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.
Various Works: 2050 Bryant, CELLspace SF Weekly, Know Your Street Art by Jonathan Curiel
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
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: email@example.com
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….
Had a great time for a few hours with this journalist and her crew. I chose CELLspace to give a tour and film the shots. Good to see some final clips of murals that have already been taken down before the wrecking ball takes the rest. On and off camera, I spoke of my reservations with the share economy. Called it a euphemism as well as a warning about how one sees work and the ways that the share economy’s work ethic leaks into personal and private time. I also spoke on how AirBNB does NOT pay into the Hotel Tax Fund, which funds the arts here in San Francisco.
Watching this piece, with almost no French comprehension, feels fluffy. Maybe the butterfly and flower animations gave it away. Those are still beautiful shots of the art at CELLspace. And the journalist and crew were very nice, lefty Europeans.
Almost to the day today, I arrived in San Francisco in 1997 with two suitcases (one full of camping gear) and a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish in the City by the Bay. The words that kept bouncing around in my head were: diversity, creativity, and adventure. I had no idea there as a dot com boom and that the vacancy rate was under 1%. I didn’t even know what a vacancy rate was! I did know that I wanted to be part of something amazing, and if possible, somehow create amazing cultural bits that others enjoyed.
In 1998, I started volunteering for CELLspace, which at the time was a funky underground artist warehouse with folks who had a similar vision that the one I was chewing on. Years later, I tried to move on and open my time and life up to other amazing projects. So CELL got put on the backburner, until 2008. That was a crucial year for CELL, now a nonprofit with paid employees. While on the road touring for the book and for the Conscious Carnival, word started getting back to me that CELL was financially imploding. I wasn’t surprised.
Then I got a call from Jane and Tony Verma, two long-time Metal Shop artists, asking me to help them curate a stencil exhibit on the facade of CELL. Things were bad at the time and CELL’s doors were shut (all the employees and most of management were very far away from the space) due to no one being there to maintain and run things. But the Metal Shop was still holding their cluster together. The Metal Shop designed and built an amazing metal window-covering mural, complete with space in the bottom for showing art. They had reached out to a few artists in Stencil Nation, but needed more. Stencilada was born, and thus began my final run of volunteering for CELL. Continue reading “Farewell CELLspace; Farewell Murals”
Written by Devin Holt (I pitched in with info, editing, and whatnot)
CELLspace, community arts center, closed its doors at the end of 2012.
During the late 90s and early aughts, there was no better place to see the Mission District’s artistic, multicultural vibe than CELLspace. San Francisco prankster Chicken John was known to decorate the 10,000 square foot warehouse as a Las Vegas casino; the Flaming Lotus Girls created their first large scale fire installations in the CELLspace Metal Shop, and during Carnaval, the space would burst at the seams from the ritual drumming, colorful rattling costumes and sheer number of teenagers involved in groups like Loco Bloco and Danza Azteca.
Michael Sturtz was so impressed by CELLspace that he named his industrial arts school, The Crucible, after their art gallery.
Over the past week, Paz de la Calzada brought her charcoal to CELL and drew on the curved green wall in the Main Space. She has been drawing strands and I got to know her down on Market Street at her charcoal piece on The Strand Theater (which was recently purchased by ACT and will become a 300 seat house for shows that are too small for their Geary theater).
Paz was not working these past few weeks, so she gave her talents and vision to CELL for free. This is really the only way I can get art on the walls at Bryant Street. I do it for the love and others seem to be into sharing it for their love as well. Paz did the interior piece in a day. Today, before SpaceCraft, she showed up with a charcoal drawing on paper. I hauled out the tall ladder and she climbed up and pasted it on the wall near 2060 Bryant (ACT’s prop shop). It is small and delicate: tiny strands coming out of the brickwork. It will only be noticed by people who look for art surprises in urban space. Might be you!
UPDATE: Paz came back after a bit of rain and wheat pasted a 3 foot long charcoal strand onto the Bryant St. facade of CELL. Here’s a pic she snapped up, added to the other photos below. (4/15/2012)
Back in 2003, a major shift had happened at CELLspace. Events had been shut down and a large group of volunteers had pretty much left 2050 Bryant to start the Mission Market back on Florida Street. Tensions were high, people were burned out, and CELL needed to pay rent. CELL had had one of its few retreats to try to reform the regroup after many caretakers left in a huge pile of animosity. Then the war in Iraq started. We had all been protesting to not start this war and most of us saw the meta-narrative of CELL’s plight as that of the world’s.
I was personally down about the war and CELL. I’d backed off a bit to take a break, but I was answering the info email address (because no one else was). Since 1996, CELLspace has inspired many people to start their own space. There’s the Crucible, the Box Shop, and many others. From time to time, people would stop by to study CELL. And we would get emails asking about how to start a space. At the time I was answering info@cellspace, I got an email from Bucketworks in Milwaukee, WI (now in its 9th year!!). They were starting up a space and had great questions about how to do it. They caught me at a time where I must’ve been ready to talk raw and candidly about what was going on at CELL.
CELL had just turned 7 when the email arrived. I had just finished co-producing the Funky Puppet Supper, which was an amazing show that touched on CELL’s plight and the plight of war with Iraq. I pulled the original emails off of the Oblio hard drive last week, and decided, for CELL’s 16th Birthday (this Spring Equinox), to post it on here in its entirety. It is emotional, raw, unedited (well, I did take out a few bits that were too personal). It is a great snapshot of how I saw CELL back in 2003.
I had no help in answering the questions. I did not answer this based upon any horizontal process. So do not expect this to be the definitive angle on what was happening at the time. Remember, I was going to CELL meetings with about 3 other people while about 12 people were meeting and running the Mission Market. And a group of workers had left the space. These were hard times.
Being a lover of history, I cannot pass up adding the following Q&A about CELL to my Month of Blog. Happy 16th birthday CELLspace! So many amazing and intense memories.
My mural curating continues in 2012. Late last week I had three meetings about three different murals. I also have been in contact with Dia, the artist who painted the “Liberty” mural (now for sale) as well as the “Dia del Toro” mural over on the ACT shop entrance. Dia is going to paint a new mural at the ACT spot as soon as the weather cooperates.
Last Thursday, I met with Ray Balberan and artist Carlos Gonzalez. Mentioned in an earlier post, several panels from the 1980s RAP mural “Education is Liberation” magically appeared in the back of CELL. I took the panels, contacted the journalist at Mission Loc@l, and Ray finally met with me and Gonzalez to pick up the panels. Ray and Carlos were extremely happy to see the panels. Most of what has been found show gang banger skeletons committing violence. Though the message was education is the way out of the hood, the art is still quite powerful and a historical representation of the Mission District in the 80s.
Then I met with Paz de la Calzada to discuss her painting at a few spots at CELL. She will paint either wisps of hair or roots on the curved wall of the women’s bathroom as well as somewhere on the exterior walls of CELL (possibly the sidewalks). Then I met with Cy Wagoner to discuss the continued concept of the Native American themed wall at the 2048 Bryant entrance. I think we have an idea of how to move forward on this. The mural will possibly incorporate stencil, wheatpasted paper, free spray, and maybe other styles. If the rain ever stops.
Finally, Tito na Rua from Rio, Brazil stayed briefly at 2048. He does great street comics on walls. The Vexta stencil had been defaced by a tag, so I had Tito spray up his characters next to Meggs’s crazy SF monster. Looks great.