Malia Rose Sanford

Malia Rose Sanford graduated with the VCS class of 2013. She explored the local non-profit arts landscape through CCA Connects, and worked with administrators at Root Division and Intersection for the Arts to support the education and curatorial programs at both organizations. Her time at these institutions fueled her thesis research, which emerged as a critique of the shifting cultural and economic landscape in San Francisco’s South of Market Area, billed as progressive, arts-driven improvements yet propelled by neoliberal ideology. While at CCA, Malia was also accepted as an intern for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Education and Public Practice department, where she eventually became a full-time team member upon graduating. She worked closely with the curators of Education, Film and Performance to produce a number of large-scale public programs, including artist Desiree Holman’s The Indigo and the Ecstatic, a museum-wide, multi-storied, multi-generational performance piece that was the grand farewell to the old museum’s building in 2013. She also was the executive manager of two back-to-back symposia over three days in March of 2014: the Visual Activism conference explored the intersections between visual culture and activist practices, welcomed nearly 100 speakers, and took place across multiple venues in San Francisco; and Bearing Witness, a symposium that formally addressed the shifting landscape of contemporary photography as activism. Malia recently relocated to Salt Lake City, where she works seasonally for the Sundance Film Festival, and also does freelance production and project management work, as well as some writing and editing. She specializes in inter-disciplinary collaborations with makers and thinkers. She has continued to join forces remotely with the Education and Public Practice Department at SFMOMA, and is currently the Editorial Coordinator for a themed issue on Visual Activism of the Journal of Visual Culture, a follow up publication to the 2014 symposium. She can be reached at

Recent Happenings:

About Malia Rose Helfmeyer’s Thesis Project

Malia Rose Sanford

The Slot, the Hinge, and the High-Rise: The Politics of Space and the Rhetoric of Urban Development in San Francisco’s South of Market Area

The images and texts that have been used to promote the 5M Project, a pending urban development project in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, reveal an underlying agenda of neoliberal capitalism and demonstrate the role of culture in the production and politics of space. 5M’s use of historical motifs and promises to preserve historic structures disavows the trauma and injustices that define the area’s past; the identification of 5M as a “creative development” contorts the countercultural ethos of creative communities to promote redevelopment; and the 5M discourse that describes the current neighborhood as “underutilized” and “lacking cultural activity” devalues the existing utility of the area and dehumanizes the low-income populations who live there. The 5Ws (2012–13) by Ana Teresa Fernandez is a public art installation at the 5M development site that addresses the real consequences that result from discursive productions of space.

Watch Symposium Presentation

Read Sightlines Article