San Francisco Social Diary: The San Francisco Ballet & FOG Design + Art Fair

The San Francisco Ballet Opening Gala kicked off the winter 2016 social season with a dazzling selection of performances.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2016 Opening Night Gala performance brought its theme, “Provocative,” to life! Balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times.

This year’s chairs included Auxiliary Gala Chair Jennifer Brandenburg, Gala Dinner Chair Christine Leong Connors, and Décor Chair Rhonda Mahendroo, as well as Honorary Chairs Barbro and Bernard Osher.

The Gala was the first event of the current season, which includes three acclaimed full-length productions as well as a wide variety of world premieres and works by choreographers such as Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the prestigious SF Ballet Orchestra, considered one of the best ballet orchestras in the country.

Members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.

More members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.


The evening began with a cocktail reception, followed by three black-tie fundraising dinners hosted by the SF Ballet Auxiliary, all in City Hall. The reception was held in the  South Light Court, the Grand Benefactor dinner was in the Rotunda, and the Benefactor and Patron dinners were, respectively, in the North Light Court and the Mezzanine of the Rotunda.

Auxiliary Gala Chair Jennifer Brandenburg with her husband Bill Brandenburg.

Gala Dinner Chair Christine Leong Connors with her husband Scott Connors.

SF Ballet Auxiliary President Marie Hurabiell, with Mainul Mondal.

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and Tom Horn.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi.

George Jewett with his mother, SF Ballet Board Vice Chair Lucy Jewett.

SF Ballet Board Vice Chair Dede Wilsey and Jack Calhoun.

Norman and Norah Stone.

Dr. Carolyn Chang, Norah Stone, Yurie Pascarella, and Deepa Pakianathan.

Charlot Malin, Navid Armstrong, Carolyn Chandler, and Giselle Farris.

Athena and Timothy Blackburn.

Joy Venturini Bianchi.

OJ and Gary Shansby.

SF Ballet Board Treasurer Nancy Kukacka, with Guy Sanford.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz with his wife, SF Protocol Chief Charlotte Shultz.

Carolyn Chang, Patrick Barber, and Melissa Barber.

Allison Speer, Phoebe Mireles, and Robert Brotherton.

Damian Smith and Vanessa Getty.

Joel Goodrich and Clara Shayevich.

Honorary Chair Bernard Osher, Liam Scarlett, and Honorary Chair Barbro Osher.

Yurie Pascarella and SF Ballet Board Vice Chair Carl Pascarella, with SF Ballet principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan.

Stephanie Marver and SF Ballet Board Vice Chair Jim Marver.

SF Ballet Allegro Circle Co-Chair Patrice Lovato, with Walther Lovato.

Claudia and Keith Ross, with Patricia Kelly.

James Tyree and Nune Worraruji.

Roman Gronkowski and Denise Littlefield Sobel.

Michael and Alison Mauze.

Karen Caldwell, Paula Bennett, and Betsy Linder.

SF Ballet Board Vice Chair Jim Herbert, with Cecilia Herbert.

Barbara Brown, Alan Malouf, and Jennifer Mancuso.

Ron Steinbuch and Deborah Taylor.

Kara and Charles Roell.

New Yorker Blaine Trump with Steve Simon.

Paula and Bandel Carano.

Kat Steyer and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.

Christopher Bently, Camille Bently, Jennifer Raiser, David Reposar, Joyce Pederson, and David Shulman.


The “Provocative” theme was embodied in the décor. Creator J. Riccardo Benavides, of i•de•as, employed everything from delicate onyx lace to vivid fuchsia ostrich feathers and mixed yards of peek-a-boo sheers with lush, sensual velvets in lace and geometric patterns.

DĂ©cor Chair Rhonda Mahendroo and designer J. Riccardo Benavides.


ENCORE! Gala Chair Sunil Sharma and Vice-Chair Elizabeth Sgarrella planned a buffet supper in the South Light Court rather than a formal sit-down dinner. This younger group of ballet fans is vitally important, since they represent the future of the Ballet Company.

I think it’s wonderful to have everyone, from grand benefactors to Encore! members, dine together in City Hall. The diversity of the crowd ensures the Gala is always fresh and energetic.

Skye Grace with Encore! Gala Chair Sunil Sharma.

Meredith Kendall, Samantha Hartwell, SF Ballet Board Member Hiro Iwanaga, and Kate Jorgensen.

SF Ballet Apprentice Dancer Ellen Rose Hummel, with Ethan Hummel.

SF Ballet Soloist Dancer Lauren Strongin, with Principal Dancer Joseph Walsh.

SF Ballet Principal Dancer Dores Andre, with Phoebe Mireles.


Twelve classical and contemporary works and excerpts were presented as part of this one-night-only program. Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, who began his career as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, started the program with the “Waltz of the Hours” from Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine’s Coppélia.

In addition, following intermission, the SF Ballet Orchestra performed “Infernal Dance” from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird in celebration of their anniversary.

Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson and his wife Marlene.

Sarah Cannon, Ballet Board Member (and former Chair) Richard Barker, and his daughter Rebecca Bridges.

Hanne Vastveit and Justin Fichelson, of Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Listing.

Alison Mauze and Tanya Powell.

At the after-party, guests enjoyed cocktails and a buffet as well as live music and a “silent disco party” in which revelers listen to music through headphones instead of loudspeakers.


This winter’s preview gala for the FOG Design + Art Fair 2016 was one of the city’s most vibrant events and a great sendoff for the annual Fair, a four-day celebration and exploration of modern and contemporary design, architecture, and art.

FOG’s proceeds benefit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA is currently undergoing a major expansion project.

Exciting news is that SFMOMA is scheduled to re-open in May 2016. The expansion will house and display the collection of contemporary art donated by Gap founders Doris and the late Donald Fisher. When completed, SFMOMA will be the country’s largest gallery space devoted to modern art.

Gary Garrels, SFMOMA Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture; Douglas Durkin, FOG Forum Chair; Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA Curator of Architecture and Design; Joseph Becker, SFMOMA Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design; and Neal Benezra, SFMOMA Director.


The Preview Gala was a standout even in a city known for spectacular events, drawing 1,300 top gallerists, creators, socialites, style-makers, and young art lovers. Guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, culinary creations by McCalls, and signature cocktails.

During FOG’s four-day run in January, San Francisco became the country’s epicenter of art and design.  The event celebrated modern art, architecture, technology, and design, with dynamic exhibits, custom installations and pop-up galleries, as well as presentations and discussions by leaders in the field.

FOG 2016 Honorary Co-Chairs Christine Lamond and Pierre Lamond, a veteran venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

FOG Forum Chair Douglas Durkin, SFMOMA Director of Donor Services Cimi Ahluwalia, FOG Co-Founder Stanlee Gatti, and FOG Steering Committee Member Cathy Topham.

SFMOMA Board Chair Charles Schwab, with his wife, SFMOMA supporter Helen Schwab, and FOG Co-Founder Stanlee Gatti.


The first FOG Design + Art Fair was the vision of event designer Stanlee Gatti and the late Elaine McKeon, who served as president, board chair, and chair emeritus of SFMOMA for nearly three decades.

This year’s honorary co-chairs were Christine and Pierre Lamond.  Steering Committee members Gatti, Katie Paige, Roth Martin, Allison Speer, and Catherine Topham, and FOG Forum Chair Douglas Durkin were also part of the group that founded the fair.

FOG Steering Committee members Katie Paige, Douglas Durkin, Cathy Topham, Allison Speer, Roth Martin, and Stanlee Gatti.

SFMOMA Trustees Norman and Norah Stone.

Douglas Durkin with Ellanor and Russell Notides.

Billy Getty, Vanessa Getty, and Alex Weibel.

Nikolai Haas, Allison Speer, and Simon Haas.

Former SF Mayor Willie Brown with Sonya Molodetskaya.

Summer Tompkins Walker, Maca Huneeus, Allison Speer, and Susan Swig.


The Preview Gala gave art and design patrons, design-industry leaders, SFMOMA patrons and supporters, VIP guests, and sponsors the opportunity to peruse exhibits prior to the fair’s public opening and to enjoy an evening of culinary creations and signature cocktails.

Overall, more than 8,000 visitors attended FOG, which showcased 43 prominent 21st-century and contemporary art and design dealers from the Bay Area and beyond.

SF Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz, Mark Buell, and Innovators Committee Member Susie Tompkins Buell.

Stephanie Harbin, Will Harbin, and Honorary Committee Member Kate Harbin Clammer.

Elana Rubinfeld, Brian Chesky, Elissa Patel, Trevor Traina, and Innovators Committee Member Mark Pincus.

Honorary Committee Member Matthew Goldman, Frish Brandt, and Honorary Committee Member Jason Goldman.

Stephanie Tuttle and Susan Dunleavy.

Sabrina Buell and Daniel Lurie.

Catherine and Brian Kwong.

Honorary Committee Member Sako Fisher and chef Lindsay Tusk.

Honorary Committee Members Jim and Penny Coulter.

Gaurav Garg and Komal Shah.

SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra with Honorary Committee Members Alka and Ravin Agrawal.

Innovators Committee Member Yves Behar and Sabrina Buell.

SFMOMA Trustee Becca Prowda and Daniel Lurie.

Honorary Committee Members Bob Fisher and Kay Woods.

Steering Committee Member Roth Martin and Emily Martin.

Innovators Committee Members Mark and Alison Pincus.

Lindsay Bolton and Kasey O’Connell.


Filmmaker and social advocate Jennifer Siebel Newsom is trying to change American social norms for the better, one film at a time. She also happens to be the wife of California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and, as if that weren’t enough, just gave birth to her fourth baby.

Following up on her award-winning 2011 documentary Miss Representation, about the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence, she recently debuted The Mask You Live In, exploring America’s tendency to narrowly define masculinity and how that harms men, boys, and society in general.

The Castro Theatre is a San Francisco registered landmark, one of the few movie palaces in the nation from the 1920s that remains in operation.

Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom with husband Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California.

Event organizer Mark Rhoades with philanthropist Joy Venturini Bianchi.


San Francisco-based PR pro Mark Rhoades hosted a special screening of The Mask You Live In, at the historic Castro Theatre, followed by a Q&A with Newsom, led by fashionable philanthropist Joy Venturini Bianchi.

The packed house sold out all of the 1,200 seats in the theater. Thanks to generous sponsor AT&T, it was a big night at the Castro Theatre, with all the trappings of a red-carpet Hollywood screening.

Q&A moderator Joy Venturini Bianchi and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Joy Venturini Bianchi, Ken McNeely, Mark Rhoades.

John and Lisa Grotts, with J. Riccardo Benavides.

Natalia Urrutia and Aubrey Brewster.

Michel Khairallah and Jerome Molles.

Claudia Ross, Nate Johnson, Tiffany Cummins, and Jake Wall.

Jack Calhoun.

Mary Beth Shimmon, Alan Morrell, J. Riccardo Benavides, and Brenda Zarate.

James Cambers, Jacob Cross, Brent Tippen, and Eric Barth.

Gregg Lynn, Scott Wiener, and Glenn Risso.


Newsom says she got the idea to make The Mask You Live in 2011 when she was promoting Miss Representation and pregnant with her son.

Newsom funded the film through Kickstarter, reaching—and surpassing—her $80,000 goal in less than two weeks. High-profile supporters included former first lady of California and veteran reporter Maria Shriver as executive producer, and in January 2015 the film debuted at Sundance.

The Mask You Live In explores a national crisis: that boys in the U.S. are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. It ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. The film has won 15 awards from Sundance and other film festivals.

Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Joy Venturini Bianchi, Ken McNeely, and Mark Rhoades at the screening of The Mask You Live In.


After graduating with honors from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Newsom wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning Miss Representation, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

In the film, an impressive list of high-powered women—including Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator (and former San Francisco mayor) Diane Feinstein, activist Gloria Steinem, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, actress Geena Davis, political commentator Rachel Maddow, journalist Lisa Ling, and journalist Katie Couric—discuss the scarcity of women in key positions and the damaging effects the media can have on women.


Though she just had baby #4, Newsom hasn’t slowed down in the least. She is currently working on her next project, titled The Great American Dream, which deals with inequality and its ties to what Newsom calls the “hyper-masculine value system.” Soon, she’ll also be campaigning alongside her husband, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor in 2018.

“Jen is a hero who is changing the world,” says friend and KBQ Marketing founder Kimberly Bakker, “I am so grateful for her work as a fellow human, mother, activist, and friend. Together, we can achieve equality and freedom.”


Photographs by Drew Altizer.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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