Jo Hanson: Legacy

May 2, 2021 to Jul 2, 2021

PMA is proud to present a section from one of art pioneer Jo Hanson's best known works, Crab Orchard Cemetery, a re-creation of her family's ancestral graveyard in Illinois. This piece and others in the show were left to us by Jo Hanson's estate a few years after her death in 2007. Crab Orchard Cemetery originally premiered in 1974 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. In the 1980s, the exhibition toured other museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. There Are Many Mansions, a piece from the Crab Orchard series, is in the permanent collection of SFMoMA.

In 2023 PMA donated Crab Orchard Cemetery to the Fresno Art Museum. Recology Artist in Residence program was gifted the other sculptures and framed prints.


Jo Hanson (1918-2007) came to prominence in the early 1970s in San Francisco as an artist and activist and was a pioneering spirit in both the environmental and feminist art movements. After moving into a dilapidated Victorian house on Buchanan Street which she restored to landmark status, Hanson turned her efforts toward cleaning up her litter-strewn streets. Her personal act of sweeping one sidewalk turned into a celebrated public art practice and city-wide anti-liter campaign, Over time Hanson expanded her work beyond her neighborhood, and organized community street sweepings, a children’s anti-litter art campaign for City Hall, and led a famous bus tour of San Francisco street dumping sites. Hanson’s community-inclusive strategies set precedents in public “ecoart,” created models for younger artists, and provided a representational voice in City Hall for those living in disenfranchised neighborhoods.

As a San Francisco Arts Commissioner for six years, Hanson championed the inclusion of underrepresented women and artists of color in the City’s art collections. She was instrumental in the Arts Commission’s restoration of the Coit Tower murals and the acquisition of artwork for the San Francisco International Airport. Hanson was also a driving force behind the preservation and restoration of Lucien Labaudt’s WPA-era murals at the Beach Chalet.

In the late 1980s Hanson suggested to the City of San Francisco that they develop an Artist in Residence program at the city dump -- now Recology-- which would offer studio space and stipends for emerging and established artists to create artwork from the waste stream and raise public awareness about environmental issues. Now more than twenty years later, the Artist in Residence Program has been nationally recognized and awarded, and countless artists, children, and adults have benefited from Jo Hanson’s vision.

Biography courtesy

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