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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m in the process of saying farewell to StencilNation.org. 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.
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.
HappyFeet’s sister site, Stencil Archive, continues to thrive amongst the street art webstreams. HappyFeet began in 2002 when my stencil photograph selection grew to a point where I felt the need to scan and upload to share and share alike. Last week, Stencil Archive saw the 20,000th uploaded photo, which has been dwarfed in size by corporate sites like Flickr. Back in 2002, a simple Google search brought up maybe 6 sites, none of which were covering the growing, pre-Banksy scene. Stencil Archive met the need and many sites soon followed. Now they are all vaguely “street art” sites. Stencil Archive is still 100% all about stencils!
While the photo uploads ticked to 20k, I was working on a site redesign with Justin Fraser at Mission Web Works. No one buys computers or laptops anymore, right? Then why the hell isn’t Stencil Archive easy to see and navigate for all the smart phones and tablets out there? Justin and I took care of this major barrier to enjoying the site. Apple’s Jony Ive really pumped up the flat design craze with iOS7, so I redid the Stencil Archive logo, favicon, and homepage icon (yep, you can save a cool app-like button on your phone’s homepage to easily access the stencils) for this 2014 reboot. Continue reading “Stencil Archive: redesigned for tablets n phones”
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”
Russell Howze describes his tour as a “three hour zigzag through the Mission District.” For fans of street art, or anyone curious about the changing city, it’s a zigzag worth taking. Howze has been chronicling the stencils, tags, murals and graffiti that decorate San Francisco for 15 years, and is the author of the street art tome Stencil Nation. His tour explores alleys that will be new to residents and tourists alike, and keeps an eye on the shifting cultural tides of the neighborhood. “Urban landscapes are always changing,” Howze said, pointing out that while many of the tech workers moving into the Mission appreciate street art, they also bring security cameras and fences.
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.
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.
16 December 2012
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 , 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.
You are reading a HappyFeet communique dated April 2, 2002
Topics discussed below:
++HappyFeetTravels.org relaunch April 1, 2002
++StencilArchive.org world premiere launch April 1, 2002
Hello digitravelers. You haven’t heard from HappyFeet since Sept. when Yair
Dalal performed a San Francisco World Remix concert for Peace in the Middle
East. How timely, considering the concert was on Sept. 6th
Here are two amazing announcements from H/F HQ
http://www.happyfeettravels.org/ has been redesigned. Phase I of V.02 is
now online and mostly bug-free. Some new items covered on V.02 are:
PUPPETS: the Bay Area Puppet Cluster is alive and well. Check out their
goings-on via our new puppet page.
SOUND: no mp3s up yet, but lots of concerts, dj’ing, etc. There will be
more performers and more sound added to this page in Phase II.
STENCILS: see message below
++From the old site++
LINKS: all the favorite links, now community-centered. Send a link if you
have one to post. More added in Phase II
CREATIONS: Extra art from HappyFeet
POLITICS: the Molotov Lounge is back in business with updated events posted
++BONUS TIP FOR H/F LIST: click on the HEART image on the homepage and get a
treat (a la Brain Tease from old version)
ANNOUNCING THE WORLD PREMIERE OF
Since 1995 stencil art has been a HappyFeet obsession. Now the obsession is
online for the world to share. Our mission is simple: create a tighter
stencil art community and watch it grow. Stencils from around the world are
posted on here, and will be added to frequently.
How to/FAQ will be updated frequently as well.
In Phase II, submission pics will be accepted and posted.
So welcome back to HappyFeet. Hope you’ve been thinking peaceful thoughts
while we were away. don’t be a stranger.