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.