Empowering youth to get involved

BOOKS | SABRINA MOYLE

When I was a teen I loved being creative, but I didn’t think creativity could change the world. We were told that the arts were frivolous. I didn’t think my voice mattered and, as a result, I didn’t speak up.

Fast forward to today: We’re riding a rising wave of youth activism. In Parkland, Florida, youth leadership has thrived on strong school arts programs in theater, music, journalism and debate. Like so many others, I am inspired by these youth, and now more convinced than ever that creativity can empower positive social change.

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The dancer is a designer

Photograph of Susan Roemer and her costumes by Leslie Irwin for Smuin Ballet

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Susan Roemer’s second act began before she completed act one. A dancer for nine years with Smuin Ballet, she started designing and sewing costumes for dancers, collaborating with choreographers within and outside the group, even before she retired from the company in 2016.

This month her work is on view in two world premiere ballets: Val Caniparoli’s “If I Were a Sushi Roll,” in Smuin’s season finale program at the Yerba Buena Center from April 20 to 29; and David Dawson’s “Anima Animus,” in S.F. Ballet’s Unbound B program at the War Memorial Opera House from April 21 to May 4.

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‘I will not be seen in polka dots!’

The ever-fashionable fashion designer Mary Kuei Boyer.

By BARBARA KATE REPA

I met Mary Kuei Boyer a decade ago at an art exhibition at the Sequoias, the high-rise senior community on Geary near Gough.

“I think you would like to get to know me,” she said, and she was right. We shared many long lunches and talks. She provided the entertainment, with her fast-paced stories that sped along ever faster as she became more and more excited. I was there to receive her wisdom and marvel at her ability to clean her plate.

This wisp of a woman with an outsized appetite was an enigma in many ways. She was impish but thoughtful, modest but proud, outgoing but intensely private. She had a lot to teach about being alive.

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‘Don’t you think I owe her?’

Photograph of Nancy and David Conte at the Carlisle by Frank Wing

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

“MOM!” the pianist says with some concern as he launches into their favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and a photographer begins to click away. “You can’t cry on camera.”

Though not usually with a photographer in tow, composer David Conte often drops by the Carlisle, the retirement community at 1450 Post, to visit his mother, Carlisle resident Nancy Conte. He often plays her favorite classics or show tunes before or after he goes to work at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he is a professor of composition and head of the composition department. Other Carlisle residents are treated to regular impromptu mini-concerts.

Performing and composing are nothing new for David Conte. At 7, he and a friend wrote songs and gave concerts in their suburban Cleveland neighborhood. Music education in the public schools was at its zenith, and his father played the trumpet. By 8, he had started piano lessons, and by the time he reached 13, he knew music would be his life. At 19, he moved to Paris for three years, where he became one of the last pupils of world-renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Conte, the eldest of his mother’s three children, has composed more than 100 published works, including six operas and works for orchestra, chamber groups and chorus. His work has drawn critical praise, and aspiring composers arrive at the conservatory to study with him.

But to Nancy Conte — herself a former choral conductor and an encyclopedia of musical texts and tunes — he’s still the son she started driving to piano lessons back in Ohio when he was 8 years old. “It was a lot of schlepping around for a lot of years,” she says. Her son smiles as he launches into a Schubert sonata and says: “Don’t you think I owe her?”

Bringing life into the present tense

Kelly Johnson composed and performed the music on his new CD.

FIRST PERSON | KELLY JOHNSON

In the sunset years of my life, I sometimes realize that many of my friends don’t see me as I see myself. They see just an old guy on the corner outside Peet’s. But inside my head, I know I’ve had an interesting life — even if the interesting parts all seem to be in the past.

Recently I took on a new project that involved writing original music for ballet class, publishing a CD and developing a website. It was life changing.

And it turned out to be the glue that holds together all of the disparate parts of my life: as a child performer in vaudeville, later at the S.F. Dance Theater, which started on Fillmore Street; then as executive director of the Berkeley Symphony, followed by my years as a concert pianist and now my newest work as a composer.

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Teaching human kindness

Photograph of Deb Anaya and friends by Suzie Biehler

Photograph of Deb Anaya and friends by Suzie Biehler

By LIV JENKS

On the corner of Fillmore and Jackson stands the imposing edifice that is home to Calvary Presbyterian Church, moved there from the western side of Union Square just in time to open with a community Thanksgiving service in 1902.

Often overlooked is the warm, bright preschool located on the top floor of the adjacent education building, with its rooftop playground, which has been welcoming and shaping 3- and 4-year-olds since 1956.

Deborah Anaya has been director of Calvary Nursery School for 19 years. As she walks through the six mini classrooms that divide the preschool’s open, inviting space, she points with pride to the reading corner, the student artwork that hangs on the walls, the portfolios tracking the progress the children made in learning how to write their names.

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‘It’s made a huge difference’

Chuck Louden is a longtime lifeguard at the neighborhood’s Hamilton Recreation Center.

Chuck Louden is a longtime lifeguard at the neighborhood’s Hamilton Recreation Center.

By DANIEL SCHILLER

If there’s a story that needs telling, you’d want Neil Hart to tell it. That became apparent one bright recent morning when, after a 3,000 yard swim, he turned to one of his favorite topics: San Francisco Tsunami Aquatics, the gay, lesbian, trans and straight-friendly adult swim league that has been a fixture at Fillmore’s Hamilton Recreation Center for three decades.

Hamilton’s dedicated aquatics community helped launch the team in 1986 and, in the aughts, helped renovate and reshape the multigenerational facility at 1900 Geary Boulevard the neighborhood’s diverse population enjoys today.

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Women’s clinic facing budget cuts

The Women's Community Clinic at 1833 Fillmore Street.

The Women’s Community Clinic at 1833 Fillmore Street.

FEDERAL THREATS to cut funding for health care — particularly family planning services for women — have already hit a target close to home.

The Women’s Community Clinic, at 1833 Fillmore Street, recently lost a $250,000 federal grant it had depended on for years and is now facing the biggest budget shortfall in its 18-year history.

At the same time, the financial squeeze has increased the demand for services.

“Women are streaming into the clinic for birth control and other types of care because they genuinely fear they soon won’t be able to get it,” said Tara Medve, development and communications director of the clinic. “People are in the freakout stage. There’s been a huge rise in fear and anxiety.”

The clinic is scrambling to find alternative funding sources and has launched an intensive fundraising campaign that runs through the middle of the month.

“We are doing everything we can to reassure and support our clients during this scary and uncertain time,” said Carlina Hansen, the clinic’s executive director.

The Fillmore clinic provides primary medical care and mental health care to low-income women and girls 12 and older. It currently serves about 5,000 clients each year, 90 percent of whom earn $25,000 or less. In addition to providing medical services, the clinic also runs a number of community health programs.

The administration’s proposed targets — cuts to the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal and especially to Title X — pose additional threats to the clinic’s ability to function. If an initiative to eliminate Title X funds takes effect, the clinic stands to lose an additional $150,000 from its operating budget, Hansen said.

The Women’s Community Clinic has  launched an emergency campaign to raise $250,000 from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors by April 14. For more information, visit the clinic’s website.

Oldest Japantown grocery becomes a new Korean spa

The new Pearl Spa is located in Japantown at 1656 Post Street.

The new Pearl Spa is located at 1656 Post Street in Japantown.

BODY & SOUL | BARBARA KATE REPA

There was a message on my phone marked urgent: “There’s a new spa in the neighborhood — and it looks really, really nice.”

The alert came from Melody Sams, a friend who had spied the newly opened Pearl Spa & Sauna on Post Street, just a few doors down from her acupuncture clinic. In addition to practicing Chinese medicine and massage on her own, Melody has worked as a masseuse at both the neighboring Kabuki Springs & Spa and the Nob Hill Spa. She knows spas.

We made appointments to try out the new place together. At 1656 Post Street, jammed into a block of disconnected retail shops and restaurants, it’s an unlikely locale for an oasis. But the spot also has a venerable act to follow: It’s in the former home of Uoki K. Sakai, the oldest grocery store in Japantown, which closed its doors at the end of 2011 after 105 years in business.

An amazing transformation has occurred. The fish market and aisles of tall metal racks stacked with groceries have been replaced by gleaming marble and tile and whimsical light fixtures. The space has been reconfigured as a classy, immaculate, modern day spa for women. Owners Ray and Tracy Giron have spared no detail.

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Fillmore’s Beauty Row

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest beauty and body shop on Fillmore Street.

Atelier Cologne from Paris is the newest of many beauty and body shops on Fillmore Street.

THE ONRUSH OF new fashion and cosmetics brands and boutiques onto Fillmore Street in recent years has been astonishing — and beauty and body products are the indisputable trend of the moment.

There is understandable confusion about why so many have located so near each other and what sets them apart. And those seeking something new or a special gift are met with a barrage of adjectives: ethically sourced, cruelty-free, anti-microbial, sustainable or hypoallergenic.

But step inside any of the stylishly sleek shops and you’ll find knowledgeable sales associates with a true passion for their products. Lotions and potions are formulated not just to prettify, but also to fortify the health of the skin and the spirit of the soul.

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