Metal Mural Gets Relocated from Mission Local on Vimeo.

As the fate of CELLspace became more clear in early 2014, I knew that I’d have to deal with the murals I’d been facilitating on the building’s facade. The masonite and wood panels were easy enough to take down and store. I had worked directly with the artists so had been in contact with most of them about the fate of their art. One mural went to the Bike Kitchen (they funded its creation). Jet Martinez didn’t want his and didn’t want it to be saved. Many of the artists were OK possibly selling the panels, with some funds going to my Stencil Archive project. Swoon had no desire to save her art and was sad to know the art space was going away.

While in process, the Bryant St. panels came down a bit too early after a tagger painted throw-ups on about three of the panels in July of 2014. I found out later (one of the tagged artists knew the guy) that this person was shit-faced drunk and didn’t even remember destroying three murals. Two of the murals were significant pieces, one being SPIE’s “All our Relations” from 1996.

Alarmed at the vandalism, I got volunteers to quickly take down the panels I had spent months trying to save and rehome. I caught flack from the folks still in the building and had a very terse conversation with the management there about making the space vulnerable and unattractive. Well, it is a warehouse and you can easily redo the windows with your own plywood. As the months advanced, Vau de Vere had many other issues to deal with in the space, and eventually were asked to leave by the developers who planned to build the largest condo building in the Mission.

The CELLspace Metal Shop’s “Metal Mural” proved to be the hardest mural to rehome. Built by about 6 artists as a means to bring energy and renewal to a struggling nonprofit, I began to curate the building murals thanks to Tony Verma of the Metal Shop. They had intentionally designed the window-coverings to house panels of art in spaces at the bottom, and Tony wanted stencils for the first show. I had taken a huge step back from CELLspace at the time, but returned specifically to organize and curate what became the only art show for the Metal Mural: Stencilada. I ended up keeping the exterior walls full of murals on almost no budget until the beginning of the end of CELLspace.

What to do with about 8 “panels” of rusting, pointy, sharp metal art? I reached out to Tony and his wife Jane. Jane, one of the co-creators of the art, ended up getting a full vote of confidence from all the other artists to decide the Metal Mural’s fate. I helped her get media attention about the panels needing a new home, and there were at least 4 different offers to rehouse the work. Jane ended up going with the Midway’s offer, because the art would still be in the public eye in the Mission District.

More media outreach ensued, and  in Sept. of 2015 Mission Local sent journalists with a video camera to document the take-down of the metal panels, as well as the move to the new space. The news blog sat on the video for a year while the Bryant street development went through many hoops and protests and squattings and evictions and redesigns and meetings. Finally, as the “Beast on Bryant” development cleared its last hurdle, the video was released this week.

I don’t think I’ve been back to the space since I was recorded taking down these panels. Watching my small bit on the final cut, I got emotional all over again hearing my 2015 self talking about the Metal Mural being one of my last connections to CELLspace. It was indeed another step away from what once was a place I loved on 2050 street.

Months ago, Jane Verma sent me photos of the Metal Mural at the Midway. They had set it up in a way that was temporary but creative. Jane was happy, which has always been the bottom line for rehousing this art. As the artist, she had the final say in the fate of the panels. I was there to help her physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Taking down the CELLspace logo above the door was a strikingly hyperreal symbol of my final creative deed at that location. Since then, I’ve barely looked back and I really hope I never see the new building that the Podell corp. builds. It’ll be a new reality and a new unfolding history that I do not want to be a part of.

Craig Baldwin has roped me in.

Howdy! I’m Russell and I’m a South Carolina native. My roots are all over the Palmetto State, but I’ve called San Francisco home since 1997. After I moved here, I created this very site, which I called a fake travel agency, as a way to entice my Carolina friends and cousins to come out and see me.

If you’re from South or North Carolina, and were lucky enough to get a rare ticket to the Super Bowl, welcome to San Francisco. I don’t think this city compares to any city back home, and you will certainly see more protesting (and here) than you ever have (we aren’t that happy with our mayor, SFPD chief, and all the apparent corruption that helped build these new, shiny skyscrapers). Once you’ve been to Super Bowl City – which is NOT local SF – I thought I’d give you all a list of San Franciscan-related Carolina tourist sites to visit during all that other time you have on your hands. They’re mostly connected to South Carolina. I’m sorry to say that North Carolina gets the short end of the stick here in the City by the Bay.

First, let me go ahead and warn you that most Californians have NO IDEA that there are even TWO Carolinas. And you’ll have to tell folks you’re from the Southeast, because coming from the South in Northern California means you live in Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. And don’t expect to find any decent sweet iced tea here either. A few places get close, but I make my own if I want the real, teeth-aching deal.

OK. Let’s get to some fun, quirky, out-of-the Super Bowl City/Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf, Carolina-related places for you to drag your lazy ass around to if you’re here for the Super Bowl:

  1. The Moultrie Flag. Above the knobby trees in Civic Center Plaza in front of our City Hall (It’s bigger than the state house in Columbia!), fly 18 early-American flags. Look for the blue flag, which Colonial soldiers flew when they protected Sullivan’s Island from the British. After our beloved palmetto was added, this became the South Carolina state flag.
  2. San Francisco has a Carolina Street. You can get there by hopping on the outbound Fillmore bus from 16th St. Mission BART. Not much to tell you about Carolina Street, other than it was most likely named after a battleship. City planners probably didn’t want to confuse folks with both a North and South Carolina Street, so this is what you’ll get. As for something to do nearby, there’s Thee Parkside and Bottom of the Hill. Bottom of the Hill is one of my favorite music venues in the city, complete with gig art, funky decor, and beer.
  3. Anton Refregier‘s amazing murals in the Rincon Annex (near Super Bowl City) show the history of California. There’s one specific panel that always makes me think of South Carolina: “Riot Scene/Civil War Days (1848).” A plaque at the site says it all: “Panel #18. During the Civil War, San Francisco split their allegiances between pro slavery Senator William M.Gwin and Union supporter, Senator David C.Broderick. This controversy over slavery led to violence, feuds, and shootings, but no major clashes. Sentiment went towards the Union after Lincoln was elected. California’s predominantly Yankee population went on to support the Northern economy with products such as gold, wool and wheat.” Extra points: If you find anything in SF named after Gwin, I’ll buy you a lottery ticket! Extra Fact: FoundSF has an essay describing a “sharp rebuke” in the U.S. Congress by Broderick against pro-slavery South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond. Turning Hammond’s words around, Hammond suggested that the working class could rise up against the “aristocratic slave owners.”
  4. Homesick for a Meat and Three? There are two places I’ll tell you about: The first is Brenda’s, which has several locations here in the city. Brenda is from Louisiana, so the food is authentic. I don’t like their flavored sweet tea though. Then there’s Hard Knox, which gives you huge Carolina-sized portions. I like their fried chicken.
  5. The Banker’s Heart, 555 California Street. In front of the former home of Bank of America, which you all know is now headquartered in Charlotte, NC, sits a cold, dark sculpture by Masayuki Nagare. Locals see the stone mound as the symbol that counters the optimism of the bull sculpture in New York City. Every April 1, costumed revelers remind themselves how stupid capitalism is by throwing their own money at the sculpture. Do the same and pray for a quickening of the looming fall of the Silicon Valley unicorns.
  6. You know who Tyler Florence is, right? An Upstate boy from Greenville County (I met him a few times back in high school), Tyler became a superstar chef and decided to call the Bay Area his home. Don’t expect to see him anywhere. Tyler’s become a bit reclusive; he doesn’t have his own website or Facebook page. And his Wikipedia page is out of date. Guess he’s focusing on the sweet family life up in the North Bay. Here in the city, you can get some more fried chicken at his Wayfair Tavern in the Financial District. It isn’t too far from the Super Bowl City mayhem. I can’t remember if they have good sweet tea.
  7. Hall McAllister statue, Civic Center (right around the corner from the Moultrie flag). OK, Hall McAllister isn’t from either Carolina state, but he was born in Savannah, GA. That’s close enough! Other than being one of the first Federal judges in California, he must’ve been well-loved enough to have a street named after him. He’s facing all the major courts, as well as Hastings Law, reminding them to uphold the law.

That’s it! I have racked my brain for more Carolina-related items here in San Francisco. If you know any, please let me know. Maybe I’ll see you around the next time I head back to the Upstate. Until then, good luck at Santa Clara, enjoy the protests if you see them (hell, why not join in… when in Rome…), and Go Panthers.


Various Works: 2050 Bryant, CELLspace
SF Weekly, Know Your Street Art by Jonathan Curiel

Icy & Sot, with Regan “Ha Ha” Tamanui (Photo in situ; panel taken down prior to destruction of CELLspace.)

On a wall just inside the building formerly known as CELLspace, an artwork delivers a defiant message: “NOT for Sale!” But the message is a lie — the building, whose exterior walls once featured some of the best street art in San Francisco, was sold and is slated for development. Last summer, two volunteers — artist Russell Howze and art editor Annice Jacoby — took down much of the outside art and put it in storage for temporary safekeeping. What’s left on the walls are stickers, tagging, and remnants of art — including faces of Native American men, a monkey with a sign imagining a battle between two well-known street artists (“Hektad vs. Banksy”), and an impressive work by muralist Joel Bergner. Even in its current state, 2050 Bryant’s art potpourri inspires passers-by to take photographs for posterity.

But what about the art that was taken down? Howze, whose own CELLspace work is among the preserved art, and Jacoby are trying to find a patron who will buy the works and display them again. The art includes Bergner’s De Frontera a Frontera, a lyrical, red-splashed work about haves and have-nots in the Dominican Republic, and Icy and Sot’s collaboration with Regan “Ha Ha” Tamanui, Super Hero with Portraits, which has a caped boy standing alongside a gallery of orange-tinged smiling faces.

Though two art collectors outside of San Francisco have expressed interest in buying the works, Jacoby — the former director of performing arts public events at UC Santa Cruz, and the editor of the book Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo — says that, “Ideally, they would remain in San Francisco. They’re part of San Francisco’s fabric. We’re seeking a place where the art will be appreciated, maintained, and available to the public on a long-term basis.”

CELLspace existed from 1996 to 2012, when the art center attracted a roving band of upcoming and veteran artists from San Francisco and around the world. The space is now rented out for parties, yoga classes, art instruction, and the like. CELLspace’s demise hit a lot of people hard. By preserving the work that people once took for granted, Jacoby and Howze are trying to keep the center’s exterior — and its spirit of “anything goes” — alive, even when the red brick building completely disappears as a place of artistic pilgrimage. Jonathan Curiel

Eight-Panel Metal Mural Needs a New Home

By Andrea Valencia, for Mission Loc@l

Stencilada freshly installed (2009)

CELLspace moved from its warehouse on Bryant Street in 2012 leaving behind a mural like no other in the Mission: a large metal structure that spans elegantly across the building’s front windows. It now needs to find a new owner.

Some half-dozen local artists carefully planned and built the copper and steel mural in 2008.

“There was an old façade here, and we wanted it to be different and nicer –unified,” said Jane Verma, one of the artists who added the spiky steel, grass-like element to the mural that was built in the warehouse space.
“There used to be ugly and unwelcoming screens here,” said Russell Howze, an artist and CELLspace volunteer for many years who organized the first art show meant to be displayed with the mural.

When the volunteer-run art collective CELLspace left the building almost three years ago,  Inner Mission took up its legacy, but it is now being pushed out by the new development coming to the block bordered by Bryant and Florida between 18th and 19th Streets.

With the inevitable new development, the metal mural will have to be relocated by May.

Howze, the author of Stencil Nation, has been rescuing  the murals left behind in Cellspace that were still in good shape.  With the help of Annice Jacoby, the editor of Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo,  he has managed to find buyers for some of them.

As for the metal mural, Verma is firm about wanting to “keep it in San Francisco. We’d like it to continue to be seen by the public, not on someone’s yard,” she said.

“The developer is interested in art,” Verma said, but the mural might not relate to use project.

Howze said that “this one is the hardest one to save, but the worthiest one.”

It’s not just one big piece of metal, but eight intricate panels. Aharon Bourland designed a bold graffiti pattern in red copper that runs throughout the panels. The copper patina gives the rusty mural a rainbow-like effect.

Tony Verma and Hikari Yoshihara worked on the dripping circles and stones that appear to build in size.  The fabrication of the mural took about a year, during which time Tom Phillips and Corey Best, CELLspace volunteers,  helped.

Each one of the eight panels is 10 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide. The central panel designed for the main entrance, which still holds the words CELLspace, is wider. There is also a narrower panel designed for a side door. Removable plywood planters were added on each of the panels.

“I’m impressed the mural stayed for as long as it did,” said Verma. The only missing part in the mural so far is the L in CELLspace.

Howze said the idea of breaking the mural into pieces and handing them out as mementos was discussed among volunteers, but Verma and Howze prefer to keep it one piece.

Unique to this mural’s structure is the space designed underneath each main panel –a space designed to be a street art gallery.

“It was meant to have artwork underneath,” said Howze, who launched the first art show with the opening of the metal mural in March 2008.  “We had an opening with an art show, Stencilada,” he said.

Today, stencils can still be seen throughout the metal mural. Next door, panels of murals have been taken down and put in storage because tagging took over the artwork on the warehouse walls, said Howze.

Anyone interested in acquiring the metal mural, get in touch with Jane Verma at:

Almost March and no posts for the new year. I have felt eyes upon all corners of my privacy so haven’t felt too inspired to spend time staring at a screen and writing. I don’t know what think. My mind is blown. I have become introverted. I deleted email accounts. Changed passwords (so many hacked bank and store sites). Have a 2D avatar. If anything, stencils. Meeting up with friends has become important.

With gentrification comes cameras. Cameras on MUNI buses (at least 4, one pointing out the windshield, with one purpose: get evidence and write tickets for cars that park in bus stops). Cameras on bikes (thanks GoPro). Cameras on sidewalks in front of condos, and people constantly staring at cameras -er – cell phones.

The eye stares far and wide!

I am currently reading Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide” and the book’s statements make me furious. It’s a hard book to read. Fucking NSA! I never thought I’d feel a generation gap, but I feel one now. The Gen Web young adults have a very different idea of what privacy is. And I guess I like to keep it old school, i.e., “butt out of my private life.” Read the rest of this entry »

More awesome graphics appearing promoting Mr. Nobody’s Spookeasy. This nice poster is by Casey Castille. Looking forward to being part of the puppet cast for this run.


I was backing up my computer yesterday (you all back up your files, right???) and saw a great photo of some black light fun with the Professor at the 2013 Edwardian Ball. While paying more attention to this blog, I realized that I didn’t have any photos of my prop manipulations of the recent past….

Edwardian Ball puppet magic

Mystic Midway 2013 at the Edwardian Ball

This was an ensemble performance so I cannot recall which floating object is in my hand. This is a great photo though!  Read the rest of this entry »

For the past year, I have been scaling back my online presence. This includes deleting email addresses, unsubscribing to lists, ending social site profiles, and now – taking down Since the site went live in 2008 after the Manic D Press book was released, it stood as the site least updated (Stencil Archive is always first).

Antonio Gomez did an awesome job with the Flash animation, which was standard back then. Now the standard is anything that works on an iPhone or iPad (HTML5, CSS, Java), which is NOT Flash. I never had a static version of the site that mobile devices could default to, and I didn’t want to update the site here in 2014. I still see Flash sites but they don’t work on phones, which is what everyone uses now.

The book is now out of print [Nope. Fourth print still in print and available]. It had four successful printings and Manic D’s Jen Joseph always has good things to say about the book. I haven’t sold a copy via the site in months. I may have sold ONE copy last year when I sent someone to the site.

I still have copies left for sale! 

The address now redirects to the mothership Stencil Archive. You can still buy a book via PayPal on the Stencil Archive site. You can also buy a copy via this site.

At some point I may put the Flash site back up on this site for archival fun, much like I do for the 2004 version of For now, I am keeping it simple. One less site to pay for, worry about, and update.

Old School pic of Frank “12 Galaxies” Chu.

Leon lookin’ mean at Cell.

Ooooh…. 2004. Blogs were exploding. Flash drives were a rarity. Bush’s wars drug on. And good ole’ Happy Feet was on the webstreams. With the recent backing up and rooting around the site, I realized that I still keep a copy of the old version of this site (I call it 2.0) up and running. That’s Jacqueie Ben-Eliezer in the masthead (RIP), Frank “12 Galaxies” Chu with the sign, and Mr. Leon Rosen looking all mean with the sticky note (that says “Leon has a posse”). There’s also my fun “@bomb” favicon, the secret <3 (did emoticons exist in ’04?) link on the masthead, and links to all the other pages I had running at the time. Once blog tech got easy to install and use, I basically took the same themes and used them as categories on this version (WP v3.0). Guess this is my #TBT post a day late….

Stencil Nation on Cross Currents (2009)
(Click link to access player)

I’m in the process of saying farewell to The book is officially out of print (Manic D Press has corrected me, stating that the fourth printing is still in print) and the website was designed (by Antonio Gomez) in the heady days when Adobe Flash was du jour. With the rise of mobile phones and HTML5 (and the whole responsive site mania), it is time to retire the Stencil Nation site and redirect to Stencil Archive (the mothership).

While backing up Stencil Nation one last time, I saw a random mp3 file on the top level of the site’s backend. I clicked listen and it was a Cross Currents interview I did while on the book tour. It was a great experience and it actually riled up a listener who felt that all public art was vandalism. Fun!

I guess I was worried about taking up too much memory back then. Good thing the cloud revolution caught up and now memory is practically infinite. The interview mp3 is on this site’s cloud, and WordPress even allows super easy linking via its “Add Media” button.

Here’s my original post about the interview:

Had a great bike ride over to the KALW studio near McClearen Park this morning and interviewed with Penny Nelson for Cross Currents. The engineer, a bike commuter, told me another route that sent me through the park and then down Mission St. in the Excelsior District. Found some stencils along that ride home! They posted the show early so here’s the goods. Fast forward in about 3 and a half minutes to hear my segment. About 10 minutes long total.

I’m going to miss bike commuting the first few blocks of Sansome St. in San Francisco’s Financial District. That’s right – the nonprofit that I work for is going to move to downtown Oakland in the next three months. We are fleeing the booming high-rent space ($52/square foot in our current building) in order to grow and have the extra funds to support the growth. I may write more about my first ever desk job in Oakland, but for now – the poetic chaos of Sansome Street.

The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.

The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.

I frequently discuss traffic with a friend who happens to drive for Lyft (and Uber) and write freelance. During one of these discussions, I shared a story about how an Uber limo driver decided to drive around a Muni bus and the three cars stuck behind it. You may see a driver make this maneuver in other parts of San Francisco. On Sansome St., the Uber driver drove into the oncoming lane, into a gridlocked intersection, and only had an option of turning right (Muni buses can turn left and then zag right onto Market St. while all other traffic must turn right onto Sutter St.). Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween with Mr. Nobody

Author: Russell

The Spookeasy Website is UP!

Mr. Nobody's Spookeasy, Halloween 2014!

Mr. Nobody’s Spookeasy, Halloween 2014!

Just a teaser for now: Over the past few years I’ve been working with Scott Levkoff making very fun adult-themed puppetry events. This is only a sliver of the fantastic vision that Scott has for interactive play, but I have been a minion for his swamp-god Mr. Nobody (black light puppetry… a dream fulfilled at last!), Mr. Nobody himself (and VERY hungry), as well as animated black-light objects, and part of an “animatronic” puppet fortune-telling bit. It’s always a pleasure to work with Scott, so always hard to say no to his invitations.

Coming up, I will be animating objects/puppets for Scott at :::: The first-ever San Francisco Spookeasy Halloween Extravaganza is a new, daring, bold and sophisticated multi-evening experiential destination party that will transform Chinatown’s Great Star Theatre into a scintillating circus-like, madcap séance soiree beckoning back to life ghosts, spirits, and specters from the raucous and rollicking red hot era of 1930’s Burlesque and Barbary Coast Vaudeville in a decadently opulent Max Fleischer-esque ‘ToonTown’ parallel universe’s haunted Prohibition-era Speakeasy.

Sounds fun, right?! More details and pics coming in the following weeks….