On my most recent trip back to North Beach, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of community. Feeling vibrant and alive from walking the neighborhood hills on a crisp December evening, I found myself suddenly surrounded by warmth and laughter as I stepped into the twinkling lights of Yick Wo Elementary’s garden party, a simple but lovely event celebrating their young artists.
FOGG Playhouse’s set designer, renowned artist, and Yick Wo mom, Nora Vandenberg, recently took on the role of the school’s resident art teacher and, with the help of countless other parents, transformed the little garden and playground corridor into another one of her magical sets, brilliantly showcasing the artwork of her students.
More than once I paused in all the blissful chaos as kids ran through, showing off their art, laughing and playing with each other, and marveled at all the FOGG Playhouse families around me.
In 2014, FOGG produced our first What’s Your Story, Bay Area? concert. This unique event pairs Bay Area residents with Bay Area songwriters to tell the residents’ stories through song. What’s Your Story, Bay Area? was one of the most successful events FOGG has ever produced, and revealed itself to be an important element in our commitment to community.
Many of us have passed by Yick Wo Elementary School in North Beach and wondered, “Who was Yick Wo and why did they name a school after him?” The story of Yick Wo is the story of a movement that began, as many movements have, right here in San Francisco.
During the Gold Rush days San Francisco became a place for people from all backgrounds and cultures to come and seek their fortune. While some used San Francisco as an embarking place for the gold mines up in the mountains, many others stayed in town and became entrepreneurs—opening businesses that catered to the needs of miners and San Francisco’s growing number of residents. This time of prosperity and growth had a dark side of growing tensions between blending ethnic and racial groups.