CJM show honors Warren Hellman

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San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum will present an exhibition honoring the legacy of Warren Hellman, the late philanthropist-musician who launched the city’s annual free festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. “Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman” opens Thursday, Sept. 18 and will remain on display in the CJM’s Stephen and Maribelle Leavitt “Yud” Gallery for two years.

The exhibition centers on video of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass live performances, some of it made public for the first time. Listening stations with audio of almost every set from the festival over the years will be available. Also on display: objects from Hellman’s personal collection, such as his Star of David rhinestone jacket and a banjo he played with his own bluegrass band, the Wronglers.

Born into one of San Francisco’s most prominent Jewish families, Hellman (1934-2011) was an investment banker, philanthropist and music enthusiast. He is most widely known for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which he founded in 2001 and which annually draws more than 700,000 people to Golden Gate Park. Before he died at the age of 77, Hellman ensured that the festival would live on, leaving an endowment for its continuation for 15 years.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the CJM will feature in its upcoming Third Thursdays Live program a few musicians who have played at the Hardly Strictly festival. The next one is Sunny Smith, a Bay Area artist, writer and singer-songwriter, who will play with his band from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 16 at the CJM. Third Thursdays Live are free with museum admission, or $5 after 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.thecjm.org.