Press Release

Statement on 2/15 Protest from YBCA Board

We want to share with you our thoughts on what took place during our “Love Letter to SOMA” event last Thursday, here at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and what steps we’re taking as a result.

The free event, showcasing new public artworks and interactive events at YBCA, was interrupted by activists and artists featured in Bay Area Now 9. While the specific issue at the heart of the protest is one of utmost importance, we want to first address our mission and our view of the role and responsibilities of our institution.

We remain unwavering in our commitment to our mission — to curate exhibitions that celebrate creative expression and foster meaningful connection. We encourage and create opportunities for artists to showcase work that reflects society’s most pressing challenges. We celebrate the many diverse voices in our community and recognize the power of art to change minds and broaden perspectives, even if uncomfortable. However, this freedom to express one’s opinions through art does not mean freedom to unilaterally disregard the norms and behaviors that enable us to create safe and welcoming spaces for diverse viewpoints. Artists are not required to display their work in our spaces, but when they do, they must respect our policies and show respect for our entire community. 

We believe we can be a progressive, forward-leaning organization without permitting polarizing, disruptive tactics.  We do not intend to expand division by providing a stage for it, and instead aspire to be an environment for observation, reflection, and meaningful engagement in the moment. If YBCA has refrained from lending its voice to any side, it has been so that our many stakeholders can hold theirs.

A brief recap of the specifics: 

On Thursday, February 15th, unannounced and without discussion, a few artists altered or covered their exhibited work with pro-Palestinian messages. Simultaneously, artists and community activists distributed leaflets with a series of false accusations and unreasonable demands on YBCA, including the insistence that the museum remove all “Zionist Board members and funders” of YBCA. Such language is neither productive nor tolerable.

During the protest, our team remained calm and welcoming stewards of our spaces. We in no way impeded the protest as it unfolded, nor prevented artists from making their alterations. We understand the passions involved as well as the desire to express them. We closed the building at the conclusion of the protest to assess the impact and ensure the safety of the public and our team. In the days that have followed, we have spent time documenting what occurred, reflecting on and determining next steps. We are very fortunate and appreciative that the protest was largely peaceful, that no one was harmed, and there was only minor damage to the facilities.       

Our hearts break for the tragic loss of innocent life in Palestine and Israel. The Israel-Hamas war has sparked an increase in peaceful protest and public debate across the country, but also rising hate speech and incidents of violence. We are proud that YBCA’s community is as diverse as the Bay Area, and that means the trauma impacts members of our community in profoundly personal but also very different ways. 

For this reason, whenever a Bay Area Now 9 artist has asked about YBCA’s position on the Israel-Hamas war, we have encouraged further conversation in the hope we could discuss these issues and explore any relationship to programming in our spaces. At every stage we have sought to invite collaboration.

We take seriously the promises we make, and we expect our partners and collaborators to do the same.  Every Bay Area Now 9 artist who participated in the protest signed agreements that their art would be final by a certain date — and that while there would be substantial collaboration around curation, installation, and publicity, YBCA would retain final decision-making in its ultimate presentation. Artists also promised to engage in lawful conduct and follow YBCA guidelines, rules, and instructions. We ask for this because we are also stewards of an institution that carries legal and financial responsibility for our facilities, the safety of our visitors, and the art itself for however long YBCA has been entrusted with its stewardship. These are responsibilities we take seriously and will not ignore. We need to trust that our collaborators will respect those obligations as well. None of our agreements contemplate the unilateral modification of art by the artists while it’s in our care, and much of last week’s action violates the spirit and the letter of their promises to YBCA.

To ignore Thursday’s actions sets a dangerous precedent for all future YBCA exhibits, performances, events, and community gatherings. We risk descending into a world where cooperative curation and community building is governed by chaos, and the public is left wondering if visits to view artists’ works will be marred by disruption. We believe a better approach is the one we were founded on, and strive for everyday – to work with artists to communicate societal and pressing issues, to explore creative avenues of expression, and open our doors to everyone in our community.

To stand by our mission and the rules and procedures we put in place to carefully create a safe space for our diverse community, the Board of Directors has unanimously agreed that YBCA take the following actions:

(1) Reopen YBCA and the exhibition later this week. Beginning today, our team will immediately begin a dialogue with these artists in the hopes of finding common ground on the work that was altered and/or obstructed. In the meantime, we will carefully remove and store the altered installations.

(2) Continue dialogue and scheduled programming with all participating artists (including those who engaged in the protest should they want to take part), as long as the artists agree to respect the rules and policies put in place by the organization.

We hope these actions will provide opportunities for the kind of deliberative engagement and collaboration that have always been the heart of our programs at YBCA. 

Furthermore, while we are open to dialogue, we will not agree to demands that insist YBCA discriminate on the basis of religion, ethnic background, or national origin. We refuse to harm members of our community by engaging in acts of illegal, identity-based discrimination. 

Finally, to stress again: We respect our artists. We respect their viewpoints. We simply ask that our institutional values and mission are respected in kind.


About Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Opened to the public in 1993, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) was founded as the cultural anchor of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. Our work spans the realms of contemporary art, performance, film, civic engagement, and public life. By centering artists as essential to social and cultural movement, YBCA is reimagining the role an arts institution can play in the communities it serves. For more information, visit

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