Key learnings and future direction

From its inception in 2009, some of the improvements made to the Art in Storefronts program based on feedback include:

  • A technical assistance workshop with local artist-applicants
  • A meet and greet event with the artists
  • Artists’ orientation program
  • An artist talk and walk tour at the end of each project
  • Artist talks midway through the project
  • Increase in artist’s stipend from $500 to $1,500 based on their expenses
  • Securing of  general liability insurance for the property owners.  
  • Establishment of a fund to quickly cover damage or graffiti to storefronts.

The Commission is also currently working on how to standardise the process of deciding which murals will remain after each project has finished in a particular neighbourhood and making them graffiti-proof. 

“Originally it was accepted that they were going to be painted over and that was the artists responsibility but some of them have been so lovely and so well-received that we want them to stay," says Robynn. "But graffiti proofing them wasn't in our original budget so we have to rethink how we will do that.”

Vanesa Gingold. Dreams on Market, 2011; mixed-media installation, 1066 Market Street, San Francisco. Photo: Lydia Gonzales.Another aspect is the potential for artists to be engaged in painting the storefronts of existing merchants, without being drawn into a commercial application.

“A lot of the merchants would see the artist painting a storefront or the inside of a storefront and asked them to repaint their signs,” says Robynn. “So we need to see if there is a way that we can do that and still maintain the artists’ integrity and not have them be commercial artists.

“On Central Market we had this beautiful paper cut 'Dreams on Market' by Vanessa Gingold right next to Piper’s Jewelers. It's an interesting store, which we featured in our Sights and Sounds of Central Market podcast, but the outside signage desperately needs a facelift. What a difference it could make for the neighbourhood as a whole. Should that be part of our project?  But that’s a commercial application. So it’s complicated. There's quite a number of outcomes from the projects so far we need to think through.”

Arts in Storefronts came about as a response to the impact of the economic downturn on local business districts. Robynn Takayama expects that future growth in economy will also see SFAC's Community Arts and Education Program continuing to respond to community needs.

“Then, the need in the arts community would likely change to finding low-cost housing, which would change our focus on empty space to finding live/work spaces for local artists.”

Image Caption: Vanesa Gingold. Dreams on Market, 2011; mixed-media installation, 1066 Market Street, San Francisco. Photo: Lydia Gonzales.

See also:

Art in Storefronts Toolkit: San Francisco Arts Commission's responses to the questions that city entities, landlords and artists frequently ask so that they can start their own storefront program. Includes a sample artist's agreement and property owner's agreement.

SFAC Art in Storefronts Flickr Group:  a pictorial record of the artworks and events from the Art in Storefront's Program.