Press Release

Updated Statement from YBCA’s Board of Directors

We were disheartened by the disruptive protests of February 15th that were coupled with unreasonable demands that some artists made. We have struggled with how to best respond, while balancing these important considerations against our responsibilities to the organization and to all of our community members. After unsuccessful attempts to engage with the artists, we were faced with little choice but to temporarily close the BAN9 exhibition – which had been open since early October – for reasons noted in our statement from February 21st. 

While our galleries remain closed, our work as a multidisciplinary center has continued, including hosting performing arts in the Blue Shield of California Theater, directly supporting artists through the California Arts Council Creative Corps Initiative, and hosting guests to downtown San Francisco as a facility equipped for multipurpose rentals. We have used this time to unpack the events of February 15th as they relate to our visual arts program, self-reflect, and decide where to go from here and how we get there. We cannot do that without engaging with our community. We are eager for a thoughtful and constructive dialogue and our immediate next step is to reach out to artists and other members of our community. 

Each of us as individuals have asked ourselves whether we should have opened our galleries  immediately, or at some point since, and have come up with differing answers. Though some in our community, external and internal, believed we should have taken down the affected works to restore them to the state in which we received them, or prepared them for return to the artists, we believe we made the right decision in leaving everything as is, and taking a pause to decide on next steps. 

Altering the work did not occur in a vacuum. It was done in tandem with the distribution of offensive literature, and a list of demands that included removing the “Zionists” from our Board and Staff and forcing YBCA to take a political position on an international conflict. That is  not art. That isn’t protest. That is simply wrong and unacceptable. As they were presented as a package, and subsequently reiterated on social media, we will not address a reasonable aspect of someone’s act while ignoring the hateful aspects. There is nothing that we love more than working with and supporting artists. Looking ahead, though, does not mean a blanket tolerance for a repeat of a similar act. 

While we understand the desire to express one’s deeply held views, we also grapple with the significant difficulties they can present in resuming normal operations as an organization that welcomes people of all beliefs. A deeply held belief for some may offend others, making them feel uncomfortable if not outright unsafe. We see this last point as paramount, a responsibility we will not set aside for any other consideration. 

YBCA was already facing critical financial and leadership challenges for several years before this incident. Thanks to Sara Fenske Bahat’s leadership, we made meaningful and tangible progress during her tenure. But we still have a long way to go. When Sara agreed to come aboard, we knew it was for a finite time. Unfortunately, that stretch is coming to an end sooner than we had hoped and she recently decided it was the right time for her to leave. Reluctantly, the Board accepted Sara’s resignation. We thank her for the time and passion she dedicated to YCBA, for which she has our deepest gratitude.

Ideologically and operationally, for the short-term and long-term, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts faces difficult decisions on moving forward. As a Board, we will continue to work intently on finding solutions.


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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