Art Curator Peta Rake's guide to San Francisco

Published June 25th, 2012

Art enthusiasts will love this week’s SF Spotlight, where we shine light on Brisbane raised, now San Francisco based art curator Peta Rake. After studying Fine Arts at QUT, Peta set off to complete her Masters in Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. Fast forward two years later and Peta has now completed her Masters as a writer and Art Curator, as well as tutoring in Sustainable Fashion Design at CCA. We managed to track down this incredibly talented girl to tell us what she loves about living in San Francisco.


Why San Francisco? CCA has a highly regarded Curatorial Practice Program and I thought California would be a smooth transition from the Brisbane tropics!


Tell us about the city's art scene.

The city's art scene is by and large quite accessible and over my two years here I have been welcomed into the contemporary art scene wholeheartedly. Not a centre, like New York or Los Angeles, the scene here is smaller, yet progressive. Interesting programs are being run out of smaller artist-run initiatives, like Will Brown Gallery, Southern Exposure and Adobe Backroom Gallery. Galleries and spaces of note that are assisting younger and mid-career contemporary artists establish their practices in the city are the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Eli Ridgeway Gallery and Jessica Silverman Gallery. The big players are obviously SFMOMA (who will complete its huge expansion in 2016), and the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts, which both have an interesting mission dedicated to not only the international scene, but to addressing Bay Area discourse and practices. I have curated exhibitions and events in other venues like Luggage Store Gallery, Live Worms Space, and in Will Brown - which are out of the way 'in-the-know' spots that well worth discovering. Luggage Store also runs the Tenderloin National Forest, a converted inner-city green space, in which they have artist events and dinners on the weekend.

Peta Rake Peta Rake enjoying spring in the Panhandle


What's your latest San Fran discovery?

Well I have two actually. One is Foreign Cinema in the Mission. While playing films all night, they also have the most amazing food and ambience. The other is Zeitgeist, a full outdoor bar in the Mission, quite an institution apparently, and it definitely lives up to reviews.


Your fail-proof favourite spot?

I am a creature of habit so my favourite would have to be Nopa for dinner. Its food is incredibly good. It’s busy almost every night of the week that they even do an 11:30pm sitting, proving just how popular they are. The nine-hour pappardelle bolognese is top-notch. As for bars, The Sycamore in the Mission is great. Cheap beer and great food, and a garden out the back (which surprisingly is hard to find here) and is always a good place to start the night.


Best live music venue?

The Independent on Divisidero Street. Not only is it on my block but it brings amazing international acts, even as small as Byron Bay. I just saw the Jezebels perform and they truly represented. The Convent (a converted nunnery turned artist collective in the Haight) also has independent music acts in their old Chapel. Acoustics are good, and it’s truly an alternative San Francisco experience.


Favourite shopping haunts?

Best shopping by far is in the Haight. The former Janis Joplin and Grateful Dead hangout, upper Haight street is lined with piles of amazing vintage stores. My favourite, on the corner of Haight and Masonic, has the best selection, and is arranged via weird categories like "1970s Sexy Secretary", "Repressed Prarie Girl", "skanky mini-skirts," and the list goes on. Wasteland is also up there and has good used-designer clothes as well as an American Apparel next door! Clothes Contact in the Mission is great too, you can buy vintage by the pound, which is a cool way to do it. A failsafe for me is Zara downtown - always reliable!


What would your dream day in San Francisco include?

My father was here last week and I think we actually had something that came close. The fog cleared early (very unusual!), and we walked to Hayes Valley to Bar Jules for brunch (French/Italian lunch spot), walked to Dolores Park in the Mission via Bi-Rite Creamery for beers and amazing ice-cream - I recommend the Lavender Honey or the Brown Sugar ice-cream. After a sunny afternoon in the Mission we went to Bar Bambino for dinner  which serves Charcuterie and good Italian wine. It was such a great day. After Dad hit the hay, I met up with some friends at Delirium (best $5 Margaritas ever) which always has some weird eclectic remixes of The Cure and Snoop Dogg. We then finished the night at the local neighbourhood bar Wazeima, which is more like my grandmother's quaint wallpapered lounge room, but the drinks are quick so no one complains.


Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.