Painting Eyes on the Street: Debut of SF’s Art in Storefronts Program

Art_Store_fronts_1.jpgArtist Chor Boogie puts the finishing touches on his mural at 1028 Market St. Photo: Matthew Roth

Building off Jane Jacob’s maxim that more eyes on a street make the street feel safer, the San Francisco Arts Commission has commissioned numerous artists to display their projects in abandoned storefronts as part of the Art in Storefronts program, and as the photo above illustrates, some of those eyes are literally watching you.

Rather than feeling any Orwellian tremors, I found the eyes mural, called The Color Therapy of Perception by Chor Boogie, and the other projects, such as Bayly and Miller’s Find Your self in Natural History, a warm and welcoming visual addition to an otherwise bleak stretch of plywood-covered store fronts along Market Street between 5th and 6th Streets. And I wasn’t alone. People stopped, took pictures, and shot video of the artists as they put the finishing touches on their work, in preparation for the official public launch ceremony this afternoon.

Fox_small.jpgFind Yourself in Natural History Mural. Photo: Bayly and Miller

Art in Storefronts is a complement to the Better Market Street traffic diversion pilot started by the MTA last month and seeks to enliven the aesthetic appearance of the street, turning a down economic situation into an opportunity to showcase the work of local San Francisco artists. Art in Storefronts already received national attention when Time Magazine referenced it as an innovation for combating "vacancy blight."

Art in Storefronts reaches beyond Market Street to several locations in the Tenderloin, the Mission, and the Bayview. It is a collaboration between the San Francisco Arts Commission,  Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Triple Base gallery, and the Department of Public Works (DPW). The pilot project will continue until at least February 1st, when its extension will be re-evaluated.

The Art Commission and the MTA’s new paintings in the Art in Kiosks program have also started showing up on Market Street, including beautiful watercolors by Pamela Wilson-Ryckman. The paintings depict subjects in various city parks, taken from archival photographs, which, according to Wilson-Ryckman, “suggest experiences of isolation and loneliness but also of affirmation within the densely populated city.” The Art in Kiosks program runs through December 31st.

A celebration featuring live bands will begin with an unveiling ceremony today from 5-7 pm at 989 Market Street (at 6th Street) followed by a reception next door (979 Market Street) where the public can pick up a map of the newly-transformed storefronts. The public will also have the opportunity to meet the artists who will be stationed at their installations discussing their work.

More of Chor Boogie’s mural and Kiosk watercolors after the jump.

art_in_store_fronts_2.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
art_in_stor_fronts_3.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
Wilson_Ryckman_2.jpgImage: SFAC
Wilson_Ryckman_1.jpgImage: SFAC
  • ive been watching these pieces go up over the past few weeks. they look pretty good. this part of the city really needs more of this kind of tlc and rat traps.

  • AMG

    Chor Boogie’s art is really wonderful presence on any city street, imo. Check out the 30′ x 60′ mural Chor did with 3 other artists recently in Toronto. Tremendous:

  • suzahna

    facade improvement programs are actually not anything new – redevelopment and economic development agencies have understood the value of combatting blight in this way for decades (as well as shopping mall managers). SF is just recently confronting issues that it hasn’t dealt with before. that being said, it’s exciting to see such a confluence of attention paid to our neglected main street.

  • zsolt

    I don’t know about this. For one, I actually don’t like murals. I just don’t. I like it when buildings have neat exteriors in different styles of architecture. I like trees and lanterns and such to round off the picture.

    My personal reaction to murals is that when I look at them, they tend to add to the already huge cacophony of visual overstimulation. A lot of them have a certain cartoonish, infantile element to them.

    The second from top picture above is very telling. No amount of murals will change that sorry, trist landscape, with the potholes, the neglected building finish, the anemic trees and of course the crowning achievement, the sign shouting “HOLLYWOOD BILLIARDS”. Classy. :-/

  • ZA


    You are fully entitled to your opinion, and I get to disagree with it completely. 🙂

    1. Aesthetics: I like trees and lanterns and the like too, but if that’s all you like, then Stepford-like Pleasanton is for you. San Francisco is urban, that means cacophonous visual stimulation, as well as natural beauty, as well as trees and lanterns and the like. Chinatown as governing aesthetic principle.

    2. Humanism: a place that is only trees and lanterns is often the expression of one vision for that place, and its people are as serfs, expected to maintain it. The ‘cacophony’ is actually a beautiful expression of the personal and the individual, and courageously shared for public appreciation and scorn. Given the proliferation of graffitti, I think the mural is a more constructive canvas for this impulse.

    3. Redevelopment: Mid-Market has enormous challenges, but inviting artists to make the most of its dregs is an important first step for rehabilitation. The alternative of the Big Plan (without that community engagement) threatens to aggravate community fault lines, as Japantown’s corporate construction did.

    As for ‘Hollywood Billiards’ – it’s a reminder of what was once a thriving mid-Market community, where the pool halls were part of a lively mix of music, drink, and yes, grubby honky-tonk. In trying to find a way forward, inviting people to start to express their visions for a place is a great idea.

  • zsolt

    Oh come on. Thanks for the Pleasanton comment. Sweet Jesus, I said “lantern” once, in a passing remark, but it seems to you this pigeonholed me into some sort of soulless suburban neat freak.

    I chose to buy a home in San Francisco for a reason even though it was much more expensive than Pleasanton. I grew up in some of the greatest cities of Europe so I’m not fresh off the train from Fresno. Been around cities long enough to have the confidence to say when something is butt-ugly or tacky and as far as I’m concerned, most murals fall in this category. An urban environment in fact does not have to include cacophony. When it does, people tend to dislike it and not take care of it well (yes, look at Chinatown). Lots of visual stimulation, yes, always. Public art, yes, if it is not throwaway and harmonizes well with its surroundings. But trying to cover ugliness with even LOUDER visuals is the wrong approach.

    I have a vision for this place too. For starters, remove the billiards sign and give the building a fresh paint job. The city has no money? Many places require the owners of vacant properties to maintain the buildings for a clean, non-deserted look. That to me includes NOT boarding up the property. I suppose there is no such law in SF or it’s unenforced, but to me requiring someone who owns a building in a community to keep it up to date seems common sense.


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