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Circus Center

Founded in San Francisco in the 1980s by the groundbreaking Pickle Family Circus, Circus Center is one of the oldest and largest circus training and performing arts centers in the United States.

Today, the organization remains a leader in the revival of circus arts in America, produces a full performance season, operates an outreach program for special-needs children, and offers both recreational and professional training for children and adults in clowning, acrobatics, aerial arts, contortion, and more. It is also the home of the National Endowment for the Arts-supported Clown Conservatory, a unique, multidisciplinary training program for aspiring professional clowns.

Circus Center’s world-renowned instructors have performed with elite circuses around the world, including the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe, Moscow Circus, Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and the Big Apple Circus. Alumni have gone on to perform internationally, and several have founded schools and circuses of their own.

Circus Center represented at the 2017 Folklife Festival wityh an all-star contingent including professional clowns Steve Smith and Sara Moore, award-winning Russian aerialist Elena Panova, senior aerial instructor and documentarian of the history of African Americans in circus Veronica Blair, and esteemed circus historian Dominique Jando. Together they shared their artistry and stories about circus life and work in San Francisco.

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.