arts Blog

How Public Art Exposed Class Tensions in San Francisco

In a country where issues of class and race are at a boiling point, “Block by Block,” a public art project funded by the Rainin Foundation, plunked those tensions right into the heart of San Francisco’s polarizing economic boom.

When we set out to bring art to Central Market, we knew it was an experiment. It’s one thing to install art in a museum, with tickets and suited docents setting a formal tone. It’s another to install art on a busy San Francisco street known as much for crime and homelessness as swank cafés and sleek towering apartments. The city’s economic extremes come into sharp relief: technology workers pour into the companies ushering in the future, passing by those left behind by the city’s boom.

Public art can reach broad audiences and we felt Central Market was ripe for a project that would help build bridges. But within weeks of the installation, the experiment looked to be teetering. Our collective good intentions entered sticky territory: Just whom is public art meant to serve? Continue reading on Medium.

Eight Conversations About Art, Class and Race

As a part of this story, we talked with stakeholders of “Block by Block” and have presented their thoughts in “as told to” style narratives that we’ve published on Medium.

Click among these conversations, consider them, and then join in the conversation by adding your comments on Medium. In many ways, that’s what “Block by Block” was intended to do.

The Funder:
Shelley Trott

The Neighbor:
Wayne Shaw

The Guardian:
Darryl Smith

The Artist:
Marisha Farnsworth

The City Planners:
Paul Chasan & Neil Hrushowy

The Entrepreneur:
D’Mond Hill

The Changemaker:
Ilana Lipsett

The Gatekeeper:
Simon Bertrang

Insights From Our First Public Art Collaboration

“Block by Block” was an experiment — the Rainin Foundation understood the tensions in San Francisco’s Central Market neighborhood going in, yet we firmly believed, along with our partners, that the community would benefit from a public art project that brought people together. Collectively, we felt it was a risk worth taking. Continue reading on Medium.

Top photo: “Block by Block,” a public art installation on San Francisco’s Market Street. Credit: Darryl Smith, Luggage Store Gallery


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