48 sources of joy in 2022, from velvety jazz to young voters and plant-based cuisine
By Lou Fancher
It’s oddly exciting to write an article that, when proposed in a near-hallucinogenic fever dream to my editor drew a rare, “Nah, don’t think you can do it.” I’ll have you know that this was a completely atypical response from a guy who usually emails verbal cartwheels to which I herby add heavy-fingered punctuation, such as “Love it!!!!” and, “Super idea, when can I have it!!!????”
I was about to agree with his surprising skepticism and drop the matter entirely when in his next comment, he backpedaled, shifting his blurted negativity into soft gear. Issuing a mild, sure-to-get-my-goat taunt, he said, “Let’s do it. And it doesn’t have to be 48 things (though I love the perfect number tie-in), just do as many as you think makes a good list.”
I was, predictably, set aflame by the no-yes challenge: the initial glove throw-down “nah,” followed by the soft “there, there” pat on the shoulder offering an escape hatch for my writer’s ego if I was a bore and could only come up with say, 26, 16, or even a mere six ideas.
So dear reader, what else could I do but jump to ace the test? (And dream of having you right next to me, so with our combined braininess we might send 148 or 1,048 or more?) Here are four dozen things most lovable from 2022. Feel free to add to the list: my editor promises to send !!!!!!’s in reply.
1. In the number one spot and above all others is 48hills. No kidding. No seeking brownie points. (Actual brownies are fine, but “points” come from meeting deadlines and writing stories readers read, not from dangling sweet superlatives to win favor.) From the perspective of my orbit, the site is steeped in across-the-board arts appreciation, high journalistic integrity—and publisher Marke B. always remembers there’s a human (not an AI-generator) at the other end of a story. The publication is therefore, a true visionary in my universe of words.
2-7. Amazing exhibits at major Bay Area museums and galleries. YBCA’s summation of two-year residencies with seminal artists Brett Cook and Liz Lerman and the exhibit “Reflection and Action.” Then there were dance performances and other programming; Oakland Museum of California’s “Hella Feminism” and “Angela Davis: Seize the Time,” both of which offering urgent opportunities to learn and celebrate female power, strength, vulnerability, diversity, conflict, and more. There was the Museum of the African Diaspora’s “The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion,” a marvelous display of over 100 works from 15 contemporary fashion Black photographers curated by New York curator and critic Antwaun Sargent, organized by Aperture. One can’t forget the shows that knocked the medium of photography into a stratosphere of possibilities; numerous solo and group exhibitions at Maybaum Gallery—a Geary Street gem that consistently presents stellar work by artists such as Karen Smidth, Simon Nicholas, Kate Nielsen, Jarek Puczel, and others—and the artists represented at Haines Gallery. (In early 2023 at Haines, don’t miss “Before the Fire,” the first museum retrospective and solo show in two decades featuring Bay Area painter, filmmaker, and musician Mike Henderson).
8. Theater that is not just recycled and plopped onstage. My hat’s off to Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and artistic director Margo Hall. Every step this company takes as it creates and presents works by, for, and about African American people and other people of color is marching in the right direction.
9-16. All things Litquake. Author Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (On the Rooftop) and Kim Nalley making harmony together at the beloved annual literary festival. Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade played host to Litquake Out Loud’s much-deserved honoring of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors. Appearances by the Ana and other new, small presses helmed by young folk received deserved attention. Club Chixclub’s series featured writers performing with experiential ambient music; Colombian author Ingrid Rojas Contreras (The Man Who Could Move Clouds) appeared in an event with Julián Delgado Lopera and Latinx music. Andrew Sean Greer and Daniel Handler slid in with Paragraphs on Ice. The Museum of African Diaspora investigated Prince Shakur’s new memoir (When They Tell You To Be Good) with the young author in conversation with James Cagney. And of course, the bad-ass, big Lit Crawl finale.
17-21. Arts leaders who made room for new leaders and organizations that took real strides to diversify the stories being told. Z Space shifted to three-person leadership, as did the former Hope Mohr Dance back in 2020, when it renamed itself Bridge Live Arts and in 2022, re-distributed co-leadership positions to Cherie Hill, Karla Quintero, and Hope Mohr. Over at Magic Theatre, Sean San José dismounted the “artistic director” throne to claim the title “lead director,” and repositioned the company for a 2023 season minus rigid subscription packages. Now, a “performance pass” allows for flexible ticketing and access to all three of the season’s not-to-miss world premieres (in a season planned for the first time entirely by San José) and the choice of one other event. Lastly—really, the jury is still out on this one—the appointment in January of Tamara Rojo as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, the company choose its first female leader. Rojo joined the ballet upon departing her previous position as artistic director and lead principal of London’s English National Ballet. If there’s any way to bring the ballet world into the realm of greater equity in hiring, body-positivity, and other factors—well, let’s hope Rojo will make it happen.
22-25. Music we listened to and loved. Bay Area-based Kofi Brown and her rap-rock, Black, queer counterparts who make up Skip the Needle and the group’s 2019 album We Ain’t Never Going Back. Cellist Jonah Kim’s 2021 release, Approaching Autumn. Cécile McLorin Salvant Quintet and Sullivan Fortner’s four-night run at SFJazz. New music chorus Volti at ODC, with works by Pamela Z, one of America’s finest living composers in electronic and mixed media music, and composer Caroline Shaw.
26-33 Unforgettable conversations with folks who made stops or live in the Bay Area. Some incredible on-stage talks took place this year. Here’s a couple favorites, which took place at various arts and culture organizations around the Bay Area: bassist, composer, and vocalist esperanza spalding; singer, songwriter, and pianist Norah Jones; author, activist, educator and former Black Panther Party member Ericka Huggins; Boston University professor and National Book Award–winning author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi; humor writer David Sedaris; Norma Gallegos, coordinator of National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice in San Francisco, on the subject of Roe V. Wade; Granny Ruth, a member of the Raging Grannies group; and UC Berkeley Professor Dr. Ndola Prata.
34-44. Eats. Pretending there’s virtue (and not bagel or pan pizza vice) in hollering, “I’m going to The Laundromat!” Dumplings hot or cold, ice cream anytime-anywhere, the entire menu at the new version of Cafe Ohlone, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino’s ‘ottoy (launched in collaboration with The Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley.) Atelier Crenn (we can’t afford to eat there, but Chef Dominique Crenn’s new memoir is a home run—and affordable!) Reem’s California’s mana’eesh, Birdbox’s Instagrammable Claude the Claw sandwich, sourdough bread you did not have to make yourself while locked inside your home due to the pandemic, vegan and plant-based food that has graduated from dusty and dull to delectable, and wagyu beef (when breaking away from the vegan trail.)
45. Not wearing masks outdoors—and not bickering over mask-wearing (so often.)
46. Discussions about critical race theory This year, these went beyond whether or not one dreads or appreciates CRT, and got into what it is, and exactly where it is and isn’t being taught. Not that everyone is listening to these talks, but at least the lowered the volume on fearmongering, and increased the amount of factual information on the topic.
47. More young people voting in the midterm election. More citizens of all ages actively involved in local government.
.48. SCRAP, a non-profit creative reuse center and arts education nonprofit founded in 1976. Working under the radar, by 2022 has become a certified Green Business and continues to provide quality re-usables such as textiles, buttons, paper, craft and office supplies, plastics, and wood to be employed as art supplies by teachers, parents, artists, and organizations. SCRAP offers creative reuse workshops, art kits and instruction to underserved students, volunteer opportunities, and educational field trips. All told, the group diverts over 200 tons of materials from landfill every year. A newly instituted sustainable fashion design program is teaching students the connection between clothes and the environment, and introducing them to design skills.
And now I’ve reached 48, and haven’t even touched on athletes, animals, farmers markets, free food fridges, community gardens, mental health practitioners who volunteered their skills, and so many other things. This seems like an upbeat note on which to end—having not even been able to list all the lovableness of 2022! I doubt my editor will want a sequel, but if you run into him, remind him I only stopped at 48 because I’d met the challenge.