City College of San Francisco Art Guide

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A History of Art CCSF

City College of San Francisco is home to a wonderful collection of public artworks. Many were created during the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-1940 which took place on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay . These artworks form the heart of the collection, and came to CCSF campus through the efforts of its first architect, Timothy Pflueger. This guide describes the evolution of the art collection on campus since its founding in 1935. Here you will find background information about the artworks and the artists who made them, as well as images.

The Legacy of Timothy Pflueger

Portrait of Pflueger in Rivera MuralIt was Timothy Pflueger's passion for art that led to the collection we see today. The son of German immigrants, Pflueger was born on Guerrero Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. He didn't attend college, but began his apprenticeship as an architect at age 15 while still in high school. Within ten years he was working on important architectural designs for his employer, J.R. Miller. By 1925, the Miller and Pflueger firm completed construction of the city's first major steel skyscraper at 140 New Montgomery.

Pflueger synthesized the Neo-Classical, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco motifs of the first half of the twentieth century. His work made a significant contribution to the character of San Francisco and the Bay Area. See a list of Pflueger's major works here.

The Golden Gate International Exhibition and "Art in Action"

Court of Pacifica at GGIE The Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40 was a World's Fair on Treasure Island that celebrated the opening of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges and the debut of Pan American Airways' five new "China Clippers," unifying San Francisco with the Pacific Rim. Pflueger worked as a member of the GGIE Architectural Commission and as Vice-Chairman of the Department of Fine Art. In the fair's second year, an exhibition of paintings had to be returned to Europe as World War II approached. So Pflueger organized "Art in Action," where artists created their work while the public watched. It was the genesis of the first major murals, mosaics, and sculptures at City College. [Back to top of page]

Pflueger had always been interested in art and artists; he integrated art into his designs as much as possible, and became friends with many artists. Photo of Rivera and PfluegerHe was on the board of the San Francisco Art Association, which founded the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Art Institute. Pflueger invited Diego Rivera to create "Pan-American Unity" for the fair, but also ultimately for the library Pflueger had proposed for the new CCSF campus. He and Rivera were friends from his commissions for the murals at the Stock Exchange and at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Pflueger is pictured in both the SFAI and CCSF murals.

Other "Art in Action" artists whose work came to CCSF are Herman Volz, Dudley Carter and Frederick Olmsted. The artists were funded for their work at the fair and at City College by the Federal Works Project Administration (or WPA), a Depression-era agency created in the 1930s to provide employment for artists while creating public art.

The Growth of the Art Collection

Olmec SculptureTimothy Pflueger's dedication to San Francisco, the college, and art formed the basis of the art collection at City College. After his untimely death in 1946, Pflueger and Associates, led by his brother Milton and then his nephew John, continued to design new campus buildings as the college grew, including Cloud Hall, Conlan Hall, Smith Hall, the Arts Buildings, and Batmale Hall.
After World War II, acquisition of works of art for the campus was limited for more than a decade. This changed in the late 1960s when several works were placed on permanent loan from the San Francisco Art Commission. During the 1970s, as new buildings went up, more public art was acquired for them. Even today, new art installations are being planned as the college continues to grow.

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Created by Lisa Velarde as the final project for Debbie Faires' course in Information Technology and Tools (Lib 240), School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University.

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