerba Buena neighborhood.

The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum marked its 60th anniversary last year by changing its name to the Museum of Performance and Design.

“We’ve changed our focus from being a library that does exhibits to being a museum that has galleries with an extended library,” Director David Humphrey said. “That’s a major change for us.”

The museum is in negotiations to purchase land at the corner of Folsom and Third streets; an abandoned two-story building on the plot will be torn down under an agreement through the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The museum has secured an option to buy the land from the developer working with the Redevelopment Agency, and it aims to build headquarters and gallery space by 2012, according to Humphrey.

The gallery would provide a high-profile space where the museum can display its collection of costumes, set designs, programs, playbills and posters, according to curator Brad Rosenstein. He said the historic paraphernalia is spread across four storage sites and the museum’s Van Ness Avenue headquarters.

“We’re bursting at the seams here,” Rosenstein said. “We desperately need space.”

The gallery’s exhibitions would also include theater, dance, circus, opera, stand-up comedy and musical memorabilia borrowed from other institutions around the world, according to Rosenstein.

If the proposal moves forward, it would join 22 other galleries and museums in the 12-block Yerba Buena neighborhood — including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cartoon Art Museum and the Museum of the African Diaspora — which is bounded downtown by Second and Fifth streets and Market and Harrison streets. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is also slated to open in the neighborhood in June.

Heather Hoell, executive director of the Yerba Buena Alliance, which is funded by organizations based in the neighborhood, described the area as the arts and culture center of San Francisco.

“Once some arts institutions started appearing, they brought additional arts institutions,” Hoell said.

The site will be used for a retail project if the gallery proposal does not move forward, city plans show.

jupton@examiner.com

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