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SF State professor’s permanent art installation debuts in Chinatown

September 26, 2018

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SF State professor’s permanent art installation debuts in Chinatown

A vision that began over eight years ago by the Broadway Chinatown Streetscape Improvement to enhance pedestrian conditions along Broadway near Columbus Avenue has recently revealed a series of vibrant benches designed by SF State Fine Arts Professor Michael Arcega.

As part of a community beautification project, pedestrians, tourists and students can experience the permanent art installation titled Auspicious Clouds | Heavy Fog while roaming Chinatown.

“The initial plan was to make the street more approachable by pedestrians and to slow down traffic in the area,” said Arcega, “ and there happened to be an opportunity to beautify the corridor.”

The San Francisco Department of Public Works and San Francisco’s Art Commission partnered together to do a call for an artist to design functional seating artwork. After two long jury sessions of filtrating through semi-finalists and finalists, Arcega was finally given the opportunity to begin designing the first of many cloud benches.

Arcega spent a lot of time walking around Chinatown when he noticed auspicious cloud motifs all over the district that signified good omen and “good luck” in the Chinese culture.

“The fog and Chinese clouds had mystery and romance to the city, but the clouds resembled a thing that rejuvenates and cycles, like a city that’s always changing,” said Arcega, “how water evaporates, becomes clouds, like a water cycle.”

Arcega believed his design was a poetic metaphor for the city and since its debut has become a hit for pedestrians.

“I saw one of these and had to pull over and check it out. So cool!” commented Stephen Galloway on the SF State School of Art’s Instagram page that shared an image of Arcega sitting on one of his designs.

Arcega teaches an intermediate sculpture class for undergraduates that specializes in material research and conceptual strategies and focuses on students identifying objects that have a cultural significance, similar to his cloud designs. He is also a professor of professional practices for visual artists in the graduate program for the fine arts department.

“From my experience of being in Mike’s classroom, it’s not just a role of teacher and student, he is just like one of my peers, he treats his students with respect,” said Cecilia Dong, one of Arcega’s students. “But honestly I know that a lot of hard work and sleepless nights in the studio went into this project and I wasn’t surprised that Mike was able to achieve something like this. I’m glad that he is getting the recognition that he deserves!”

Ramona Arcega, daughter of Professor Michael Arcega, sits on one of the benches from the installation series titled Auspicious Clouds | Heavy Fog at Broadway near Columbus Avenue in Chinatown on Monday, Sept. 23. (Courtesy of Professor Michael Arcega)