Murals on 2355 Market accompanied by LGBTQIA+ activists mural by @Luinova

Murals installed at 2348 Market in the windows of CORE MVMT

Castro Murals

Installed at 2355 and 2348 Market Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of shelter-in-place I photographed the California poppies in my backyard to stay grounded and sane. 

 

When I saw @paintthevoidproject and @100daysaction working with artists to install art on boarded up storefronts all over the city, I knew I wanted to join them.

I loved how the @100daysaction #artforesentialworkers project mission was to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with messages of optimism and solidarity for essential workers, using wheat pasted art. I was thrilled to get to join them!

My goal was simple at the time. To use this as an opportunity to bring some joy and vibrancy to people in, and traveling through, my neighborhood, the Castro.

But also to inspire me to make new work, to have fun, and play. Nothing too intensive, as I had little time to create while I took care of my 6 year-old son and dealt with our strange new reality. I welcomed the challenge to keep creating during difficult times.

 

I took the poppies and transformed the images using a program that my wife wrote, inspired by the patterns of toxic pollutants on the surface of the Gowanus Canal, recreating them with code. This was a collaboration that we had begun a year earlier while in Brooklyn, and the surreal nature of the resulting images felt like a perfect reflection on our current reality.

When I started this project back in April, one possible quote I had to accompany the mural was “Where flowers bloom, so does hope. We’re in this together.”

But wow! By the time the images were ready to print in June, that felt so wrong.

 

The project continued to develop in the wake of George Floyd's brutal murder, and in turn, I needed to evolve, learn, and engage in difficult conversations. I started to think about what to say that would feel inspiring, relevant, and not completely tone-deaf. 

I came across this text on my social media feed by an Indigenous and Black healer and poet, Dr. Jaiya John from his new book, “Freedom: Medicine Words for Your Brave Revolution”.

I knew right away it what what I wanted to use. These powerful words felt indicative of the current situation as it unfolded. 

Maybe you feel the revolution doesn’t need you.

Come.

Bring everything.

Bring the ocean. Bring the sky.

Bring all the stars of all the galaxies.

Bring the very sediment of your soul.

Freedom needs you.

Freedom is not yet free.

-Jaiya John

But I did not know how this poet would feel about me, a white lady in SF, pairing his words with my artwork. I worried. So asked him! I wrote and told him about the project and asked how he would feel. Right away he wrote the most wonderful response, and said yes. I loved that through the mural, I had formed the beginning of a new relationship. I felt honored to be communicating with him, and that he was open to being part of the project.

 

But where is this text, you ask? In truth, I originally created 3 murals to cover 3 panels at 2355 Market Street. However, the 3rd mural was vetoed due to the accompanying text being “too political/opinion-based” -- stalling the process. The team from 100 Days Action and I reached out to  plead our case. Jaiya John himself had concerns he wanted us to communicate as well. Which we did. I can’t imagine having to question whether people are making judgements about my work based on my race. I do not have to question that. I’m naming my white privilege, right here. 

So of course, I needed to do my part to question the owners right back. This was a difficult conversation. Everyone was civil (note I did not speak directly to the owners). They said that Jaiya John’s words “gave them solace”, but they did not want them on their publicly facing building. Disappointing, to say the very least.

 

During these discussions, another artist installed their own mural in that original space without the permission of the owners. See, the new mural, by @Luinova, is a wonderful tribute to key LGBTQIA+ activists, and was installed right in time for Pride. It is political, without using text. And as @JaiyaJohn said after I gave him the news of the delay, Karma had visited the owners. 

 

This new mural was a great addition to the neighborhood, thus making it easier for me to let the space go and prompted a search for a new home for the 3rd mural.

We reached out to CORE MVMT, up the street at 2348 Market Street, and they were open to hosting the artwork while they were still closed! Jaiya John’s words deserve to be shared with the people in the Castro, so we are incredibly grateful to them for giving the 3rd mural a great home.

 

The murals are part of the Art For Essential Workers project, organized by 100 Days Action, in partnership with the Facebook AIR Program. I could never have done it without them! I also want to thank SF Landmark and Castro Merchants for all their help and support.

 

Thank you so much to Jaiya John for allowing me to use your text and CORE MVMT for a space to bring them to the Castro!

 

I shared the complex progression of the murals on Facebook and Instagram as it was and my thoughts as the project unfolded on IG: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5

If you like these photomurals they are now available for purchase as Archival Pigment Prints (preview the image below). Please reach out via the contact for or lizhickok@mac.com for more information.

© 2020 by Liz Hickok

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