New gallery has the baraka

Photograph of Shiffen, owner of Baraka Gallery at 1230 Fillmore, by Suzie Biehler.

Photograph of Shiffen, owner of Baraka Gallery at 1230 Fillmore, by Suzie Biehler

By FRANCINE BREVETTI

If you are a tribal man of Niger intent on wooing a lady, you will likely wear a Wodaabe tunic at the Geerewol festival. “That’s where the handsome men of the tribe compete in a contest of endurance and beauty,” explains Shiffen Melaku.

Your sister would have embroidered this ritual robe for you to wear at the weeklong festival where young people meet to find mates among the other cattle-herding nomads.

Here in the neighborhood, you can buy such a garment at Shiffen’s Baraka Gallery, formerly of Oakland, and newly installed at 1230 Fillmore.

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LOVING HIS COLOR

“Tribute to Romare Bearden,” a 2007 mixed media painting by Rhonel Roberts

“Tribute to Romare Bearden,” a 2007 mixed media painting by Rhonel Roberts

By KEITH HOWELL

Rhonel Roberts’ first love was music. But painting is his passion.

The two came together for the Fillmore resident in a series of artworks he created celebrating great jazz musicians — Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. His career took off when his painting of Masekela was chosen in 2011 for the Fillmore Jazz Festival poster. It was one of Roberts’ particular favorites because he remembered the trumpeter’s rendition of “Grazing in the Grass” playing at his 13th birthday party.

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Bloomers turns 40

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

Photographs by Barbara Wyeth

FIRST PERSON | BARBARA WYETH

The flower business is an early morning affair. My morning usually starts with an espresso at Jackson and Fillmore, then a short hop past Alta Plaza Park to work at Bloomers at 2975 Washington Street.

Opening the door, I’m met with the fragrance of fresh flowers and the aroma of more strong coffee brewing in the back room. The crew is already at work trimming, cutting, cleaning, putting flowers into water and setting up the store for another day of business. Presiding over all this industry, as he has since 1977, is owner and proprietor Patric Powell.

This year the venerable Pacific Heights florist is celebrating 40 years of flowering. That alone is a real accomplishment — a thriving small business with a rarefied and fragile product in an expensive city of fickle taste.

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A keeper of maps and prints

“Nothing is more expensive than cheap framing," says Michael W. Perry.

“Nothing is more expensive than cheap framing,” says Michael W. Perry.

By FRANCINE BREVETTI

Occasionally people enter Michael Perry’s shop at 1837 Divisadero Street and ask for maps of the Island of California. They’ve come to the right place. Among his treasures, Perry has a selection of images of this popular fallacy of the 16th and 17th centuries — that California once was its own island.

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A private guide to modern art

Jean Halvorsen leads private tours of the SF Museum of Modern Art.

Jean Halvorsen leads private tours of the SF Museum of Modern Art.

CULTURE BEAT | PAM FEINSILBER

For 35 years, Jean Halvorsen has traveled between her home in the neighborhood and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Back when the museum was in the Civic Center, above the Herbst Theater, she volunteered as a docent. In 2000, once the museum was ensconced in its own building south of Market, she was asked to set up a private tour program and hire the guides.

Now she’s one of 15 private guides on staff, each week leading paying groups that select the focus of their tour — whether paintings and sculpture, photography, architecture or, between now and October 9, the just-opened exhibition Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, featuring 44 paintings by Norway’s most famous artist.

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Sherith Israel completes retrofit

A crane hoists roofing material to the temple's historic dome.

A crane hoists roofing material to the temple’s historic dome.

ESPECIALLY SWEET MUSIC will rise up into the freshly repainted and retrofitted dome atop Congregation Sherith Israel’s historic home at California and Webster on June 9 at a special Shabbat service celebrating the end of a long-running renovation.

“We did it!” exclaimed David Newman, co-chair of the seismic retrofit campaign. “The Sherith Israel community has risen to the occasion.”

“We are in compliance with all of the city’s seismic requirements,” said former congregation board member Ellen Schumm, who has been involved with the project since its inception. “This building is so stable, it’s awesome.”

The $16 million project to strengthen the 1905 building — which survived the earthquake and fire the next year and served as a temporary courthouse during the rebuilding — was spurred by new standards established after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The first phase of the project, completed in 2011, included an innovative engineering plan to reinforce the exterior walls of the sanctuary without affecting the elaborately painted interior walls. It also stripped away the salmon-colored paint that had been unwisely applied to the sandstone walls half a century earlier.

The second phase, just completed, involved reroofing, repainting and waterproofing the dome, removing the last vestiges of salmon paint and returning the dome to the color of the sandstone on the base. It also added solar panels on the roof and included work on nearly every other part of the building.

“Our beautiful sanctuary will be here — and be strong — for generations to come,” said senior rabbi Jessica Graf.

EARLIER: In a video from January 2011, the retrofit project was underway.

Flowers for Prom

B-RedWristlet

Text & Photographs by BARBARA WYETH

Every year in the late spring, we florists at Bloomers, over on Washington Street near Broderick, get to share in the time-honored, all-American ritual of prom.

For 40 years, Bloomers has been providing flowers for families in the neighborhood and beyond. The mother who got her wedding flowers may call for her son’s corsage, the same son whose mom received a sweet bouquet the day he was born. Her daughter, who needs a boutonniere for her date, probably got a charming little nosegay for her ballet recital not that long ago. Or so it sometimes seems.

Now the son and daughter are ordering flowers, perhaps for the first time, to honor this special occasion in their own lives. Some of these high-schoolers are nervous about ordering wristlets and boutonnieres. Others are so self-assured that we marvel at their sophistication.

Making the boutonnieres and especially the wristlet corsages is labor intensive and time consuming, but the results are beautiful. And the parade of young women and young men — many with proud moms and dads — who come to pick up the prom flowers is endearing and great fun.

Flowers for prom — a sweet tradition that endures.

B-PromCollage

St. Dominic’s plans 5 new buildings

Viewed from Pine and Steiner Streets, the plan calls for new church facilities over a parking garage.

The proposed view from Pine and Steiner Streets, with new buildings over a parking garage.

LEADERS OF St. Dominic’s Church are embarking on an ambitious building program that would demolish the 1929 school building on Pine Street and add five new buildings atop a 130-car parking garage.

Three of the new buildings would house church administrative offices, a pre-school and a much larger parish hall. They would be built on an above-ground podium over a one-level, mostly underground garage.

The church building, built in 1928, would not be altered beyond completion of an ongoing $20 million restoration project.

“It’s the parish hall that’s driving this whole thing,” said parishioner-developer Bill Campbell, who presented the plans to three dozen neighbors at an April 5 hearing. “This is the most active parish in San Francisco. And there’s a great need for pre-schools.”

The first phase of the “pastoral center and residential project” is expected to cost $10 million and take 18 months.

The church has begun an environmental impact report for a second phase — “We don’t know when or how,” Campbell said — which would build about 120 residential rental units in two buildings on the corner of Pine and Pierce, with two levels of parking underneath.

The rentals will generate revenue to support the church, said Campbell.

“We appreciate that you spent 30 minutes talking about how wonderful this will be for the parish,” one local resident told Campbell. “But it will be a catastrophe for the neighborhood.”

Architectural renderings from Field Paoli

Architectural renderings from Field Paoli, courtesy of SocketSite

Farewell to two of our finest

Carol and John Field

Carol and John Field, longtime neighborhood residents.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD lost two of its outstanding citizens and creative minds in recent weeks when architect John Field and author Carol Field died within a few days of each other.

John Field was noted for the homes he designed in Pacific Heights and especially for his enlightened approach to shopping centers, including the Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Santa Barbara. He was also a filmmaker and a photographer.

Carol Field was a prolific author who became an authority on Italian food, even though she acknowledged she was “the first Italian in my family tree.” After trips to Italy to make The Urban Preserve, John’s first architectural documentary, Carol made it her mission to learn everything about Italian baking. They later owned a home there, and many more books and a novel followed. Earlier she had been a co-owner of the beloved Minerva’s Owl bookstore on Union Street.

Shortly after John died of cancer, Carol suffered a stroke and never recovered.

“She couldn’t make it without him,” neighboring chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein told the Chronicle. ”They were a blessed couple.”

“She seemed to listen as much with her eyebrows as her eyes,” wrote Corby Kummer in The Atlantic. He told the Fields he enjoyed visiting them “to observe at close range your utter companionability. You were and will remain my models for the complete and caring civility with which two people can treat each other.”

EARLIER: “Fillmore to Italy and back again

A younger Carol and John Field.

A younger Carol and John Field: always utterly companionable.

MORE: “She tied tradition to captivating stories

The New York Times
The Washington Post

He makes sculptures that write

Photographs by Jon Batle

Photographs of Agelio Batle’s graphite sculptures by Jon Batle

ART | CLAIRE CARLEVARO

Twenty-five years ago, I saw a piece of artwork by Agelio Batle at the Hayes Valley gallery owned by the visionary Federico de Vera. I bought the wall sculpture, then went in search of the artist.

Thus began my journey with a man whose creativity is born in spirituality and nurtured by skill: a true seeker, an explorer and a remarkable inspiration. Nature and the human figure are his inspirations. He delights in discovering the potential of unused materials, often castoffs: found photos, plastic milk cartons, discarded reference books.

In addition to his steady creation of unique works, Batle has invented a form of graphite artistry available in many museums and shops, including Hi Ho Silver at 1904 Fillmore Street.

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