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Karen Topakian MFA 1987; Activist; Arrested (Again); Greenpeace

Celebrating June PRIDE

Karen Topakian (MFA 1987) left Rhode Island for San Francisco in 1984, drawn both to SFAI’s “art-for-art’s sake” ethos and to the promise of the city as a “place where it was safe to be queer.” She studied film at SFAI, working both on her own and with the mostly queer filmmaking production group she had founded with four other women called W.A.F.A.L. (The Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League). She studied with Phil Green, Janis Lipzin, Dick Fiscus, and  Angela Davis. Always an activist, having done antinuclear work in R.I., Karen worked as the shop steward as a staff member at SFAI and continued her activism as the Executive Director of the Agape Foundation for Nonviolent Social Change and then for Greenpeace where she was Board Chair from 2010-2018. 

 On January 25, 2017, Karen and six other Greenpeace activists climbed a crane at a construction site near the Trump White House to unfurl a 70-foot-long banner printed with the word “RESIST.” In 2016 she was featured in a short documentary on her history of civil disobedience Arrested (Again) by Dan Goldes:

[photos include 1) Karen Topakian at a 1980s S.F. Gay Pride Parade; 2) getting arrested; 3) & 4) D.C. Greenpeace Protest above the White House during the Trump coronation]

With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.


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