Recruiting artists: a community collaboration

Ms.Teriosa by Kelly Ording and Jetro Martinez. Photo by Cesar RubioBecause Art in Storefronts’ key aim was to involve the community, it set up a committee comprising representatives from government, community and arts organisations to choose the artists for the project. Artists received a stipend of $500 for their work in the first round, which increased to $1,500 for later projects based on a better understanding of their expenses in being involved.

A public event was held to answer artists’ questions about how to make a competitive application and the Commission worked with local community partners, such as the Chinese Culture Centre in Chinatown, to get the word out.

“We want to make sure the people in the neighbourhood are prepared to apply and are prepared to be competitive,” says Robynn Takayama. “So we break down what we are looking for when we ask the questions on the application. It’s also a way to let people know that this project is specifically for artists who live in San Francisco. If those who don’t live here want to take part, they need to figure out a way to partner with a local artist.”

The Crystal Bike Blanket by Alexis Arnold (2009)

One installation in 2009 that reflected the local community was 'Ms. Teriosa' by Jetro Martinez and Kelly Ording. The Mission district is largely Latino and the artists took on the history of Latino spirituality by creating a fortune telling store.

“They painted the storefront and that’s pretty much what their installation was but they had a drop box where they had cards that said, ‘What do you want to ask Ms. Teriosa?’” says Robynn. (When you put the word together in Spanish it means ‘mysterious’).

"So you have the kids asking stuff like ‘Am I going to graduate?' 'Is this the person for me?' 'Will I find a job?’ And the artists wrote very clever responses like ‘Stay in school’. The work revealed something about the community and could speak to all the people who lived there.”

In the second round of projects in Central Market in 2011, one of the most innovative was sculptor Alexis Arnold’s installation 'The Crystal Bike Blanket'. Bicycle tyre rims encased in crystal highlighted the bicycle culture of Market Street and the iconic, Central Market detritus of 'theft-overs' from bikes being stripped down and their parts sold.

“It was lit so that they glistened and the window had bars on the lower part and she got a bunch of U-locks and gold-leafed them and included them in th work. So the work really honoured the local bike culture,” says Robynn.

Image captions: 

Ms.Teriosa by Kelly Ording and Jetro Martinez (2009). Photo by Cesar Rubio.

The Crystal Bike Blanket by Alexis Arnold (2009). Photo by Lydia Gonzales.