Movers and Shakers

January Movers and Shakers: Of Fact and Fiction

By Julissa James

Bay Area high achievers on our radar this month include household names and the next generation shaking things up.


Sheri Greenawald illustrated by Olivia Wise.

Sheri Greenawald

In a Zoom room somewhere on the internet last month, San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock raised a glass to Sheri Greenawald, SF Opera’s outgoing center director and Merola Opera Program artistic director, who was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal. During a virtual event celebrating the opera’s highest honor, Shilvock applauded Greenawald’s impact on the company during her 20-year tenure, calling it one of the most indelible in its history. “Extraordinary artistic service over an extended period defines her relationship with San Francisco Opera,” he said. Greenawald made her debut with the company in 1978 as Marzelline in Fidelio. She went on to perform leading roles in venues around the world before returning to SF Opera in 2002 to helm the center and the Merola program, where she trained hundreds of young artists. She notes: “The list of previous Opera Medal recipients includes many singers who were my inspiration and guideposts. To think that anything I did would put me in their company is truly amazing, and I know that my parents would be glowing with pride.”

Randall Ching illustrated by Olivia Wise.

Randall Ching

Of the 20,000 Chinese American World War II veterans honored withthe Congressional Gold Medal during an online ceremony in December, one definitively stood out to Bay Area residents: Randall Ching, a 96-year-old Novato resident who served in the U.S. Army 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion. San Francisco-born and Chinatown-raised, Ching is believed to be the only ranger of Chinese heritage to fight in WWII, according to the Marin Independent Journal. “At the time, it never occurred to me that I was the only Chinese ranger,” Ching told the IJ. “But looking back now, I’m very proud.” He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service, and went on to inspire a similar legacy of service within his own family. Ching’s son served in the Navy during Vietnam and his grandson served as a Marine in Iraq. For this vet, earning the prestigious recognition was a reminder of the importance of sacrifice. “I hope the present and future generations remember the lives lost then to preserve the freedom they have now,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”

Kate Folk illustrated by Olivia Wise.

Kate Folk

“I was putting myself out there,” reads the first line of fiction writer Kate Folk’s New Yorker short story about online dating in tech-crazy San Francisco. Out There, which was published by the magazine in March 2020, is now the basis for an upcoming Hulu series. In Folk’s original piece, the City’s dating pool is overrun by “blots”: impossibly handsome and charming, but literally fake, men that prey on lonely single women to rob them of their data and livelihood. Folk, a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford, is writing the half-hour dramedy series with actress and writer Sharon Horgan. Folk has lived in the City since 2008, where the tech industry — and the collective anxieties it brings — has influenced her work for publications that include the New York Times Magazine and Zyzzyva. Out There is part of a collection of stories by the same name that Folk is set to publish through Random House and Hodder Studio.

Natasha Becker illustrated by Olivia Wise.

Natasha Becker

Congratulations to Natasha Becker, San Francisco Fine Arts Museums’ first curator of African art. Born and raised in South Africa, Becker joins the FAMSF roster with a rich resume under her belt, having co-founded two curatorial projects — Assembly Room in New York City and the Underline Show in Johannesburg — and most recently, serving as curator-in-residence at Faction Art Projects in Harlem. For more than a decade, Becker was an independent curator of projects from NYC to Cape Town, championing African art, African American art and art of the African diaspora. In SF, she’ll be charged with expanding the way artworks are presented and interpreted at the museums. The way Becker sees it, there couldn’t be a better moment to step into this role. “This is a time for accountability, for asking real questions, and for transformation in U.S. museums,” she said in a recent statement.

Wayne Wang illustrated by Olivia Wise.

Wayne Wang

The Joy Luck Club, Wayne Wang’s iconic film adaptation of Amy Tan’s seminal novel, has been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. “As a Chinese American making Chinese American films, it means a lot to me,” Wang told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are so few of us filmmakers, and so few of these films, that to be part of the library that’s going to go down in history is really, really wonderful. I’m very honored.” The Joy Luck Club — which chronicles the complex relationships between Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters and is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown — was already historic in its own right as one of the first major contemporary Hollywood films to feature an all-Asian cast. But it’s not Wang’s first induction into the National Film Registry: His 1982 indie Chan Is Missing, also set in Chinatown, was recognized in 1995.

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