In Loving Memory of Patricia Christina “Chris” Hellman
We are saddened to announce that Patricia Christina “Chris” Hellman – artist, ballerina, philanthropist and wife of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass founder Warren Hellman – passed away on Saturday, February 4th. Chris was a passionate supporter of the arts and that love came through in all aspects of her life. She was an avid painter and a tireless supporter of the San Francisco Ballet.
Born in London in 1933, Chris had a successful career as a prima ballerina with the London Festival Ballet before marrying Warren. They were together for 56 years before his death in 2011. Chris was the perfect foil for Warren in many ways but they both enjoyed a great sense of humor. She was often seen at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, on the stage wings or wandering among the throngs, with a twinkle in her eyes and smile on her face. When Warren picked up the banjo again in his mid-60s and put together bluegrass band the Wronglers, she was happy to sit in and sing on the occasional song. Chris and Warren’s love of philanthropy – especially programs promoting the arts, education and social equality – inspired the Hellman Foundation’s giving, which has awarded more than $25M since its founding in 2011.
In 2015, festival organizers discussed with the four adult Hellman children how to best pay tribute to Chris. The Star Stage was renamed the Swan Stage in honor of Chris and her successful ballet past, and her beautiful artwork was featured at the festival. Chris’ daughter, Tricia Hellman Gibbs, noted “We wanted to bring in a reminder of Mom’s spirit, beauty, artistry, and zany humor as a living presence at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The many photos and the renaming of one of the stages after one of the great ballets Mom performed created just the perfect acknowledgement of her central place at the festival, and in the hearts of the many, many people who love her.” Her watercolors depicting botanicals at the height of their bloom seemed right at home in Golden Gate Park. The Swan stage has continued to be one of the most popular, hosting the likes of Cyndi Lauper & Kris Kristofferson this past year.
Now in its 17th year, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will continue to honor the traditions set forth by the generosity of Warren & Chris Hellman. This year the celebration will be held on October 6-8, 2017.
Among her many contributions to San Francisco arts and culture, Chris was Chair Emeritus of San Francisco Ballet; Chair of the San Francisco Arts Organization’s Task Force; a Board Member of the San Francisco Free Clinic – founded by her daughter and son-in-law, Drs. Tricia and Richard Gibbs; Trustee Emeritus for the Princess Grace Foundation – USA; a sustaining member of the Junior League; and a member of the San Francisco Symphony League.
Chris Hellman has four children, twelve grandchildren, and four great grandchildren who will miss her dearly.
Donations in Chris Hellman’s name may be made to the San Francisco Ballet (https://www.sfballet.org/) or the San Francisco Free Clinic (http://sffc.org/)
Listen to Chris with The Wronglers perform “Gold Watch and Chain” below.