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sf arts commission

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Photo Courtesy of the SFPL

In this podcast, Alejandro Murguia, San Francisco’s new poet laureate, talks about his history as a poet and community activist, and his involvement with the acquisition of the building that is now Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. As the new poet laureate, Alejandro is charged with organizing events with various communities and youth at the San Francisco Public Library. Tune in to hear what else he has in store for his two-year tenure, and to hear one of his newest poems, “Mission Vision”.

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This podcast was produced by Cristal Fiel for the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Deep Roots series. The executive producer is Robynn Takayama. To hear more audio segments about art in our communities, please visit http://www.sfartscommission.org/deeproots

San Francisco Poet Laureate is a program of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Public Library

Thank you to Arts Commissioner John Calloway for use of his song, ‘Roll Call’ in the podcast.

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Neighborhood Empowerment Network’s Daniel Homsey is joined by Susan Cervantes of Precita Eyes, Kate Connell of the Book and Wheel Works, and Robynn Takayama of the San Francisco Arts Commission to discuss the important links community art plays in bringing neighborhoods together. Watch a segment with Wendy Testu about the happenings in the “Welcome to the Neighborhood Project,” a community art and literacy program in Hunter’s Point.

Michael Pawluk –  San Francisco – 1/19/11 

For both merchants and residents alike, maintaining a clean and aesthetically pleasing community is difficult enough without worrying about the constant blight of graffiti and vandalism. Community groups and city agencies spend thousands of dollars every year in order to help fight the barrage of spray painted tags and doodles strewn throughout the city.

In order to help push back this unsightly trend, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department Of Public Works has started StreetSmARTS, a community program designed to connect merchants and local artists in order to plan and implement standing murals in public space. The program itself aims to pair wanting merchants faced with constant graffiti problems with respected community artists, approved by the SF Arts Commission, who will then design a mural and decide on a final layout with the land owner. By connecting merchants and artists, the SF Arts Commission is ensuring that local muralists have a venue for their work and the merchants can enjoy their property with a consistent theme and worry less about unwanted décor on their establishment.

In short, the program aims to fight fire with fire. It has been proven in the past that even though people may assume that the individuals responsible for most tagging are working out of disrespect for their community, time has shown again and again that large established art pieces can help to curb the unsightly recurrence of wanton graffiti.

One example of this is the Clarion Alley mural project in the Mission District which has established this once small dismal, graffiti laden alley into somewhat of a tourist attraction for the neighborhood.

Though the alley has a small group of resident who help to maintain it, the dozens of murals and pieces there remain largely untouched by random acts of tagging because the budding artists who would typically just scrawl their name across the wall maintain a certain level of respect for the large pieces of work that is already in place.

This preexisting level of respect within the art community is what the SF Arts Commission has utilized in order to make the StreetSmARTS program a success. Having already contracted dozens of murals throughout the city, most notably on Central Market, the SF Arts Commission hopes to make this year bigger than the last. If you or someone you know wants to become involved or has had trouble with graffiti in the past please visit theStreetSmARTS website for more information.


SF Arts Commission: StreetSmARTS

Tired of buffing out unwanted graffiti? The San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Public Works may have an answer for you: StreetSmARTS. Studies have shown that mural-painted walls incur far less tagging than blank walls. The StreetSmARTS program provides vetted artists for you to select from who will paint a mural on your wall with a design that is approved by YOU. For more information on how to get involved, click here.

Studies have shown that mural-painted walls incur far less tagging than blank walls. The StreetSmARTS program provides vetted artists for you to select from who will paint a mural on your wall with a design that is approved by YOU. For examples of walls painted in our 2010 pilot year, please click here.

To participate in StreetSmARTS, you simply need to provide the funds for supplies (approximately $1,500). With the reduction in graffiti abatement, you will see a return on your investment in no time. Interested property owners should contact Tyra Fennell at 415-252-2597 or tyra.fennell@sfgov.org


Mr. Clean SF, Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, DPW

This Sunday I want to personally invite you to join in on the exciting return of our hugely successful Mobile Free Wall Activity. Rain or shine, the San Francisco Arts Commission with support from the Department of Public Works is set to assemble a 40 foot-long temporary wall that will act as a giant canvas for artists of all skill levels to drop by and be a part of creating a beautiful community mural.

It’ll be on Sunday, October 24th during the Sunday Streets event outside of City Hall on the Civic Center plaza from 10am to 3pm.

What is the Free Wall? Our mission at DPW is to keep this City beautiful, livable, and vibrant. A large portion of my job is the prevention and eradication of graffiti vandalism. DPW responds to over 30,000 requests to clean up graffiti each year. That’s over 100 a day on public property alone. Collectively all City departments, schools, residents, and small business owners pay out over $20 million a year cleaning up tagging and vandalism.

This Free Wall is a pilot project to give urban artists, who historically claim that there is no public space to create spray-can art, a safe location to do just that.

Here are the key tenets of this venture: 

  • This is a recognition that it is important to give young artists a place to create


  • There should be an emphasis on respect for public property


  • The Free Wall project and all of the DPW collaborations with the SFAC stress that the difference between art and vandalism is permission


  • Helping to engage the artist community in new ways results in a meaningful dialogue about keeping the City beautiful.


This Free Wall is, if anything, promoting the conversation about “what is art” and “what is vandalism?” What are the most efficient strategies to eliminate the vandalism and keep the city shinning and clean?

Hundreds participated in the activity in September that resulted in a beautiful community mural being created in less than four hours. World-renowned urban artist, Chor Boogie, oversees and facilitates the Free Wall Activities, providing his know-how and tutorials on spray-can art.

The success of the Free Wall program is the result of leveraging the expertise of the Graffiti Advisory Board and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Their passion and leadership are making innovative, engaging projects like this work.

The Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission Luis R. Cancel agrees. “The Free Wall Activity provides urban and aspiring artists with an opportunity to show their talent and creativity in a safe and legal manner. This program is a way of bringing urban artists and community members together to forge lasting, positive relationships that benefit our neighborhoods.”

The Free Wall capitalizes on the positive results and feedback from other SFAC-DPW collaborations like the StreetSmARTs program, which pairs urban artists with private property owners to create vibrant murals throughout the City. The first private-property mural of this fiscal year was unveiled last week at 1354 York Street. There are plans to create more than 20 murals through this program this year.


There is a lot of work to do to keep the City clean and to prevent and abate graffiti vandalism. I invite you to be a part of it of this movement. Come out on Sunday and see what the buzz is all about.

At a minimum, please check out and sign the Zero Graffiti Pledge, a City-wide commitment to abate and report graffiti.

I would love to get your feedback about the Free Wall. Send comments to zerograffiti@sfdpw.org, or you can tweet me with any questions @MrCleanSF<http://twitter.com/mrcleansf>.


Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).


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