Donn Harris is the first-ever Executive Director of Creativity and the Arts for the San Francisco Unified School District. He’s run two arts schools, and is the chairman of the California Arts Council. He’s been brought on to finish a transition that’s been planned for a long time: the renovation and construction of their properties in the Civic Center area to house an Arts High School and Arts Center.
Harris says they have great plans for the space they already have: “We have this wonderful block, bordered by Franklin, Van Ness, Fell, and Hayes. Worth about, I believe, 30 million dollars on the market, and we own three buildings on it, and the lot in between, and we want to build it out to be exactly what it should be: the Arts High School at 135 Van Ness.” There have been plans in development for a long time, with money approved by voters (although there will be more needed to be raised privately) “My position, if you look at the org chart, is not connected to anything. I’m off to the side, as almost a separate thing. Superintendent Carranza, before he left, made sure I didn’t have too many duties attached to me so I could get this done. This is not an easy thing, to raise that kind of money, sell it to people, get everybody excited, and do it right. And at the same time, meet the needs of the school district. So my real job, the thing that I was hired to do, was to get the school down here, get the institute built, and get the whole arts eco-system up and running.” The fact that it will be right in the heart of the Arts district, next to Davies Symphony Hall, the Opera House and Herbst Theatre is hugely important. “The artistic energy, the greenhouse effect that you’re going to see when this finally happens is going to be amazing. And for kids, even more amazing. Even with the all the arts agencies down here there isn’t one central spot. This institute that we’re building at 170 Fell, that’s going to be the central spot. The hub.”