Bay Area high achievers on our radar this month span generations and genres.
Artist Enrique Chagoya, also an art and art history professor, is one of seven Stanford scholars recently awarded a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship. Chagoya’s work is informed by his time living in both the U.S. and Mexico (as well as Europe in the late ’90s) and explores the clash of cultures in these places. His pieces are part of major public collections across the country, including SFMOMA, the Cantor Arts Center, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. With the fellowship, he plans to create works that reflect on the social and racial inequities laid bare by the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “Art may not save the world by itself, but it may help us to think more creatively and may help us fight for a better and more humanistic future with respect for the lives of our own and the life on the planet,” Chagoya shared in his statement to the Guggenheim.
Carly Schwartz, a San Francisco native and dog mom to a Boston terrier named Nacho, has been named editor in chief of the San Francisco Examiner and its sister publications SF Weekly and the Nob Hill Gazette. Schwartz steps into her role with 15 years of journalism experience, including her most recent post as editor of Google’s internal publication, the Daily Insider, and stints at HuffPost (bureau chief in San Francisco and deputy national editor in New York). Covering the City at this moment in its history feels significant, says Schwartz. “Storytelling plays such an important role in reflecting back the lives we want to live,” she tells the Gazette. “The reemergence of the creative class in the wake of decreasing housing prices is one area I’m particularly excited about.” San Francisco is in her bones, Schwartz says: “This city is the greatest love of my life.” Since she was young, she’s dreamed of running a San Francisco paper. “No matter how messy, nuanced or complex, I’m committed to telling stories in service of making our lives here better.”
Adin, Morgan and Ben Helfand
Woodside siblings Adin Helfand, 17, Morgan Helfand, 15, and Ben Helfand, 12, are three of the 3,000 teens who participated in Moderna’s COVID-19 clinical trial TeenCOVE Study. In April, the Helfands made the seven-hour trek to Velocity Clinical Research in Banning, California, with their mother, who is a doctor. “The benefit of being in the teen trial outweighs the detriments of a long drive,” said Adin in The Almanac. “All of that was worth it because you get to be part of something larger than yourself.” The trial, which started last December, collects data on adolescents who have never tested positive for the virus, with hopes that teens can be vaccinated ahead of the 2021–2022 school year. Adin, a junior at Woodside High School, sees the siblings’ participation as part of their responsibility as young people who have access to the vaccine: “We come from a very privileged background, and some kids don’t have access to the resources we do,” she told The Almanac.
Fantastic Negrito has done it again. Again. The Oakland singer-songwriter took home a Grammy for his 2020 release “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?,” making it his third win in the contemporary blues album category in the last five years. The dynamic artist streamed his acceptance speech from a star-studded party in West Oakland. In typical Fantastic fashion, he wore a Paul Smith pinstripe suit, a matching colorful mask and shirt and an African-inspired gold choker. He threw on his Prada sunglasses later. “First, I am just thankful to be alive,” he said during the speech. “This has been a rough, rough time for everyone out there. I just want to give a moment of silence for the half million people that have perished in this country — and the 2.6 million across the world. Let’s give our prayers and a moment of silence to them.” This year, Fantastic Negrito (born Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz) beat out the North Mississippi Allstars, Bettye LaVette, the Ruthie Foster Big Band and G. Love for the award.
Rita Heiser, a lifelong (and unwaveringly proud) San Franciscan, turns 100 this month. When asked whether she thought she would live this long, the vibrant and funny Heiser tells the Gazette, “Oh, heavens no. One hundred seemed like: Oh my god, that’s positively ancient.” She attributes her long life to having a sense of humor. “If you can approach things with a smile, rather than a frown … that will help tremendously,” she says. Heiser gave walking tours of Nob Hill, North Beach and the Palace Hotel well into her 70s, and has never imagined living anywhere but SF. It’s a place she says feels like the center of the universe — with mild weather to boot. “No matter what’s going on in the world, you experience it here in San Francisco,” she notes. “It’s very alive.” Heiser has lived through both a war and a pandemic, two events that have given her a front row seat to the humanity of people, she says. “We are so very different, but when there is a crisis, we all seem to come together.” Her advice to young people: Take chances. Put yourself out there. And laugh … a lot.