Redford Center to close its Berkeley office

The Redford Center is located in the David Brower building

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.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Name Withheld

    I think we all know why they’re leaving Berkeley.

    It’s getting increasingly expensive to do business here, and the anti-business attitude of the City of Berkeley doesn’t help matters.

  • Dave Cole

    >>He has long ties to the Bay Area, too.

    Redford’s father was an accountant with Standard Oil Co. (now called Chevron USA) and worked at the plant in Richmond. The family lived in Marin and Redford spent his middle-school years there.

  • Jayne

    I never knew it was there! Why was there NO sign ( or known that I could see). I would have been very interested.
    I understand how expensive it can be here, but I don’t think it was promoted enough…

  • tizzielish

    The Redford Center in Berkeley was housed inside an office building. The comment asking why was there no sign is absurd. It is ‘just’ a nonprofit with an office in an office building.

    The Redford Center is not leaving Berkeley because Berkeley is too expensive to do business. The Redford Center is not a business. It is a nonprofit.

    It is absurd to make any comments on why the Redford Center is leaving Berkeley since we don’t have any way of knowing why they chose to be in Berkeley in the first place. I can share my speculations but that is all I have: speculations.

    I think the Redford Center chose an office in the David Brower Center as an experiment. I think the Redford Center is a small group of good people trying to do some nonprofit good in the world. I think they heard about the David Brower Center, learned that DBC hopes to be a center with lots of good nonprofits doing good, creating positive synergy and they experimented by renting space in the DBC center.

    I suspect that the Redford Center discovered that paying the costs of having an office in downtown Berkeley was an unnecessary expense. I bet the folks running it learned a lot, had some successes and some failures. I think they are a good nonprofit trying to do good work . . . but not quite clear about their mission. Read their mission: it is pretty fuzzy.

    I resent suggestions that Berkeley’s environment had something to do with why the Redford Center is leaving Berkeley. Why were they ever here? Was it reasonable for the Redford Center to open an office here in the first place? What benefits inured to the Redford Center by having that office? And, esp. if someone is going to blame the expensive cost of doing business in Berkeley on their departure, what did the Redford Center contribute to the Berkeley economy? A couple office jobs?

    My instincts — and I have actually paid attention to the Redford Center since it was here and gone to some of their events! — tell me that their presence here was an experiment. And the folks behind the Redford Center have decided their mission does not require an office in Berkeley. That’s all it ever was, folks, a small nonprofit office in a nonprofit office building downtown. The Redford Center might have done some great work in its very short time in Berkeley but not that much work and very little economic benefit. It’s a teeny tiny nonprofit. It is rarely rational for a teeny tiny nonprofit to have multiple offices. Berkeley is not to blame for its departure.

  • Native Berkeleyan

    So let me get this straight, the Berkeley City Council’s 35 year anti-business history has absolutely nothing to do with the Redford Center’s departure, Odwalla taking its 40 jobs to San Leandro, an eight month (and counting) waiting time to open an ice cream store, or any of the vacant store fronts on Shattuck. For decades, from the depression to the mid-seventies when the current junta took over, Berkeley was a magnet for retail, manufacturing and distribution businesses alike. These businesses employed countless people, and paid taxes to support school, park and transit systems second to none. Our problem is compounded by a city council whose primary focus is on sustaining a bloated city work force. If we are going to succeed in attracting for-profit or non-profit organizations, then we should start by cleaning up our local government.

  • Name Withheld

    @ tizzielish – Nonprofits aren’t businesses? LMAO!

  • Todd

    A business or organization leaving Berkeley or closing up is hardly news anymore!