Mildred Howard at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop

Living & Working

Mildred Howard at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop

By Mildred Howard January 24, 2019

How does one survive and thrive as an artist in the San Francisco Bay Area? Living & Working is a multi-platform column focusing on the experiences and strategies from those who continue to live and work in the Bay Area.


Known for her sculptural installations and mixed-media assemblage work, Mildred Howard received her MFA from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, CA. In 2015 she received the Lee Krasner Award, in recognition of a lifetime of artistic achievement. She has also been the recipient of the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists (2017), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2004/05), a fellowship from the California Arts Council (2003), the Adeline Kent Award from San Francisco Art Institute (1991), and, most recently, The Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts and the Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award at San Francisco Art Institute. Large-scale installations have been mounted at Creative Time in New York, InSITE in San Diego, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the New Museum in New York. Public commissions and installations were executed for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, the City of Oakland, and the San Francisco Arts Commission and International Airport. Mildred Howard’s works are represented in the collections of SFMOMA, the de Young Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Museum of Glass and Contemporary Art, Tacoma, the Oakland Museum, and the San Jose Museum of Art. Anglim Gilbert Gallery has shown Howard’s work since 1990.

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The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

I've been coming here since it opened, maybe now fifteen years ago—because I lived four doors away, and I could just walk down and get a coffee and sit in the neighborhood. It also reminded me so much of growing up in Berkley because it was a bakery then. I think it may have been a Russian bakery, and my father would bring me here. I have meetings here probably three times a week.

I meet with other artists here. Sometimes I meet with political figures here. Yeah, at least two to three times a week, I meet here. Coming to Sweet Adeline, it’s like—you don’t have to trip. You don’t have to grin and cheese if you don’t want to. You can come here, you can do your work. And nothing gets in the way.

[Mildred Howard waves to an acquaintance off-screen.]

"Hey, how you doing?” “I’m good.”

Often times, I’ll meet with some of my colleagues, if they come here too, and I’ll throw around ideas about what I’m working on. I like making things that engage the public, but more importantly, things that I’m interested in working with, at the moment, whatever that might be. Whether it’s sculpture, whether it’s printmaking, whether it’s working with other students, it’s all about the making and thinking about the creative process.

In the ’40s, South Berkley was predominantly African American, and this was the only area where Blacks and other people of color could buy property. There were one or two that lived above Martin Luther King, but this was a redlined district. That means that realtors wouldn't sell you property above MLK. If I had money, I’d probably still be in Berkeley. My whole notion of the definition of home is rotten since I was displaced and put out of Berkeley.

Artists are leaving because they can’t afford to be here, and I do care about what happens around here, because I think that for so many years this area has been at the forefront of political change. The other morning I was sitting here, and my daughter came in, and then Nashormeh Lindo came in. (Nashormeh Lindo is chair of the California Arts Council.) A few minutes later, Jimmy Evans—we worked together out in East Oakland running an art program—walked in. And then, a few minutes later, a person in theater came in, and we were all there together. It is those kinds of moments that are not necessarily planned but just happen, and those are the kinds of moments I like—I like coming here, because of that.

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Living & Working is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.

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