In Honor of "The de Young Open" Artist, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Drawing Room SF Establish the Sarah K. Delson Arts Fellowship Program

Apr 25, 2024

Delson Dialing Sisyphus

Sarah K. Delson, Dialing Sisyphus (detail), 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.

Annual awards support Bay Area artists affected by life-changing health issues

Artist reception will take place on May 4 at the Drawing Room Annex

SAN FRANCISCO (April 25, 2024) — The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (“the Museums”) and the Drawing Room SF announce the launch of the Sarah K. Delson Arts Fellowship Program (the “Fellowship”). Honoring artist Sarah K. Delson, whose work was featured in the inaugural 2020 presentation of The de Young Open triennial, the Fellowship is designed to bolster Bay Area artists whose practice has been significantly shifted by a life-changing illness. The yearlong fellowship provides unrestricted stipends of up to $17,500 for each artist. Artists Denise Tarantino and Lexie Bouwsma were announced as the first recipients of the Fellowship.

A comprehensive showcase of Tarantino’s and Bouwsma’s work will be on view in an exhibition adaptations at the Drawing Room Annex, located at 599 Valencia Street, San Francisco, from May 4 through 27. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, May 4 from 4 to 9 pm. The exhibition will then be open to the public Thursday through Sunday, from 11 am to 7 pm.

The Fellowship was created by the Museums in conjunction with the Drawing Room SF and is made possible by contributions in Delson’s honor from her family, friends, and broader community. Delson died on May 4, 2023. The Fellowship is established in Delson’s memory, inspired by her passion for making art and honoring the essential role it played in her life.

The Drawing Room SF played an important role in Delson’s artistic development during her final years and will be the primary home for the Fellowship. The Museums (the de Young and Legion of Honor) were likewise important in Delson’s artistic life, serving as inspirations for how museums can support art and artists as well as enhance local communities. Delson’s work was featured in the Museums’ premiere presentation of The de Young Open in 2020, which was conceived in part to support Bay Area artists during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her painting, Dialing Sisyphus, was one of 877 artworks by 762 Bay Area artists selected for the open invitational that year.


Denise Tarantino is a fine art photographer, obtaining her BFA in design and photography from Kutztown University. After completing her undergraduate work, she continued her photographic studies at the International Center for Photography, New York. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a serious bone condition that led to profound hearing loss, she has been physically restricted since before the age of one. As a disabled artist, Tarantino developed what she calls her “observer’s lens,” which she defines as her ability to find the hidden nuances and humor in circumstances and places that are often overlooked. Through this perspective she illuminates the forgotten treasures held within the offbeat objects, roadside stops, and forgotten places of our rural American landscape.

Tarantino incorporates her lifelong preoccupation with salvaging and upcycling photographic equipment into her imagery. Her ability to retrofit cameras, build her own lenses, and alter film leads to unexpected outcomes that push traditional photographic boundaries. Her work is shown and collected internationally, and she has received awards from galleries and museums throughout North America and been named one of the top 100 emerging fine art photographers by Photographer’s Forum magazine.

Lexie Bouwsma is a San Francisco–based artist who works with ink, watercolors, and other media to explore human emotions and relationships. Bouwsma earned her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2012, where she was shortlisted for the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. She has since exhibited her work throughout the Bay Area while also working as a draftsperson for artist Sol LeWitt. Bouwsma combines two visual languages: one of fine line work, the other of chaotic ink spills and splashes.

In 2014 she was diagnosed with a rare cerebrovascular disease called cavernous malformation, which causes lesions in her brainstem that occasionally hemorrhage. She has since been evolving her practice as needed to accommodate neuropathy, migraine, tinnitus, and other symptoms of brain injury. Since her most recent hemorrhage in 2022, Bouwsma found herself facing physical limitations and mental exhaustion. In need of physical and emotional respite and looking for new ways to think about art that would bring her back into the playfulness and joy of her work, she turned to scratchboards and her childhood love of sea creatures. A triptych from this series was selected for The de Young Open 2023. Whether in watercolor, clay, or wool, texture and the sensory process have always been important threads throughout her work.


Selection for the Fellowship in its initial year was by invitation only and made by an advisory panel that included representatives from Delson’s family and artistic circles along with the Drawing Room SF. The resources to support the Fellowship will be held as an endowed fund by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Fellowship will run for 10 years.

During this period, awards will provide unrestricted stipends of up to $17,500 per fellow, depending on stated needs and available resources drawn from the endowed fund. Fellowship applications will be open to visual artists, ages 18 and up, whose practice or needs have been compromised in some way by a life-changing physical or mental health condition. Artists must reside in one of the nine Bay Area counties and can range from just beginning their careers to enjoying well-established ones. Preference will be given to women artists from underrepresented communities and those for whom this award would have a serious impact on their lives and needs. More information on the application process for next year’s Fellowship will be determined and promoted early in 2025.

In addition to the monetary award, the Fellowship may also include opportunities for fellows to engage with youth, by way of workshops, lectures, and programming through the Drawing Room’s Understudy Program, which serves artists ages 15 to 24 years old; through public programming at both the Drawing Room SF and the Museums, and in exhibition opportunities at the Drawing Room SF’s Clement Street and Annex locations.

About the Drawing Room SF

The Drawing Room aims to make art and the process of creating art accessible, while supporting artists in their growth by sharing their work. Through relevant and thoughtful curation, we produce large-scale exhibitions based on social and environmental justice related topics, representing artists of all ages and abilities; sharing the visual voices of many. Our efforts are focused on enhancing the overall human experience for San Franciscans and visitors to our city by utilizing large dormant storefront spaces to showcase and support our diverse and vibrant artist community. Our exhibitions in these spaces help to illuminate dark corridors and bring life back into places that are struggling, while giving artists access to new collectors and patrons.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco respectfully acknowledge the Ramaytush Ohlone, the original inhabitants of what is now the San Francisco Peninsula, and we further acknowledge that the greater Bay Area is the ancestral territory of the Miwok, Yokuts, and Patwin, as well as other Ohlone peoples. Indigenous communities have lived in and moved through this land over hundreds of generations and Indigenous peoples from many nations make their home in this region today. Please join us in recognizing and honoring their ancestors, descendants, elders, and all other members of their communities.

Together, the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park make up the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the largest public arts institution in the city and one of the largest in the United States. Opened in 1895, the de Young is home to American art from the 17th century through today; costume and textile arts; arts of African; Oceania, and the Americas, and contemporary art. Opened in 1924, the Legion of Honor presents European painting; sculpture; and decorative arts; ancient art; works on paper; and contemporary art.

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