For more than 50 years, the city of San Francisco has been synonymous with the heart, thanks to a certain Tony Bennett song.
In 2004, the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation used the image of the heart for Hearts in San Francisco, a fundraising public art project in which Bay Area artists designed and created a work of art on blank 3-dimensional heart sculptures in varying sizes.
Many of these heart sculptures can be seen throughout the city, and each year the foundation commissions new artists to participate in Hearts in San Francisco as an annual program that culminates in a Heroes & Hearts luncheon, this year scheduled for February 15 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Thirty-six new heart sculptures by 23 Bay Area artists will be displayed and auctioned to benefit Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, including works from several North Bay artists.
Marin-based painter and art educator Barbara Libby-Steinmann’s entry in Hearts in San Francisco is a triptych of mini-hearts painted to depict the city’s famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. The colorful and playful art reflects Libby-Steinmann’s work as a K-4th-grade art teacher at Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield. Last year, Libby-Steinmann was named Marin Teacher of the Year, and for Hearts in San Francisco, she got her students involved.
“For the longest time, I kept my work totally separate from my teaching job,” Libby-Steinmann says. “All of a sudden I realized, wait a minute, I’m an artist. I should make a real connection to [my students] about how artists work in today’s society and especially how artists can make a difference in their community.
“The Hearts in San Francisco project really interested me because it’s such a wonderful cause, raising money for the hospital foundation,” she continues. Once she was chosen to participate in this year’s project, she took it to her classrooms and showed her students the process of designing and painting the three hearts. Libby-Steinmann also convinced the foundation to have her students collaborate on creating 25 2-dimensional heart paintings that will be online for purchase as part of the fundraiser. “It’s a full circle of my work,” Libby-Steinmann says.
Also based in Marin, artist John Kraft was chosen to create one of this year’s six largest sculptures, measuring 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. His colorful heart is done in the style of his ongoing mixed media “Secret Gardens” series, in which illustrations are assembled as vines, leaves and other floral patterns set over a bright red acrylic-painted background.
“The intent of the work is simply to create joyful, colorful work,” Kraft says.
Like a good musical melody, Kraft’s uncluttered and often symmetrically satisfying works are about the space in between the visuals, as much as the visuals themselves. “There’s many layers of love of the city,” Kraft says of his heart. “Hearts in San Francisco is always a mix of celebrating the arts, celebrating the people and community of San Francisco, and celebrating the spirit of giving.”
Mosaic artist and Santa Rosa native Angelina Duckett first got interested in Hearts in San Francisco after seeing the heart sculptures all over the city. “I just thought they were the coolest things,” she says. “Once I found out they were a way to create funds for the hospital, I decided I absolutely wanted to be involved.”
Duckett’s table-top-sized heart sculpture, “I<3 California,” which depicts a quail running through poppies, was inspired by a childhood memory. On October 8 of last year, her then-half-finished heart sculpture was with her when she was visiting her family in Santa Rosa. When wildfires broke out that night, her brother lost his home and her entire family was evacuated from her parents’ house. “It was a really awful thing,” Duckett says. “But it was also heartwarming to see how much our community came together and supported each other.
“The original inspiration for my heart was the gratitude I have for being raised in such a beautiful place,” Duckett continues. “It ended up meaning so much more; all my love for my home, Santa Rosa and California as a whole.”
Hearts in San Francisco, sfghf.org.