While some museums offer a few grab-and-go food items for visitors to snack on, the new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco is breaking out of that traditional mold. The new museum, located in the Dogpatch, is reaching out to some of the Bay Area’s hottest pop-ups to provide food and coffee for patrons. Chef Jacob Croom of pop-up My Friend Fernando helped select a number of diverse, up-and-coming pop-ups to showcase food at the museum. “It’s about giving people space and opportunity that maybe wouldn’t be getting that at other places, and that I know are really awesome people and really awesome cooks,” Croom says.
The museum opened in October, showcasing contemporary artists such as Jeffrey Gibson with attendance offered free to the public. It’s since established itself in the local art scene, launching a program called Meantime before final construction was completed and opening up the space to artists and performers even before the museum’s fall debut. When that proved successful, the museum wanted to continue the spirit of that program and began hosting food pop-ups in late October. It certainly helps that the pop-up roster is selected by a chef who runs a pop-up of his own. Croom also has a personal connection to the museum, namely his wife Christine Koppes, who’s the curator and director of curatorial affairs. She tapped Croom to help select the pop-ups for the young museum, and he reached out to a number of fellow chefs.
Recent pop-up dinner events featured Mishmish, which serves vegan Palestinian food, and Bolita, which highlighted Mexican landrace maíz, in October and November respectively; Fluid Cooperative Cafe also ran a coffee-centric pop-up in the museum last month. This month, the museum will host Calaca Coffee on Sundays in its “secret garden” space, which the Calaca team turned into a Mexico City-inspired cafe. Also on the docket are pop-ups Year of the Snake, which will offer Asian American baked goods and pastries on December 4, and LIKHA, which specializes in Filipino food, on December 11. Fish and Bonez will hold a dinner at ICA on December 8, while Croom’s pop-up with baker Jaren Wilkinson, My Friend Fernando, will serve up tortas and more with an event at the museum alongside Calaca on December 18.
With the pop-ups, ICA is looking to “break the mold” of the bigger art institutions and the artists they select and highlight, Croom says. “This is a non-collecting museum, and they’re just trying to think beyond what a lot of these traditional institutions have been giving space to,” he says. After the December slate of events, the museum plans to launch a new show in January before planning for more pop-ups to appear in the new year. “Instead of just having a cafe or having a fine dining restaurant, it’s like having this rotating door of people coming in and doing things that are a little bit more fun, fresh, and interesting,” Croom says.
Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco (901 Minnesota Street) is free and open to the public for art exhibits and hosts pop-ups and dinners on a rotating basis. Check the event calendar for the latest info on upcoming guest chefs and pop-ups.