Thank you to everyone who supported our 50th Anniversary Celebration on November 12, 2015! Together we raised over $67,000 to advance the Workshop’s mission and support high quality arts education programming in schools and community centers.

Check out the 50th celebration photo album here! 

There’s a litany of people to thank. But first, we want to show you a picture of our favorite part of the event:


These young students, all newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and South & Central America who attend Mission Education Center, showed us what they’d been learning in their Performing Arts Workshop class: English, Bhangra dance, and original composition.

To help these Spanish-speaking students with their English verbal skills, Teaching Artist Vanessa Sanchez challenged them to interpret the shapes of the alphabet with their bodies. Those shapes in turn inspired their original choreography.


All of us in the audience were given a rare look inside students’ creative process: how they balance structure and individual, improvisational creative expression; and how they learn the basic skills and vocabulary of dance side-by-side with language and math skills.

Judging from their nonstop ear-to-ear grins, it’s pretty clear that the essential glue holding it all together is pure joy — and pride.




We’ve been teaching at Mission Education Center for over 10 years. Our partnership is one that is near and dear to our hearts. Some of these students have never stepped foot inside a classroom or turned on a computer. They are learning a new culture and language at warp speed following, for quite a few of them, unfathomably challenging journeys to get here.

To say we are humbled by your support of Performing Arts Workshop is an understatement.

Thank you for supporting this event and making it possible to serve students at Mission Education Center and thousands more students in San Francisco and Berkeley.



Performing Arts Workshop family (left to right): Executive Director Emily Garvie, Board President Sagar Gupta, former Executive Director Jessica Mele, and former Board President Cyrus Wadia.

We want to thank the village of folks who helped make this event possible. [unfurling my Oscar thank you speech…]

Thank you to our sponsors! (Click here for the full list of sponsors.) Your excitement and enthusiasm for the event was unrivaled. Seriously, you’re the best.

Thank you to our talented, driven, and tireless event committee led by Event Chair Aliza Arenson! You all belong in the event planning hall of fame.


Thank you to the many luminaries, artists, change-makers, and friends who helped light up the night.

We have so much gratitude for all the folks who helped make this event pop! This wouldn’t have been possible without all of the wonderful volunteers and friends who helped make the decorations, set up the chairs and tables, stuffed envelopes, and everything else in between. We are also indebted to everyone who supported the silent auction!


Board Member and Silent Auction Chair Gabby Guinea (back, right) with our friends from Hopwater Distribution!


Celebrating 50 years in style. Thank you, Matt Evans, for this beauty! (Check out his Etsy page at Evans Woodshop Design.)

SOMArts venue1

Thank you to SOMArts Cultural Center for providing the perfect venue!

Thank you to Carla Sarvis, Gloria’s daughter, for being a part of the celebration. As many of you know, on June 22, 2015, just months before the celebration, Workshop Founder Gloria Unti passed away at the age of 92.

Carla and Tom

Carla Sarvis and Tom DeCaigny

Gloria’s conviction that creativity is a dynamic vehicle for learning has transformed the lives of generations of San Francisco Bay Area youth. We thank her for her tireless dedication to bringing art-making, creativity, and self-expression to young people, particularly the children who need our help the most.

Thank you, Gloria, for everything.  


“Performing Arts Workshop began with the principle that all people have a voice that ought to be heard and that everyone has a right to creative expression, for that is essential to human dignity.”

-Gloria Unti, 1924-2015




Gold Sponsors

  • Nina Kwan
  • Anne and Paul Wattis
  • Paula Williams

Silver Sponsor

  • Wendy vanden Heuvel

Bronze Sponsors

  • AccountingSuite
  • Diane Downing
  • Matthew Clark Davison and Ansumana Hull
  • Karen Harris and Will Cavin
  • Thomas Hensley
  • Rob and Cheryl Lind
  • Ms. RoseMarie Maliekel
  • Annie McGeady and Mike Fratesi
  • Jessica Mele and Doug Wentworth
  • Mark Miller
  • Michael Mullen
  • Olive Grove Consulting
  • Adrienne Leight Rogers
  • Cyrus Wadia
  • Merti Walker

Event Committee

  • Aliza Arenson, Chair
  • Emily Bozentka
  • Emma Feeney
  • Jenna Fiore
  • Janelle Gleason
  • Gabby Guinea
  • Sasha Larkin
  • Elaine Lee
  • Adam Levy
  • Laurie Loftus
  • Priscilla Lopez  
  • Christina Magana
  • Reed Mayfield
  • Jessica Mele
  • Michelle Parker
  • Rick Rochon
  • Jennifer Spoerri


Special thanks

  • Margaret Jenkins, you blew us all away and continue to do so with your groundbreaking performances.
  • Supervisor Eric Mar, thank you for backing arts education in San Francisco and for always fighting for our students’ education.
  • Thank you to Tom DeCaigny, SF Arts Commissioner and former Workshop ED, for leading the Fund-a-Need Auction and getting everyone out of their seats.
  • Thank you to Workshop teaching artists Chinchin Hsu and Natasha Huey for your beautiful, soul-stirring piece.
  • Thank you to Peter Rothblatt for being an amazing champion for the Workshop.
  • Thank you to Jessica Mele for stepping into the action at the last minute and gracing us all with your presence.
  • Thank you to the Garth Applegate Jazz Trio for your beautiful music.
  • Nadya Bratt, thank you for sharing your story with us.  
  • Matthew Evans, thank you for handcrafting the gorgeous marquee.
  • Andrew Ho, thank you for capturing the event with your camera.
  • Photo-matica, thanks for bringing the photobooth fun. (What’s a party without a photobooth?)
  • Many, many thanks to Lisa Wong Jackson of Good On Paper Design for creating a memorable logo and beautiful cards.
  • Old Skool Cafe
  • North Coast Brewing
  • Eel River Brewing
  • Bock Wine and Spirits
  • Smith-Anderson Wine Group


Silent Auction Supporters

Airbnb | American Conservatory Theater | Adventure Cat Sailing Charters | Bi-Rite | Children’s Creativity Museum | Dogpatch Boulders | Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco | Hopwater Distribution | HiDive | I Luv My Body Fitness | Incredible Adventures Tours | Marcella’s Lasagneria | The Masonic | Mollie Stone’s Markets | Numi Tea | Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary | Outdoor Adventure Club | Philz Coffee | Piccino | Pier 39 | Presidio Golf Course | San Francisco Ballet | San Francisco Opera | See Jane Run | Sons and Daughters | Sports Basement | Trader Joe’s SoMa | Zazen


Thank you to Beta Alpha Psi, Glenda Bates, Nancy Chen, Anne Trickey, Sheila Pressley, Maya Sussman, Julie Truong, Joan Rose Tiongquico, Rahman Jamaal, Sale Ramos, and many, many more people!



RECAP: Beats of the Bayview

By Maya Sussman, New Sector Alliance AmeriCorps Resident

“…We want to see a better nation,

That’s why we get our education.

Now we can have a celebration,

Now we can have a celebration!

And we celebrate, and we celebrate,

and we celebrate…”

-Students from Drew Elementary School at Beats of the Bayview (see picture below)

Students from Drew Elementary performing their spoken word poem at 3rd on Third! PHOTO CREDIT: Robyn Navarro Photography

Students from Drew Elementary radiantly perform their spoken word piece! PHOTO CREDIT: Robyn Navarro Photography

The third grade students who wrote this rhyme weren’t the only ones celebrating at last week’s Beats of the Bayview! Families, friends, community members, and Performing Arts Workshop supporters braved a windy March evening to show their support for these talented young artists.

In partnership with 3rd on Third, a monthly community arts and culture festival in the Bayview, Beats of the Bayview featured Afro-Peruvian dance and spoken word performances by students from Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy, who have been working with teaching artists Amani Manning and Rahman Jamaal since the start of the school year. The program also included a rap and hip hop dance performance by Workshop teaching artists Rahman Jamaal and Nick Brentley.

And no one went home hungry – students and families celebrated their creative accomplishments at an afterparty catered by the Bayview’s own Auntie April’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles.

Check out photos from the event on Facebook by clicking here.


Who’s on Third? Beats of the BAYVIEW

Students at Paul Revere K-8 School and Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy have been working with our teaching artists all year to create and perfect their Afro-Peruvian dances and spoken word pieces. They’ll take the stage on March 20th at the 3rd on Third community arts festival, and would love to have you cheering them on!

Check out our Facebook event to RSVP and learn more!

Performing Arts Workshop_Beats of the Bayview

Do you have questions, or want to volunteer at the event? Contact Maya Sussman: / (415) 673-2634 ext 207

Bayview Student Showcase: Talented young performers coming soon to a stage near you!

We’re proud to announce that Performing Arts Workshop will be partnering with the 3rd on Third Bayview arts and culture celebration to bring our talented young artists to the stage!

On the evening of Thursday, March 20th, 2014, students from Dr. Charles R. Drew College Preparatory Academy and Paul Revere K-8 School will perform their spoken word compositions and Afro-Peruvian dances at 3rd on Third, a community arts festival that takes place in San Francisco’s Bayview district on the third Thursday of every month.

Students in the after-school dance residency at Drew rehearse the Afro-Peruvian dances they will perform at the Bayview Student Showcase in March.

Students in the after-school dance residency at Drew rehearse the Afro-Peruvian dances they will perform at the Bayview Student Showcase in March.

The showcase is funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission through a Community Arts in the Bayview grant. Thanks to the support of Tyra Fennell, Program Manager at the SF Arts Commission, and Antoinette Mobley, Founder of 941..SF Art Everywhere and host of 3rd on Third, our students will have the opportunity to perform on the same stage that has previously featured such well-known Bay Area artists as the bilingual hip-hop group Los Rakas.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for Performing Arts Workshop at other Bayview community events!

A note from Executive Director Jessica Mele

Whew! It’s been an especially busy but fun few months here at the Workshop. Here’s just a glimpse at what we’ve been up to:

  • Showing our thanks. On November 6, we hosted “A Taste of Performing Arts Workshop,” a party to show BIG appreciation to our current family of individual supporters, and also to welcome new folks into the fold. Thanks to our generous host and partner, the African American Art & Culture Complex in Western Addition, we had a festive and colorful venue for showcasing some of our students’ latest work. Former board member Merti Walker and former teaching artist Taylor Strand read their favorite poems in the anthology of student writing we published last spring from our residency at Marin Juvenile Hall. Three young poets attending one of our partnering schools, Visitacion Valley Middle School, performed a moving poem they wrote about violence in their neighborhood. When they finished, you could hear a pin drop. And as partygoers milled about with drinks and snacks, Core Teaching Artist Amani Manning transformed one corner of the room into an Afro-Peruvian dance class for anyone game enough to try it (including a few intrepid and utterly wonderful board members). With these tastes of the Workshop’s programming, a community of generous individuals and corporate sponsors donated food and spirits to make it a truly festive party. What a fantastic way to kick off a holiday season celebrating gratitude and community. Huge thanks to everyone who made it happen!
Teaching Artist Amani Manning shows Board member Yashica Crawford and a few other game partygoers some of the Afro-Peruvian dance moves our students learn.

Teaching Artist Amani Manning shows Board member Yashica Crawford and a few other game partygoers some of the Afro-Peruvian dance moves our students learn.

  • Sharing our smarts: We just learned that Program Director Karena Salmond’s proposal to the prestigious SXSW Education conference has been accepted! She will head to Austin, TX in March to present at this national conference. It’s a family affair; she’ll team up with sister Kimberlee from the New York-based Girl Scout Research Institute to lead a session on process-based instruction. Karena will present the Workshop’s unique teaching method — the Cycle of Artistic Inquiry — as well as the research and evaluation data we’ve gathered on how our classes develop critical thinking and other cognitive and behavioral skills. Go Team Salmond!
  • Shouting out for artists: As one of the largest and oldest teaching artist hiring organizations in the Bay Area (and the state), Performing Arts Workshop has long been an advocate for building up the profession of teaching artists and giving artists as teachers all the support and security their professional commitment deserves. Read more about my work with Teaching Artists Guild to professionalize the field and provide access to health and other benefits to teaching artists here.

Approaching the Workhop’s 50th birthday, I’m especially interested in seeing a direct line from the fierce commitment and generous spirit of our founder, Gloria Unti, to our teaching artists today. One constant has been an unwavering belief in the potential of each and every child. (In fact, we were just cited in a Wallace Foundation report on after school arts education on holding high standards). I’ll leave you with Core Teaching Artist Sonia Reiter’s inspiring insight into her 4th grade dance students:

I’m asking them pretty challenging questions in class reflection time. Sometimes I don’t get a lot of answers and I was wondering if my questions might be too complex. But I’m starting to realize that these students have the ability to reflect in pretty complex and exciting ways. So I’m going to keep asking hard questions even if I don’t always get answers in class, because I believe they’re thinking about it — even if they’re not answering in the moment.

Here’s to our devoted, dedicated and insightful teaching artists. Here’s to asking hard questions and having the patience to wait for the answers. And here’s to holding the greatest expectations for all that our young people can accomplish – in and well beyond our classrooms.

Wishing you each a warm and peaceful holiday season,