Museum helps organize Saree Dress Tent event in San Francisco

The organizers, academicians and fashionistas, hope the exposure to other cultural tropes may also serve as a teaching moment


Ritu Jha


Two academicians in the area of fashion are using sarees to create awareness about migrant cultures at San Francisco’s UN Plaza.

Adrienne Pao

Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao are hosting a “Saree Dress Tent” commissioned by the Asian Art Museum and Livable City, May 6, 11 am through 3 pm, at the UN Plaza, in direct sight line to the San Francisco City Hall. That is close to the Asian Art Museum at Fulton and Larkin streets, The Saree Dress Tents will each be 13 feet tall and a 12 feet in circumference.

Robin Lasser

“The conception and construction are unique, so we were drawn to it. It’s an opportunity to connect with the community,” Allison Wyckoff, associate director, Public and Community Programs, Asian Art Museum told indica.

The project is part of the 10th anniversary of Sunday Streets, a program of the nonprofit Livable City, with the SFMTA, San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the City and County of San Francisco.

Expanding on the saree Dress Tent event. Wyckoff said, “Technology is supposed to connect us but we don’t spend much time together. So we are having this space to bring people together inside the tent and hear others’ stories. It is a great opportunity to create a community.”

The museum had hosted several India-focused exhibitions and events in the past. The saree Dress Tent would be taking place this Sunday and on Sunday, September 23.

The Dress Tent project was started in 2004. Both Lasser, a professor of Art at San José State University, California and Pao, a director at the San Francisco Academy of Art University’s School of Photograph, have hosted Dress Tent events in many countries and using varying themes.

According to Lasser, “The objective is to create a beautiful spectacle that will be like a beacon of a light, and draw people … to both the interior of the tent where they will learn so much about women, their culture, and the relationship these women have with sarees, and how these sarees connect them to many important life events from birth to death.

She also believes the Saree Dress Tent will help create awareness about people who come from other lands.

“It also meant to highlight migration and what it means to be an immigrant today, to really humanize and define our shared commonalities and to celebrate our differences in today’s climate because of our current president getting political,” Lasser said.

Inside view of the “Saree Dress Tent.”

To make it a less preachy and more fun event, the Saree Dress Tent team has invited five dancers and 10 women, to share stories about sarees. These are to be personal narratives, memories that the saree evoke, such as wedding days, funerals, or festive occasions. The interior of the tent is to be decorated with sarees that people have donated.

During the event, a sari enthusiast from India will conduct a saree-draping workshop that is open to the public.

“Each saree has a story,” Lasser said. “There is a huge variety of handmade to naturally dyed sarees from all over India.

Asked how she got decided to use the saree in her theme, Lasser said it started five years ago when she was invited to teach at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. There, she also got to work with local artist and designers to create public art. Since then she has been to India three times on invitations from different groups.

The tent dress is inspired by temples and minarets of India and the dome of the San Francisco City Hall. The gigantic saree also brings in design elements from urban San Francisco, including a hoodie and long sleeves to allow for the weather of San Francisco.



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