Posts Tagged ‘Stencil Nation’

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:

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. 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.

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 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.

In the Facebook worlds, posting all this stuff is instant, and friends find things and post them. I take the trouble to pull things off of there for the Stencil Archive, my own archives, etc. and then maybe, just maybe, post it on here. I forget that some friends don’t do Facebook! And I have to remind myself that this blog belongs to me, as opposed to a multi-billion dollar corporation that is currently dot com booming the Bay Area. This site is also a great, long archive of my life here in San Francisco.

So back in late January, Regan Ha-Ha Tamanui stopped over on his way back to New Zealand and Australia. He’d been traveling the world for a year, but got stuck in Berlin for eight months. How unlucky. I got him four walls here in SF, and he took my photo after a day of wandering around the Tenderloin looking at street art. He cut a stencil portrait out of that photo, as well as the photo he took of my friend Monica that evening in Hayes Valley.

Icy and Sot, expats from Iran who now live in Brooklyn (leave Iran to have a street art show, go back to Iran and get arrested for satanism) were driving through. They all took my tour and I got them two walls to paint on. Regan collaborated with them. Icy and Sot came back to SF for an art show at a Noise Pop concert. I missed it (always seem to miss the good art shows!).

Here are photos from early Feb, with the stencil portraits thrown in.

S.F. NEIGHBORHOODS Graffiti marring much of city’s street art – vandalism on the rise
Matthai Kuruvila
Published 4:54 pm, Thursday, December 27, 2012

Read more:

Muralists around San Francisco say that they’ve seen an increase in vandalism of murals by taggers, who are defacing the art with their monikers.
Vandals have wrecked murals from North Beach to the Tenderloin. In the city’s liveliest mural zone, the Mission District, muralists say it’s been particularly bad. Street paintings made in months have been ravaged in seconds.

“There’s been a very specific mural destruction going on,” said Russell Howze, a muralist and author who does street art tours of the Mission District. “There’s really no logic. I don’t know if there’s any organization or conspiracy behind it. More than anything, these murals are well-loved and huge amounts of time have gone into them.”

Vandals this year have defaced parts of the Mission District’s Clarion Alley, a 20-year-old street museum of murals. “Gold Mountain,” a North Beach mural depicting Chinese history, had to be repainted when the building owners couldn’t keep it free of graffiti.


The Mission District: San Francisco’s Street Art

16 December 2012
Hanna Wolf
From the Fair Observer (link here)

Street Art – The Fun Loving Criminals?
For many decades, street artists have made San Francisco’s Mission District one of the most colourful and fascinating places to see [7], mirroring the city’s vibrant multiculturalism and diversity.

We are walking through some of the stinkiest alleys in San Francisco, yet still tourists from all over the world come here to take pictures and admire the street art gallery surrounding them. Whether huge murals, stickers on the floor or graffiti: art is all around in this area of the city.

Our tour guide Russell Howze, who offers street art tours through the Mission District, has been walking through these alleys for 15 years, and still he discovers new pieces. “Once you train your eyes, it’s everywhere” is what he tells us as he points at a street light covered with almost torn off stickers and scribbled words, which would normally never catch someone’s eyes as art.

The Higher, the Better

Walking through Mission and Valencia Street we come across walls with both illegal and legal graffiti, stencils and other street art styles. Comics as well as posters and abstract pieces look down on us from the left as we try to read a graffiti on the right. Unlike in European metropolises, in San Francisco trains are no major hotspots for graffiti. The sprayers here prefer trucks instead and almost every truck we pass during the tour wears at least a small graffiti tag.


Original Article Here.

Russell Howze has been enthralled with the street art of San Francisco for decades. He can instantly recognize the work of the city’s most prominent graffiti artists, and knows which Mission District alleys house the most memorable pieces. Howze, a stencil artist himself, maintains a website dedicated to street art, and has written a book on the subject.

As a general rule, graffiti doesn’t pay; Howze is driven by his love of the art form, not by profits. But with the help of a new startup called Vayable, he’s beginning to turn his passion into a career as a tour guide, helping travelers discover the hidden artworks on city buildings and sidewalks. “It’s starting to pay a lot of the bills,” he says. As his reputation grows, he hopes he may be able to turn his street art curator side gig into a full-time job.

Vayable is an online platform that helps travelers find new experiences led by local guides. “The company was born out of my own experiences as a traveler,” says founder and CEO, Jamie Wong. “I love going off the beaten path when I travel, and friends started asking me to create experiences for them to replicate my trips. I built the company to expand beyond my own experiences, and help everyone find that sense of cross-cultural exploration.”

Vayable launched with 70 guides in April 2011, and customers began booking experiences within the first hour of going live. Since then, the company’s been growing at a rate of 30 percent each week.

In San Francisco, Howze’s three-hour street art tour of the Mission District is a top seller; other popular experiences in the region include a sommelier-guided tour of Northern California wineries; a fishing excursion in the San Francisco Bay; and a guided biking tour through the city.

The concept marks a sea change from the traditional tourism industry, which is dominated by large companies that stick to tried-and-true tourist attractions. Vayable is dedicated to giving its users choices in how they want to experience an area, encouraging them to follow their own passions in planning a trip.

Though some guides had been offering professional tours independently prior to working with Vayable, many are new to the field. “Many of our guides are everyday people with access to special knowledge, or a community or space. We’re giving anybody the tools to build and curate an experience out of their interests or passions,” says Wong.

Vayable allows guides to set the prices for their tours, collecting a 15% commission on confirmed bookings. “Many of the guides are supplementing their income in really significant ways,” says Wong. “They love the flexibility. They can have a day job and then follow their passion when they’re not at work and supplement their income through Vayable, to help them pay the bills or afford a trip.”

The company is now offering experiences in over 600 cities on six continents, and growing every day. “With technology, there’s a whole new way to connect,” says Wong. “We’re using these online connections to power offline interactions, and to help travelers and locals alike find meaningful ways to connect with new communities.”

During my 2008/9 Stencil Nation book tour, I set up an event with Matteo Grieder at his art space Zeitvertrieb in Vienna, Austria. Matteo was nervous about the turnout (a common anxiety during my European tour), but I had Pod and Austrian artist Dieter Puntigam backing me up with live VJ and DJing. A nice crowd came for my presentation, bought books, ate and drank, and made a great scene for the event. Matteo was surprised and happy with the results.

A month ago, Matteo approached me with a request for photo submissions to his fun art zine “Artyfucked”. It is mostly a sketch zine, but he also features street art from cities around the world. Issue #8 features my stencil photos (the cream of the crop) from SF. They mostly cover 2011’s greatest hits. He also put them all in an online album.

Support a great project and buy a copy of “Artyfucked” today!

Blek le Rat, the “godfather” of stencil graffiti commemorates 30 years creating art on the streets with the launch of new retrospective from Art Publishing, Ltd.

This retrospective features the artist’s private family photos, point and shoot images of his graffiti artwork from around the world, and full-color reproductions of his gallery pieces. The book is separated into two distinct sections: “Street Art” and “Fine Art,” both of which are augmented by the writing of celebrated scholars, critics, experts in relevant fields, fellow artists, journalists, collectors and gallerists. Lavishly illustrated with more than 200 images, “Blek le Rat,” the 30 year anniversary retrospective offers the first full history of this seminal artist’s tradition and legacy, featuring:

Come Wander With Me!

Author: Russell

SF Weekly Promotes My Tour

Author: Russell

Original blog post here.

Graffiti Guru Offers Street Art Tours


art by Get Up, Upper Haight St.

​No matter how cool you are, there’s still a pretty good chance that the only thing you know about street art is sometimes you come across it, and sometimes it’s amazing. Who did it? What’s behind it? Where can you see more? Who knows?

We do. Or, we know who knows: stencil artist Russell Howze. He’s the author of Stencil Nation, and he offers a three-hour, small-group tour called Scout for Street Art. Howze just started giving these tours two weeks ago, and promises to provide “expert explanations, stories, and background for most of the art that constantly changes on the streets.” And he’s not joking about the “expert” part.

Russell Howze

​Howze has dedicated his life to street art, especially stencils, and he knows a lot about the S.F. street art scene. “I have this particular affinity for San Francisco street art,” Howze says, “especially Mission district — there’s something really special and magical about it.”

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Howze has lived in San Francisco since 1997. Since he saw his first stencil in 1990 in Clemson, S.C., Howze has been photographing the public art in places around the world. In 2002 he created an online stencil archive, which features tens of thousands of photos of stencils. Stencil Nation, published in 2008, is the paperback extension of his site, documenting 350 artists in 28 countries.

Howze does not have a fixed schedule for his tour — you can just sign up by yourself or in a group ($37) per person and state your preferred times. The tour is run through Vayable, a company that draws on locals to give their own tours. Anyone can sign up to offer a tour, and Vayable acts as the conduit, handling bookings and payments. Vayable operates worldwide, and as one might expect, it offers numerous S.F. tours, including horseback riding on Ocean Beach, a used bookstore crawl, and a potentially perilous “Whiskey on Wheels” tour.

Vayable hosts a mixer called “A Vayable Idea” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Galeria de la Raza, where Howze will start the night with a 10-minute talk, “The Present Future of Street Art.” The event is free, but you can register here.