Welcome to The Tenderloin Zoo

Typically after, “vibrant”, “shithole”, and “OC Shores”, the most common adjective used for the Tenderloin is “zoo”. A local stencilographer decided to run with that and bomb the neighborhood, especially this bit at Leavenworth & Turk which is admittedly ground zero for a great deal of the insanity. Carry on kind street artist, but feel free to expand your animal kingdom horizons. For instance, might a zebra or penguin tossed in to the mix?

The Veteran’s Mural Project in Shannon Alley

Shannon Alley, between Geary & O’Farrell and Jones & Taylor, doesn’t have the best of reputations–or the best of odors. In fact, since there are a couple of vacant buildings just around the corner on O’Farrell it is often used as a toilet or as a place for homeless people to sleep. As it turns out many of those homeless people are veterans, as photographer Amos Lee Gregory Jr. discovered while spending many nights in the neighborhood photographing them between November 2010 and April 2011.

During that time Gregory came up with the idea of a mural project in Shannon Alley to allow veterans to express themselves and tell their own story. A veteran himself of the Naval Submarine Service, Gregory is a founding member of the SF Veterans Art guild. He’s been frustrated that so much art about veterans and war is created by artists who themselves are not veterans of any American conflict. So, he wanted to give a voice to the American veterans regardless of their discharge status, sexual orientation, length of service, branch of service, race, language or national origin. In March 2011 he photographed Rigo‘s “Truth” a mural on Market Street by the UN Plaza during a protest marking the 8th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. This photograph has inspired many Veterans of all backgrounds to speak about their experiences in the US military and about peace, and it seems to have been the driving force to start this mural project.

As reported by the Veteran Artists blog, the first section of the mural was started on October 24th, with a tribute by Brian Parker to his friend Chip Santos who survived the Iraq war but then committed suicide as a result of PTSD. Parker, who now resides in South Dakota, was flown to San Francisco by Gregory from his own pocket as he wants this mural to be part of the veterans’ healing process. Gregory hand-painted a quote by Vietnamese philosopher Thicht Nhan Han, that you can see on the right of the picture below:

Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation.
If Veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war.
And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.

Yesterday evening when I passed by the alley Gregory was working on a new section of the mural that is going to depict a little girl he met and photographed in 2002 in Havana, Cuba. He doesn’t know her name or if she’s ok, but he’s hoping to find her one day. Another section of the mural was being painted by a homeless veteran who usually likes hanging out in the alley and who is in need of medical attention. His name is David Wickham and the mural is giving him an opportunity to express himself in a way he never gets the chance to do.

Gregory said he’s hoping the project will create a dialogue between veterans and the community at-large to “help facilitate healing and promote the concept of universal peace”. These might seem like very ambitious goals, but in just a few minutes of hanging out by the mural I saw several people approching him and sharing their stories. Such as faithful Tender reader Reyeuro, who as it turns out is a Vietnam veteran. Also, the owner of the store at the corner of Geary and Shannon explained that her dad was in their army as well and she became an orphan at 12 so this mural is very close to her heart.

If you want to see Gregory in Shannon Alley talking about the mural, here’s a video by the #OccupySF team.

The SF Vets mural project is an open project and they welcome all suggestions and contributions. They’re also asking anyone who knows of a veteran who has touched their lives or is a veteran themselves to contact them via their website or their Facebook group to request a mural concept in honor of a deceased veteran. Or if you are a veteran and want to do one yourself in the alley with them, they’ll be happy have you.

And since it’s Veteran’s Day today, you should also read this story on The Bold Italic featuring a few post 9/11 veterans in San Francisco.

Occupy your Mind and/or the Alley

Uptown Almanac hit this new mural tossed up on Hemlock the other day by Ezra Li Eismont. We’re only getting around to it now as a salute to election day and because well, we were too lazy to do it earlier. Probably need to start aiming to have breakfast before noon.

If you liked these murals, Ezra Li Eismont has a show at Space Gallery opening this Saturday, November 12th, 7-12pm.

Hugh Leeman Art for #OccupySF

Here are a couple of murals by Tenderlocal street artist Hugh Leeman created in support of the #OccupySF movement. We found them quite cool, so just wanted to share them here. The woman with the cat that inspired the first one can often be seen in Mid-Market.

The title of this piece is David vs. Goliath and it can be seen on 18th street and South Van Ness.

Have you seen ghosts, dead people lately?

Maybe you’ve seen the picture of this beautiful and mysterious woman plastered around the neighborhood (with the dates October 28, 1915 – December 23, 1986). And on Sunday maybe you even saw the ghosts in the background. Well, as it turns out it was all part of a special tour organized by Amy Lewis and commissioned by Meridian Gallery in Union Square Tenderloin East for its 100th anniversary celebration.

Although the tour was basically an itinerary of some luxury hotels on California Street and SRO hotels in the Tenderloin, there were a few interesting tidbits along the way — illustrated with surprise appearances of performers. In Huntington Park, for example, Arabella Huntington illustrated her family history while some sunbathers sporting tiny bikinis watched with confused looks. In the vicinity of Grace Cathedral a few dead brides stood with an air of sadness, while one was running away (apparently brides routinely get stood up in that church).

Further down the hill, a pack of ghosts followed the tour participants, and at various points around the Tenderloin a couple seemed to be trying to rescue each otherunsuccessfully. At the last stop, the Clift Hotel, Lewis revealed who the woman in the posters we saw around the neighborhood was: her grandmother, who died in her sleep while staying at the hotel.

Apparently Lewis is developing a larger project consisting of walking tours in different San Francisco neighborhoods coupled with performances (in theaters or galleries) based on the history and architecture of the neighborhood in question. In this particular tour she said she chose to walk in both Nob Hill and the Tenderloin because of the economic and culture difference between the two, and it was intended to be a snapshot of the cultural and economic diversity that is seen from neighborhood to neighborhood, or sometimes block to block. In any case, as you can see in the pictures, it was quite entertaining.

Privacy? Forget it

We keep passing this sign on the 500 block of Sutter and several TenderReaders nudged up awhile back with the shot you see above. While way outside the Tenderloin and even a bit out out Tenderloin Heights, we thought we’d share it because well, it’s sorta true, even if you’re not on Facebook.

Ignorance is strength

A couple of years ago, a middle-aged and quite liberal father of a friend of mine was bemoaning having voted for Schwarzenegger at a dinner. Everyone around the table set down their salad forks and said a unanimous, “What the fuck?” I realized at that point, we are really, really under-evolved species because if someone says, “I vant to open up da bookz and let da sun shine in” and you believe that this will somehow fix the state budget problems, then there really is little hope.

I believe that in the above piece, the creator is trying to say, “we don’t know dick” in a more succinct kind of way. I don’t think this is meant to be one of those “genius” Obama is Hitler posters (another sign of how we’re generally fucked) although I have to admit I’m not blown away by the font choices, albeit that is totally subjective.

Someone hates EINE

It’s obvious that we like what EINE does as we mentioned previously. But, apparently, those who don’t like him have decided it’s worth putting their opinion on a sticker. Having chatted with Ben a bit here and there, I assume his respond would be, “Eh, whatever. Good job. I’ve got my art in the fucking White House. Enjoy your stickers.”


As we should have figured, but didn’t because we really aren’t cool, apparently EINE himself made the stickers (as pointed out by reader Steve). Ha, figures. So, now you know and knowing is half the battle.

Word on the street is “teach”

Frank Norris Alley & Larkin really isn’t in the Tenderloin, but the street art you get there is similar to Hemlock, so we figure, why the fuck not include it. Here we have “teach” in a very EINE-esque style although as far as we know, he isn’t in town. Whatever, it’s cool and we’re down with it as it’s an upgrade from the defaced “smile” mural.


It appears that when out of town for a week or so, we really, really get out of touch. Damned happening neighborhood. This mural is indeed by Mr. EINE.

Hemlock bathed in a rainbow of awesome

Hemlock Alley right off of Polk is always featuring some cool street art, whether it’s from an artist showing at Space Gallery around the corner or at White Walls/Shooting Gallery/941 Geary just a couple of blocks away. Most recently we admired a few interesting pieces that didn’t seem to be connected to any particular show. We recognized this one as being by the same artist who put up the Howard Zinn mural on Valencia street.

He appears to be an Iranian artist that goes by the name ABCNT, and this is one of his many portraits of revolutionary or guerrilla portraits.

The Gandhi and Ganesh murals are apparently the work of Cryptik Movement, a group of artists doing public art “dedicated to helping humanity evolve towards greater awareness and understanding […] to facilitate the development of a deeper, more meaningful philosophy of life”. ABCNT is probably part of this group, although this is unclear.

Today we were surprised to see that all the murals above are already gone from Hemlock Alley after barely two weeks there. Now a new large mural that seems to be the work of the Australian Young & Free collective has replaced them. The group has a show at the 941 Geary gallery until October 22nd, opening tonight. The mural of the woman with the sad eyes on Sutter is also by a one of the Young & Free artists.

We were able to identify some of the characters in this huge mashup of street art, such as the stencils of a bearded man by Ha-Ha, or the guy with lasers in his eyes which seems to be by Lister. We’re not sure about this bloody Pluto, though…

There’s a second mural across the street looks like the works of Dabs & Myla who I’m pretty sure are also the artists behind the Califor’ya mural at 7th & Folsom is also their work…

So go check out this rainbow of awesome that is Hemlock before it’s too late, and while you’re there you should also pay your respects to the UA Galaxy if you haven’t already.


Here’s a cool video by Colin Day showing the various Australian artists of the Young and Free show putting up their work on the walls of Hemlock Alley. Enjoy.