Update 8/20/13: The new director of the Redford Center, Jill Tidman, wrote Berkeleyside to say the Redford Center has done some important work in the last few years. She expressed concern that this article conveyed a sense the center was failing, which is not true.
The center produced the award-winning documentary Watershed, about threats facing the Colorado River. It has been shown in 10 countries, at 42 film festivals and to more than 300 community groups. Watershed tells the story of the threats to the Colorado River and offers solutions and hope for the future of the American West,” said Tidman. “This fall we will launch the film’s engagement campaign, Raise the River, to invite the public to be part of an historic, bi-national effort underway to restore the River’s precious Delta corridor and ultimately reconnect it to the sea once again.” Tidman said the Redford Center is based in Utah but has a presence in San Francisco.
Original story: The Redford Center, an organization started by the actor Robert Redford and his three children to foster discussion about social change, will shutter its Berkeley offices in February.
Lee Bycel, the center’s director, revealed the news last week via an email sent to supporters.
“I am writing to update you on some important developments with the Redford Center,” wrote Bycel. “After careful evaluation, the Redford family has decided to centralize Redford Center activity out of the Sundance Village in Utah beginning in February 2011.”
Bycel declined to elaborate on why the Berkeley office will shut down and no one at the center’s Utah office could be reached for comment.
The Redford Center opened an office in the new David Brower building on Allston Way in Berkeley in the spring of 2009. The center aimed to inspire “positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.” It held a number of national conferences and hosted The Art of Activism, a series of events honoring local and national leaders.
“We’ve contributed a lot here in the Bay Area,” said Bycel. “There’s great work yet to be done. I think we really need to look at problems in new ways throughout the entire community. What the Redford Center has done, and will continue to do in Provo, is look at new and creative ways” that society can address critical issues.
The center will hold one last event on Jan. 30, when Bycel will moderate a discussion of the works of Arthur Syzk, the Jewish graphic artist and book illustrator who became immensely popular for the caricatures he drew of Nazi officials and other Axis leaders during World War II. There currently is an exhibit of Syzk’s work at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Robert Redford runs a number of institutes, most famously the Sundance Film Festival, which is currently taking place in Park City, Utah. He has long ties to the Bay Area, too. His son, James, lives in Fairfax and his wife, the German artist, Sibylie Szaggers, has had many exhibits here.