Once upon a time in 2009, a mysterious box landed on the doorstep of the Art Room at Rooftop Alternative School in San Francisco. The box was packed with old photos, video tapes, receipts, reports, correspondence, and press books dating back to 1923. Our curiosity was peaked, and as a result, in 2011, we started The Rooftop History Project, beginning our adventure in documenting the arts education program at Rooftop School.
Since the creation of the school’s first Visual Art Program website in 2001, technology has evolved at a rapid clip, resulting in new tools for communicating, recording and preserving information. By the same token, broken links, updated programs and vanishing platforms have created a particular challenge for the historian/archivist as information has moved from physical items to digital formats.
In 2012, Apple discontinued their support of iWeb-created websites, which required finding a new host for the many Art Is… study websites created for each new school year. A directory page was created at artsed4all.org gathering past Rooftop Art study websites from 2006-2012, and a new ArtsEd4All blog was opened to record new information moving forward.
In 2016, grant support from the Internet Archive enabled students in the Archive/Opera class at The Studio @Mayeda to preserve the Rooftop ARTchives at Archive-It. The class explored how technology could be used to create both the “archives” (from Greek ta arkheia
meaning “public records”), and the “opera,” (literally meaning “the work”). In the summer of 2018, construction at the school’s Burnett Campus site brought about the end of The Studio program, but The Wayforward Machine was plugged in at the Old Mint for the 2018 DWeb Summit.
On March 12, 2019, arts educators, students and families gathered at the Board of Education Meeting, alarmed by School Board proposal to move $2.3 million in PEEF funding away from the visual and performing arts. That same day, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco Unified School District announced the closure of schools for a 3-week period, beginning on March 16. Schools remained closed through the end of the 2019–2020 school year, and the 2020-2021 school year was opened via distanced learning. By the time SFUSD schools reopened in 2021, the ArtsEd4All team was no longer teaching at Rooftop School.
The Rooftop Art History website finally broke in January of 2022, prompting the creation of this new site, in celebration of Rooftop School’s 50th Birthday.
Beyond this opening welcome page, you will find stories and artifacts reflecting a century of arts education, from 1923 to 2023. We hope future generations will appreciate the lessons learned and shared by the many teachers, artists, parents and students who worked together to create a school community ready, willing and eager to take a journey with the arts.