When the tides meet

For anyone who has been to Cape Town, South Africa, you will most likely have hiked out to Cape Point. There, in a vast expanse of blues and greens you see the meeting of two oceans: the Indian and Atlantic. They froth and crash in to each other in a turgid dance of currents that you’re thankful to not be navigating, but gazing at from the outside safety of the shores.

To paint this in to more of a local sense, anyone who has met me knows that I often refer to living between the Academy of Art in the Upper Tenderloin and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic/Neighborhood Development Corporation in the Lower Tenderloin as being in the middle of a shit sandwich. And, don’t for any second think that we’re the bread in this arrangement.

All of this is a long way to get to a recent article on Beyond Chron (if they want links, then open up comments) about the AoA now renting the defunct former digs of the Culinary Academy for their “fashion school” at the corner of Turk & Polk. Let’s remember that the AoA garners $400 million+ a year just in tuition, not to mention their “triple room occupancy” dorms. They are a blatant (I would even say predatory) for-profit school and these are no end of evil. For all the hype of their fashion school being “invited” (I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid something) to NYC’s Fashion Week, it’s amazing how they don’t have anyone notable either as staff or former students despite having 17,000 students a year.

Then there are the various homeless social service providers who have become something of a de facto mafia in the Tenderloin. Don’t believe me? Try and get funding for any art project in the neighborhood and you’ll be directed by the city agencies to “work with” the homeless non-profits. Have a crime problem on your block? Go talk to Randy Shaw to get the police to do something about it. Some call this neighborhood activism, but I just call it self-preservation.

…Elisa Stephens has a fondness for historic buildings, which the central city has in large supply.

Naturally, as they’re vacant due to the destruction of the neighborhood through the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). All of this article really smacks like a cheering piece for the AoA as they may have donated some large amount of money to the THC to be “good neighbors”. We’ll never know, though, as the THC doesn’t release detailed donation records publicly. That’s what happens when you shift social services over to private contractors –you lose all accountability.

Suffice to say, the AoA and the homeless industry have been moving steadily towards each other over the years, probably attracted by their mutual love of profiteering, and it was bound to happen that their interests would meet some day. Elisa Stephens’ love of buying up buildings in downtown is not to revitalize the neighborhood. Her students don’t really even see the neighborhood as they’re shuttled about in their special, private, gridlock-inducing buses.

The former Culinary Academy site is only one block from the new SF PUC building that opens in 2012. The combination of these two new facilities should help revive the distressed Golden Gate corridor between Polk and Van Ness.

This is what will actually happen: both the PUC and the AoA will clear out at the end of the day. The same problems that currently exist will continue to exist as these aren’t neighborhood institutions or even neighbors at all. They’re just tenants who have no real stake in the neighborhood. Randy damn well knows this as he heads home to his mansion in the Berkeley Hills when the sun goes down. Elisa damn well knows this as she heads home to her mansion in Nob Hill when the sun goes down.

The only way any of this will change is if AoA students start getting shot/mugged/stared at weirdly and the AoA puts pressure on SFPD to protect their cash cows (ie students). This would be wonderfully ironic given the constant police intervention required to deal with their dorms in the upper Tenderloin and the out-of-control students treating the entire area like it’s their living room given that there is no curfew or control in the dorms. There have already been several medical emergency calls (due to substance abuse) to the dorms so far this year, but no one wants to talk about those.

Also, students do not revive an area. I went to UC Berkeley and the entire south side of campus is a complete wasteland of shitty student-related bars and restaurants. The same thing is happening here and if anything opens up near this new building, it will only be for the students, not the rest of the neighborhood.

Have you seen this stolen painting?

The above painting is about three by four feet in size and it’s at the heart of the whole Cafe Royale stolen painting drama a few weeks ago. So, if you come across it in somebody’s living room (or bedroom, we don’t judge), you should know it’s stolen.

I don’t know if you should sound the alarms, bust out your Glock (we all carry one after all), and make a citizen’s arrest, but I’m guessing tell some kind of authorities would be wise… (also, you could tell us as we’d like to know how this all ends).

Spoke Gallery Gives Us a Taste

Spoke Art Gallery kicked off their August show, ‘A Taste of Things to Come,’ featuring several artists who will have solo shows in the following months. Ken, Spoke’s curator, told me they’re booked for 14 months. Whoa! The show runs until the 25th of August, so check it out. Spoke opened only a couple of months ago in one of the former Huf store spaces (heard the Hayes Valley location closed too – boo!) and this is their 3rd show, I believe. Still has that fresh gallery smell. Located on Sutter, between Jones & Leavenworth. If you pass Optimus Prime, you’ve gone too far.

Ken turns a piece to reveal hidden art on the back of the frame.

What’s going on with Ramon’s Tailor?

A couple of days ago a mysterious photo of the long-defunct Ramon’s Tailor was posted on our Facebook wall. The poster was the even more mysterious Mrs Robinson Society, which we were not familiar with. Last night, as we were on our way to check out the launch of the Burning Man Project at the UN Plaza, we stopped by 628 Jones to see what was going on. We found this intriguing window display.

We heard some voices, so we entered the building at our own risk. Fortunately, a familiar face immediately welcomed us. Laura, a beloved regular at farm:table, a very fashionable lady and one of the founding Mrs Robinsons, was very impressed by our sleuthing skills. Apparently we had stumbled upon the opening night of the new incarnation of Ramon’s Tailor, a new creative space that will host art shows, salons and all sorts of other cool events. Next week, for example, they’re having a “grand open house” on Saturday from 11 to 4pm. And in September they’ll have a parklet for Park(ing) day–the temporary, one day kind, so NIMBYs don’t need to get their hooves in a tizzy.

If last night is any indication of the events to come, we can’t wait for more. It was also Frank‘s birthday (one of the owners, the other one being his wife) so they had a bar from Rye on the Road that was serving cocktails like the Dogpatch (a modified Manhattan) or the Old Cuban (something delicious with rum). They even somehow managed to fit a live music trio in that small, basement-y space. For their opening night they had a special show dedicated to the original Ramon’s Tailor, featuring vintage dresses and each of their alteration stories. The show was put together by the Mrs Robinson Society, whose members could be identified because they were sporting pink measuring tape necklaces. Since they are a very glamorous group, they were were measuring up the guests and giving them cards with a list of tailors in San Francisco so they could go get some fancy clothes made. (Since I was wearing an old t-shirt and dirty cargo pants, they didn’t even bother with me.)

The Tender this weekend: Bye Bye Koko’s, Happy Birthday Hooker’s

  • As announced two weeks ago, tomorrow is Koko Cocktails last business day. So you only have two nights to still enjoy your favorite neighborhood bar, or if for some inexplicable reason you’ve never been there, well, now’s the time before it’s too late and Koko goes Hi Lo (hopefully)!

    Tonight is their last super-popular Bourbon & Bacon from 5 to 9pm. From their Facebook event page:

    It’s been a great ride, but the rollercoaster is coming to an end!
    This Friday, July 29th we invite you to kick off the weekend one last time with some bourbon and bacon!

    …Here’s how it works:
    Order any bourbon (or any other american whiskey) from the Koko’s extensive list and you’ll receive a side of thick sliced applewood smoked bacon cooked that morning!
    So whether you are sticking with the $6 Maker’s Mark, trying out an $8 Four Roses Small Batch or splurging for the $18 Pappy Van Winkle 20yr, you’ll be pairing it with a delicious slice of perfection. Taste all the familiar nuances separately, or drop it in and make a southern soup on the spot!

    Resident DJ KEYBUMPS will be serving up blues, funk & punk from 6 – 9 as well….
    Come and get it, and get there early…..first come first serve til the last piece is gone!
    and don’t forget about our other happy hour specials like:
    $2 PBR & Modelo
    $3 Draft Beers
    $4 Well Drinks

    So go there early, as it’s a first come first served baconfest!

  • Then tomorrow, before Koko’s big farewell party, they’ll be hosting their last Tenderloin Reading Series event from 6 to 8pm. And in between the readings by a great line-up of contributors, they’re asking people (you!) to come up and share stories about Koko’s:

    If you’ve been a regular, a friend, a weekend warrior, an occasional commiserater, or had any kind of meaningful experience at Koko’s in it’s 3 plus years, we want you to share it. It could be a poem, a story, a song, a two sentence recollection, a passing thought, something that moved you about Koko or the people who have kept it afloat, WE WANT YOU TO SHARE IT.

  • Tomorrow’s also Hooker’s Sweet Treats first anniversary party (yes, it’s been already a year since they opened), from 6 to 9pm. They’ll be celebrating with their first art exhibition, featuring Tenderloin-based artist Hollis Rhodes.

Paint your own hummingbird with Johanna Poethig

If you’re a regular of Pill Hill you probably noticed the scaffolding covering the Post Office unit box building on the corner of Hyde and Golden Gate since May. It was a mural in progress by local artist Johanna Poethig, who you might now from other community art projects around the Tenderloin such as the tile murals on apartment building at the corner of Mason and Ellis, or the Tenderloin children’s playground on Ellis between Leavenworth and Hyde. After a couple of months of work, the scaffolding went down last week allowing for the full enjoyment of a colorful scene of flowers, musical instruments and hummingbirds. The formerly grey building looks so different now and it’s a shame that they might be closing it.

The mural is aptly titled ‘Humming with life’. Johanna Poethig explains that she intended it as a “light-hearted greeting to a heavy-hearted site”. The humming bird’s heart is half of its weight, “it brings delight, energy and hope when it appears”. Actually, her whole blog documenting the process of making the mural is worth a read. In much the same way as Mona Caron’s ‘Windows on the Tenderloin’ mural at the corner of Turk and Jones, many local residents and street regulars have enjoyed watching this mural evolve and have been giving their opinion about it:

Choice comments overheard by the small legless man with the big personality “I am not a heart attack, I am a coronary arrest!!!” Or by the passing poet. “That green is mean. That white is tight.” Or the two corner customers “ They can smell the junkie on you. And that’s just a fact.” I neglect to mention the continuous heartfelt thanks we get from people passing by all day. “You are so talented. Hollywood is going to discover you” Or from the Native American man “When the Hummingbird appears it brings good times.”

This site is mixed in with working people, elderly, children, tourists, immigrants, neighborhood residents, artists, students, post office employees and people picking up their packages. And of course the broken and discarded people, the drug dealing, the violence and anger. The ranting and raving. Can the moments of shared appreciation of color and image, of creative activity alleviate the pain of poverty on this corner in America? Probably not by much. But what I do know after 30 years of scaling inner city sites is that these images take their place in the public consciousness and in our social imagination. Images are powerful.

Poethig also writes about all the drug dealers hanging out at that corner, and the junkie customers. Meanwhile, the police mostly ignores them:

The police are not around this week. People are corralled into this neighborhood. Arrests seem very arbitrary. There is no space in California prisons and clearly not enough mental health services. An anti Drug War demonstration came down the street last Friday. The police were all around that. There was also a bomb scare at the Federal building 2 blocks down so it crowded up on our block that day. A little too cozy. A blind man knocked over a blue jar of paint and it splatted on to the sidewalk.

If you’ve found all of this inspiring, or if (like Mike Kershnar) you’re also a fan of hummingbirds, you can get involved in the final touches of the mural by signing up to paint your own hummingbird on August 3, from noon-5pm. Johanna Poethig is offering several 20 minute one-on-one session with her, in which she’ll help you chose the colors and guide you in the painting if needed. Obviously, space is limited so hurry up and reserve your 20 minute session. Contact Dina Hilliard at (415) 292-4812 or dinanomtlcbd@att.net to sign up for your chance to be part of the neighborhood’s street art landscape.

The Tender Tonight: First Lower Polk Art Walk

The Lower Polk Neighbors association (who, by the way, have highly dramatic meetings the second Wednesday of every month, usually featuring NIMBYs vs bars debates), is working in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Workforce Development, to organize the first Lower Polk Art Walk tonight from 6 to 7pm.

You can download the detailed map here, but some of our favorite shows we think you can’t miss are Tender friend D Young V at White Walls that opened last Saturday, and which will feature an artist talk + Q&A at 8pm; also the community mural on Fern Street pictured above by another Tender friend, Dray, which will also feature an artist talk at 7pm.

This is the full list of participating spaces:

-Alliance Française (Mara Gahagan, Paintings from Corsica)
-Larkin St Youth Gallery (Eco Art from the Ocean Plastic Project)
-Space & Lopo Galleries (Family First)
-The Popular Workshop (Bob Chrisholm, Forgotten & Undisturbed)
-White Walls (D Young V, Make an effort)
-Shooting Gallery (Anthony Seed, Grand Illusion)

Community Mural Openings:
-Together we are one, Knowledge is power (by Garrison Buxton, adhocart.org & Wall Space)
-Polk St History (by Dray)
Leashed Bunny (by ROA, Wall Space)
-Transportation (by Dray)
-Sunny Day (by Larkin St Youth)
-Flores del Ten (Flores del Tehuan-derloin by Jet Martinez)
-Whale & Under Water Scene (Mitchell Brothers building by Academy of Art teacher John Wentz & students, artist will be present 7-8)

Locations with Featured Artists (and beverage specials)
-The Pour House (Hillary Williams, Urban Landscape)
-Leland Tea Company (Collected Works: 20s & 30s photography)
-Mayes Oyster House (Etienne, Montage of SF from the air)
-Lush Lounge (Polk St Alley Mural Exhibition, Artist Reception with Dray)
-Blur (Jason ‘Damage’ Leal, Antjuan Oden)
-Koko Cocktails (Francisco Orrego, Latin Collage)
-Jebena Coffe & Tea Co (Dray, Urbanism)

They’re planning on having this be a quarterly event, so you should all come check it out and make it a big success.

Tender tattoos

These days, tattoos are about as rebellious as hitting snooze on your alarm clock. That said, it’s always nice when someone breaks out of standard sleeves mode (as seen on the right) and says, “Fuck it, I want a shovel on my calf for the rest of my life!” Also awesome in the Tender tattoos department (but not pictured) is the streetcar on farm:table Kate‘s arm.

Remembering the Tenderloin jungle

A comment by beerwad on our recent post about the restoration work done to the mural on the Mitchell Brothers Theatre (yes, it’s spelled in the classy theatre way) building asserted that the marine life scene in the mural is much better than the jungle scene that used to be there. That got us thinking, since we remembered that jungle scene to be quite nice (and it matched the theatre motto of “where the wild girls are“, ahem). So we went to our hand cranked photographic wayback machine of the Loin and looked for a picture of it. What we found was not of the best quality, but still enough to get an idea for those who hadn’t seen the jungle mural.

So what do you think, are whales and sharks better than tigers and rhinos? Or is it what’s on the inside that counts?

Some (belated) photos from ArtPad

A couple of weeks ago we told you about ArtPad, a cool art fair happening in the Phoenix Hotel. Back then the weather was sunny (sigh), so we spent there the best part of all three days the fair was taking place. And we had a blast (mainly due to the gorgeous pool).

We participated in a couple of panel discussions on street art and photography, we enjoyed live music and drinks by the pool, met several interesting people and, of course, got to enjoy some of the best art from about 30 galleries temporarily installed inside the rooms of the hotel. We particularly enjoyed Alexis Laurent’s sculpture ‘Dandelions’, an arrangement of air plant sculptures suspended above the swimming pool (of which the photo above is part of), as well as Jeremiah Jenkins performance in full ‘industrial’ samurai attire. We also found the wallpapered trash cans in the parking lot quite cute (they were part of the wallpapered dumpsters series by C Finley, “an inquiry into waste, free art, and notions of femininity, beauty and domesticity”). We giggled with this piece, and got a temporary tatto with this machine.

There was a lot of fun art that we enjoyed, though. So for those who weren’t able to attend, we just posted some pictures of our favorite pieces on Flickr. Check it out (better late than never, right?).