By Andrea Stuart
In 1966, Flower Power was in full force as guerilla theater made its way across the nation, inciting creativity, union, and compassion for one another.
The California Historical Society and the City of San Francisco are celebrating the roots of the counterculture movement with the Summer of Love 50th Anniversary this year, a commemoration of art, culture, entertainment, and humanitarianism.
An entity that acts as a hub from which many educational spokes radiate, the California Historical Society aims to honor its mission “to inspire and empower people to make California’s richly diverse past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives” by focusing on how the Summer of Love holds value today.
“There was a long lead up to the Summer of Love in 1967,” says Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives of the California Historical Society Jason Herrington of the socio-political climate that contributed to the counterculture movement. “Music is hugely important, and a number of venues are carrying that forward.” The three-day Monterey International Pop Festival, which debuted in June of 1967, introduced numerous major acts to a broad audience, including Ottis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. It also became iconic for the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” sung by Scott McKenzie of the Mamas and the Papas.
Art and history are a signature of the Summer of Love. “We have been able to work with organizations like the San Francisco Arts Commission to do historical exhibitions and commission new artists,” says Herrington. “They have created a poster series that will fill kiosks with art by artists inspired by the Summer of Love.”
The Summer of Love is also an opportunity for organizations to recognize the social paradigm of the time in unique ways. The de Young Museum is featuring an exhibition, “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll,” April 8-August 20. The California Historical Society offers a historical retrospective with “On the Road to the Summer of Love” through September 24. Asian Art Museum is featuring their exhibition, “Flower Power,” June 23-October 1, honoring the flower as a symbol of peace in Asian culture. The Historical Society is also offering a three-part program on psychedelic soul through a partnership with the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD). And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Summer of Love was also a pivotal time for non-profits. Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, founded by Dr. David E. Smith, arose due to a need for health services in the area for young people traveling to the city. “It was an outgrowth of The Diggers, a radical political performing arts group that believed everything should be free and fed people in Golden Gate Park,” Herrington continues.
Education came to the forefront during this time as well. Huckleberry Youth Programs (originally Huckleberry House) is also celebrating their 50th anniversary. “The organization has grown to multiple programs in the city. Like its name suggests, it serves homeless youth, providing crisis shelter and other services,” says Herrington. The Huckleberry Fall Gala is their first big fundraiser to cement its future, and includes a concert.
San Francisco is so much more than sex, drugs, rock and roll, although those are all fun to talk about. San Francisco is what it is today largely because of what came to fruition that seminal summer. “You couldn’t have a San Francisco of the 21st century without the Summer of Love. Even the technology sector and internet was inspired people like Stewart Brand, who was a critical thinker in the counterculture,” concludes Herrington.