83 McAllister

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May 272015

83 McAllister San Francisco

This is the Methodist Book Concern.  The book concern, established in 1789 in Philadelphia, was the oldest publishing house in the United States and used Abington press as their trade imprint. It is now the United Methodist Publishing House and it is the largest general agency of The United Methodist Church.

The Methodist Book Concern furnished reading material to church members and helped support ministers, who received liberal commissions for selling the publications. ”The preachers still feel the need of the press as their most potent ally in their work,” said The Methodist Review in 1889

Notice the MBC along the roof-line

Notice the MBC along the roof-line

The building was designed by Lewis Parsons Hobart (January 14, 1873 — October 19, 1954) an American architect whose designs also included San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.

Hobart received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and studied at the American Academy in Rome and the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Hobart played a role in the rebuilding efforts of the San Francisco Bay Area following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, designing several buildings, including the Methodist Book Concern that was completed in 1909.

Hobart became the first President of the San Francisco Arts Commission in 1932 and was also appointed to the Board of Architects for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

Methodist Book Concern San Francisco

The Methodist Book Concern was built on the site of the Yerba Buena Cemetery.

“Sixteen More Graves Discovered on Site of Yerba Buena Cemetery. Nine more bodies were uncovered by workmen excavating for the Methodist Book Concern’s new building on City Hall avenue and McAllister street yesterday, on the site of the old Yerba Buena Cemetery, one of the oldest burial grounds in the city of San Francisco, now in the heart of the great down town district. This makes a total of twenty-five graves that have been discovered on this site since excavation was begun last week. The first grave was discovered on Friday afternoon, with a well preserved headstone erected in 1851.
When it became known that the workmen were excavating on the site of the famous Yerba Buena Cemetery, a great crowd collected to watch the uncovering of the graves. Many rotted coffins were discovered, but in every case, the bodies had completely decomposed, owing to the damp and sandy nature of the soil, and only a pile of bones remained to tell that a human being had once been interred there.

By Tuesday night the workmen had uncovered the remains of sixteen bodies and these were placed in a little box and left for the Coroner. No one was sent form the Coroner’s office on Tuesday night, however, and when the workmen went to work yesterday morning all the skulls in the collection had been stolen. It is presumed that they were taken by medical students, or ghouls. What remained of the sixteen bodies was taken away by the Coroner’s deputy yesterday afternoon, and the bones will be reburied to remain until, perhaps, the advance of civilization once more unearths them in the midst of a populated district.”

The Yerba Buena Cemetery was abolished by the city hall act, passed by the State Legislature of 1869-70, providing for the removal of the cemetery and the erection of a City Hall on the property. The validity of this act was fought long and hard in the courts, on the ground that the tract was sacredly dedicated as a cemetery, and the fight was carried to the Supreme Court of the State in the case of San Francisco vs. P. II. Cannavan, who was at that time a member of the Board of Supervisors. The act was upheld, however, and the cemetery was removed in 1871.

That portion where the bodies are being found was one of the lowest spots in the cemetery, and it is probable that the graves which are being unearthed may have been covered by sand before the cemetery was removed. The graves are from twelve to twenty-five feet below the surface.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 9 April 1908.

San Francisco's First City Hall

The building does not sit flush with the street because its original address was City Hall Avenue.  These streets were all changed when the new city hall was moved off of Market Street after the 1906 Earthquake.

Yerba Buena Cemetery Map

The original address of the Methodist Book Concern was 5 City Hall Avenue

The original address of the Methodist Book Concern was 5 City Hall Avenue.            Sanborn 1905 map

The Methodist Book Concern location today

The Methodist Book Concern location today

Methodist Book Concern


After having served as the Church of Scientology building for many years, the building has undergone a substantial seismic renovation and is now condominiums.



Apr 062015

Memorial Court
Civic Center



In 1932 when the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building were built the project was supposed to include a memorial to veterans. The project ran out of money, and one was never made.

However, during this time the octagonal lawn in the Memorial Court has held earth from lands where Americans fought and died. This stone octagon, now encloses the earth. The Memorial has been designed so that it can be opened to accept newly consecrated earth from battlefields of the future.

Passages of Remembrance

In 1935 that War Memorial Complex architect Arthur Brown, Jr., recommended landscape architect Thomas D. Church be engaged to complete the Memorial Court. Church, a world renowned landscape architect, know for his gardens reflecting the Beaux-Arts tradition completed the design in 1936. His drawings reference a “future memorial” to be added in the octagonal area of the Memorial Court.

Soils from World War I battlefields were consigned there at the time of its completion. A similar ceremony depositing soils from World War II battlefields took place following the 1945 signing of the United Nations Charter in the Veterans Building. And in 1988, veterans groups held a ceremony interring battlefield soils from Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, China, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Guam, Italy, Laos, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Prior to beginning construction of the San Francisco Veterans Memorial, the soil from the center of the octagonal area of the Memorial Court was carefully removed and safeguarded.

war memorial sf

The Young Dead Soldiers, a poem also used at the Presidio Cemetery Overlook, is a fitting poem for this spot.

The project artist was Susan Narduli of Narduli Studio.  The project was completed October 2014 with $2.5 million of private donations.

War Memorial in San Francisco

UN Plaza Fountain

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Jan 072015

UN Plaza
Civic Center

UN Plaza Fountain San Francisco

There is more to the U.N. Plaza fountain than meets the eye, however, typical of the City of San Francisco it took three redesigns, one public vote and a lot of back and forth (much of it ridiculous), to finally get the thing built.

The fountain was designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.  The Plaza was a joint effort between Halprin, Swiss architect Mario Ciampi and John Carl Warnecke.

The fountain is intended to represent the seven continents of the world.  Each “landmass” is tied together by the water symbolizing the ocean.

According to an April 26, 1977 San Francisco Chronicle article: The fountain was to be highly computerized.  “On each of the nine spurting slabs of the fountain will be a wind measuring device and if it is real windy, the spurts will slow down or stop altogether to keep passerby from getting sprayed.  Second, the computer will cause the depth of the waters in the fountain’s 100 foot wide basin to vary from bone dry to eight feet.”

According to the designer, Lawrence Halprin, this change in water height was to simulate the tides of the bay.  None of these items were maintained properly and no longer work.

Lawrence Halprin UN Plaza fountain

On the top stone far left is written:  “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation….It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”   This is a quote from Franklin Roosevelt.  The entire plaza was designed and built to honor the 30th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter that took place in the San Francisco War Memorial.

Designed in 1975 the fountain is made of 673 blocks of granite weighing between 3 to 4 million tons, it is 165 feet long and cost $1.2 million.

UN Plaza Fountain designed by Lawrence Halprin

The fountain has had mixed reviews over the years. When it was dedicated in 1975, then-U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young described it as “a tribute to the U.N.’s goals of seeking peaceful resolutions to international rivalries.”

But then-Chronicle architecture critic Allan Temko described it as “pretentious schmaltz . . . whose ‘tidal pools’ are supposed to simulate global oceanic action but rarely work and merely toss around empty muscatel bottles.”

Homeless in UN Plaza

The Plaza has the distinction of being in the Hall of Shame of the Project for Public Spaces, and it has been a source of controversy, anger and neglect for many years.

If you are interested in learning more about the problems of UN Plaza and how the fountain fits into these problems, there is a fabulous 30 minute radio show that you can listen to here.

The original design for the UN Fountain submitted to the SFAC

The original design for the UN Fountain submitted to the SFAC

I want to thank Joel Pomerantz of Thinkwalks for going to the San Francisco library and sending me the entire file to “prove a point”.  I am grateful for my friends that care about the minutia of San Francisco history as much as I do.

The fountain from Google Earth 2015

Dec 292014

50 UN Plaza
City Center

The Federal Building in San Francisco

The Federal Building of San Francisco was vacated by the US Government in 2007 when they built a newer building in Civic Center.  It has recently undergone a $121 million restoration and will be the offices of Section 9 GSA.

This article is about the exterior of the building.

entryway to 50 UN Plaza

In 1927, the government allocated $2.5 million for the Federal Building’s design and construction, although final costs reached a total of $3 million.  Architect Arthur Brown, Jr. designed the building, which was constructed between 1934 and 1936.

Arthur Brown, Jr. (1874-1957) was born in Oakland, California. He graduated from the University of California in 1896, where he and his future partner, John Bakewell, Jr. were protégés of Bernard Maybeck. Brown went to Paris and graduated from the École des Beaux Arts in 1901. Before returning to San Francisco to establish his practice with Bakewell, the firm designed the rotunda for the “City of Paris” in the Neiman Marcus department store in San Francisco. Other notable San Francisco buildings include Coit Tower; San Francisco War Memorial Opera House; and the War Memorial Veterans Building. He was a consulting architect for the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Federal Building is an excellent example of Second Renaissance Revival architecture. The six-story steel frame is encased in fireproof concrete with concrete flooring and roof slabs, important features after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The street elevation walls are constructed of brick but faced with granite, with the exception of a section of the McAllister Street elevation, which is faced in terra cotta.

Eagles over the front door at 50 UN Plaza


50 UN Plaza

Male and female mascarons (carved faces) adorn the exterior. The carvings sport different horticulturally themed headpieces, including corn, wheat, cat tails, and oak leaves. There are 18 of them in total.

Faces on 50 UN building

Sadly it is not known who did all these wonderful carvings for the building.

50 Un Plaza Faces


Faces of 50 UN Plaza


Faces of 50 UN Plaza


Apr 282014

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
50 Oak Street
Civic Center

Exultagio by Daniel Winterig

Fulfilling the 1% for public art requirement for private development in San Francisco, this glass curtain wall of the music school includes 8” deep horizontal and vertical glass fins. A dichroic glass bevel at the front edge of each fin casts colored light across the building facade and the interior classrooms. The combination of sunlight and glass creates an ever changing composition of colored light throughout the day.

The project is by Daniel Winterich.  The glass was fabricated by Lenehan Architectural Glass Company.

Exultadagio by Daniel Winterich

San Francisco Conservatory of Music GlassInterior Shot courtesy of Winterich Studios

According to Daniel Winterich’s website he was raised in a ninety-five year old family business devoted to the liturgical arts, his training in stained glass, painting and mosaic work began in 1975. His extreme attention to materials and details developed over these early years while working on ecclesiastical projects across the Midwest and southern states.

During his studies at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design, Winterich expanded his education at the German stained glass studio, Oidtmann Glasmalerei in 1982 where he apprenticed in glass painting while working with Germany’s leading glass artists.

After completing his undergraduate design degree, Winterich’s interest in the integration of art and architecture led him to work with three award-winning architectural firms from 1984 to 1994 and become a registered architect in the state of California.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 1.53.32 PM

Apr 072014

SFPUC Building
525 Golden Gate Avenue
Civic Center

Ned Kahn's Rain Portal

Rain Portal by Ned Kahn.  Kahn has several pieces around San Francisco that you can read about here.

Ned Kahn’s Rain Portal is located inside the lobby of the new Public Utilities building.  Kahn’s Firefly graces the exterior of the building and you can read about it here.

Rain Portal seeks to permeate an interior architectural wall with rain. Drops of water falling inside of an undulating polycarbonate membrane suggests the endless cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

According to Kahn, “One of the paradoxes of the Rain Portal is that much of the entire history of architecture can be viewed as the endeavor to keep rain out. Here we have invited it in.”



The installation covers two walls located on either side of the lobby stairway. The installation is a self-sustaining system that continuously recycles water to create the illusion of rain inside the clear polycarbonate wall panels. The extruded polycarbonate has multiple cells of plastic that through which water is pumped up from a reservoir at the bottom of the panels and released as small drops into the top. The artwork was dedicated with the opening of the building in June 2012.

SFPUC Rain Portal

The installation of Rain Portal cost $24,800, and was done by Gizmo Art Productions.  I was unable to find what the piece itself cost.

SFPUCThese two plaques are not part of Ned Kahn’s installation, but rather part of the buildings effort to be one of the foremost water conscious buildings in the world.  An important reminder while California enters another year of sever drought.

Mar 312014

154 McAllister Street
Civic Center

Peace by Reka


According to Reka’s own website:

James Reka – Melbourne, Australia

Self-taught artist

James Reka is a young contemporary Australian artist based in Berlin, Germany. His origins lie in the alleyways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs where he spent over a decade refining his now-emblematic aesthetic. His character work has come to represent the beginnings of a new style of street art: clean, unique and not necessarily on the street (much to his mother’s joy). With influences in pop culture, cartoons and illustration, Reka’s style has become known for its fusion of high and low art. This style emerged from his Pop-Art-influenced logo design background, featuring simple but striking lines and colour ways. Over time, the logos and symbols he created for clients evolved into more structured, animated forms and embraced variances of the different media he began experimenting with.

This is Reka’s art: a paradox between sharp design and graffiti, held together with a fuse of passion and spray paint.



This installation was a result of Reka’s show at White Walls Gallery titled 3am Femmes.  The show ran October 12 – November 2, 2013.

Mar 242014

50 8th Street
SOMA/Civic Center

MAGS mural on Holiday Inn on 8th Street SOMA


I am a huge fan of  Lady Mags and Amanda Lynn, and they have been on this website many times. I have also been walking by this piece for quite a while, admiring it and yet not quite having a chance to take pictures when it wasn’t blocked by cars.  Finally, I had the chance, so here it is for your pleasure.

According to Amanda Lynn’s  website:

Lady Mags and I (aka Alynn-Mags) recently completed the largest mural production we have ever created, and it all happened in less than 5 days! We were asked to collaborate with JanSport and their ‘Live Outside’ campaign, to create a mural any size and any content that we could imagine. Mags and I decided to go bigger than ever and create a piece that was enhanced by elements of our fine art collaborations, traditional graffiti, and of course some lovely ladies! We are so honored and humbled by all the amazing support we have received with this project, and look forward to doing many more. Stay tuned for the official campaign launch and accompanying video of the whole process.

Amanda Lynn Mural*

Lady Mags Mural*

Lady Mags and Amanda Lynn*

Amanda Lynn and Lady Mags


If you follow this website often, you will notice that I have been doing fewer and fewer murals.   The reason is they have become repetitive.  I am in awe with anyone that can take brush or spray can to a wall and create something of beauty.  However, the art of so many of the artists I have focused on in this website can be recognized without the help of a guide.  The same might be said of Alynn-Mags, but it isn’t quite true.  Their work, while often of beautiful women, are of the same genre, but the paintings themselves are each unique and beautiful.

I look forward to catching other great street artists breaking out of their molds.

Holiday Inn Mural





Feb 142014

City Hall
South Light Court

Heart sculpture at City Hall SF

In 2004, San Francisco General Hospital  launched Hearts in San Francisco to generate revenue to support its  numerous programs.  This heart, in City Hall’s South light court, was part of that program.  Designed by Deborah Oropallo the  interlocking Heart, titled LOVE + MARRIAGE, was sponsored by Ambassador James Hormel and Timothy Wu.  The heart displays the first names of many of the gay couples married in San Francisco in 2004.

Love + Marriage SF

ARTIST’S THOUGHTS: “I wanted to make a heart that would not just be decorative, but somehow be relevant to what is going on in San Francisco today. The list of same-sex names represents some of the 4,161 gay marriages that took place in 29 days, and has now become an important part of our city’s history. The names were done on my computer and printed onto canvas with a digital permanent pigment printer. At the center of the heart and the literal focal point are the names of Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, who were the first couple to get married on Feb 12. The names fade out away from the center like a drop of water in the middle and its ripple effect. I was extremely happy that the heart was appropriately placed on the spot where these marriages took place.”


Deborah Oropallo is a Bay Area painter and sculptor who has exhibited her work at various museums around the country including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum in New York City.

Oropallo got her MA and MFA from the University of California, Berkeley

Heart in San Francisco South Light Hall*

Love and Marriage


Feb 112014

Second Floor
City Hall
Civic Center

Judge James Seawell City Hall Bronze Bust

The San Francisco Call ran this article on November 8, 1898:

Judge James M. Seawell.

No better nomination has been made by any party than that of Judge James M. Seawell, one of the Democratic candidates for Superior Judge. During the six years he has served in that capacity he has built up a reputation as a jurist that he may justly feel proud of. He has shown conspicuous ability, has ever presided with dignity and has been honest and conscientious in his interpretation of the law. It can be truly said that his services have helped to elevate the bench of San Francisco and gain for it the confidence and respect of the people. Judge Seaweil was born in 1536 at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, where his father, who was at the time a captain in the regular army, was then stationed. The Judge graduated at Harvard College In 1855. and at the law school of Louisville, Ky., in 1857. He came to this city in 1861 and has resided here ever since. He was elected to the Superior bench in 1892, and his candidacy for re-election is most favorably received because of his eminent fitness for the position.

Judge Seawell in City HallThe artist of this bust was Ralph Stackpole.  Stackpole is responsible for many statues throughout San Francisco that you can see here.

Ralph Ward Stackpole (May 1, 1885 – December 13, 1973) was an American sculptor, painter, muralist, etcher and art educator, San Francisco’s leading artist during the 1920s and 1930s. Stackpole was involved in the art and causes of social realism, especially during the Great Depression, when he was part of the Federal Art Project for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Stackpole was responsible for recommending that architect Timothy L. Pflueger bring Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to San Francisco to work on the San Francisco Stock Exchange and its attached office tower in 1930–31.

The statue was a gift of the SF Bar Association.

Dianne Feinstein

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Feb 072014

City Hall
Mayors Balcony
Civic Center

Bust of Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein was the head of the Board of Supervisors on the day that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were tragically assassinated.  She instantly became Mayor.

This sculpture (the second of Dianne Feinstein to sit in City Hall) was done in 1996 by Lisa Reinertson.

According to Lisa’s website: 

Lisa Reinertson is known for both her life size figurative ceramic sculptures and her large-scale public sculptures cast in bronze.

Coming from a family of peace and social activists, Reinertson’s work has an underlying humanism that can be seen both in her poetic ceramic figures with animals, to her more historic public commissions that express ideals of peace and social justice. In her public sculptures of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez she blends bas-relief into her three-dimensional sculptural forms creating an historic and powerfully moving narrative. Her work combines a realism rooted in figurative art traditions, with a contemporary expression of social and psychological content.

Reinertson completed her MFA at UC Davis in 1984, studying with Robert Arneson, and Manuel Neri. She has taught at several universities and colleges in Northern California including CSU Chico, Santa Clara University and UC Berkeley. Her ceramic work has been in exhibitions and museums nationally and internationally, and is in several public and private collections including the Crocker Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum and the Mint Museum. Reinertson has completed over 20 public commissions in bronze.


Feb 062014

City Hall
South Light Court
Civic Center


This is one of five wooden models that Don Potts did for the 1982 AIA Convention.  The pieces were later purchased by the City and four are now on display in City Hall.  You can read about the first two here. Don was a meticulous artist.  Another renown project, that has since been destroyed was “My First Car”.

Don Potts City Hall Wood Model*

City Hall Wood Model by Don Potts*

City Hall San Francisco*

City Hall Wood Model by Donn Potts

The fourth of these models is of the Hallidie Plaza, a building that houses the San Francisco Chapter of the AIA.

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Don Potts

In researching Don Potts I found this article by Hal Crippen about “My Car”


THE FIRST CAR of Don Potts is actually an extraordinary assemblage—a concours d’elegance of one man’s work. The title itself has a sort of parallel to Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout and the objects themselves are resonant with the objects of a now—lost American boyhood—an American Flyer wagon, a soap box derby car, a first bicycle—but here raised to the Nth power of imagination.

At a time when true craftsmanship, and even the idea of it, is fast disappearing in automobiles, and even the very existence of the automobile is called into question, Don Potts has paid a necessary act of homage to the greatest of automobiles. One thinks of Bugattis, Lancia Lambdas, early MGs, birdcage Maserati frames.

The craftsmanship is literally stunning–but it is no more important to know that Potts’s spent six years on this creation than it is to know Michaelangelo’s back bothered him in painting Sistine Chapel. The Potts car is simply there in ultimate perfection. The aim of the craftsman is to reveal rather than to conceal—and thus this Vesalian anatomy of the idea of a car, beautiful in its nakedness.

It is a fantasy of a car—ultimately useless, somehow gut-exciting, doomed and yet with a strange optimism. It is a car for dream riders in dream landscapes.

The entire work consists of the Basic Chassis of wood, the Master Chassis, motorized and radio controlled, and two bodies, one of stainless steel and the other of fabric and steel. The whole work must, for the purpose of classification, be considered as sculpture, but actually it exists beyond classification simply as a work of art. It is not something that one could buy to “decorate” a space. It is, in heroic scale, both a monument and a memorial of an age.

Don Potts My Car

Feb 052014

City Hall
South Light Court
Civic Center

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 2.51.37 PMPylon of the Golden Gate Bridge

There are four amazing, exquisite and highly detailed wood models in the South Light Court of City Hall.  They are all by Don Potts.

These architectural models were designed and built in 1982 by Don Potts in commemoration of the Centennial of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  The models were first displayed in an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which “highlighted the important contribution that architecture has made to the City and County of San Francisco, and which served to reawaken a public awareness of the built environment.  Each building or public space represents a unique phase in the evolution and development of San Francisco’s rich architectural heritage and distinguished urban design. Each model also serves as a type of icon, symbolizing various aspects of urban life.”

The models were purchased by the joint committee of the SFAC and the San Francisco Airports Commission for $13,700.

Don Potts Golden Gate Bridge Pylon

Donald Edwin Potts was born in San Francisco on October 5, 1936.  Potts studied at San Francisco City College and received his M.A. at San Jose State College.  He taught at the University of California at Berkeley for several years.  In 2006 he moved to Fairfield, Iowa.

He has had 24 solo shows at the Whitney Museum (New York), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), and others.

His works are held at Pasadena Museum; San Francisco Museum; Oakland Museum; La Jolla Museum; Joselyn Art Museum (Nebraska)

Italianate Victorian House by Don Potts

This Italianate Victorian Home was modeled on a home at 1808 California Street.  The model was altered to give it a more Italianate feeling.  Maplewood was laser-cut to give the model its gingerbread ornamentation. Multi-shaped woods were laminated together to give the desired pattern and three-dimensional image.

Feb 042014

City Hall
Mayor’s Balcony
Civic Center

George Moscone by Spero Anargyros

This bronze bust is of the late Mayor George Moscone.  Moscone was assassinated by Dan White along with Harvey Milk in November 1978, a tragedy for the City of San Francisco.  Moscone was our 37th mayor.

The bust was done by my dear friend Spero Anargyros.  Spero has a few works throughout San Francisco, and you can read about them here.

Many people are aware of the highly controversial, but in my opinion, excellent, sculpture of Moscone by Robert Arneson.  The bust that Arneson created was not liked by the powers that be.  The new mayor, Dianne Feinstein, had a letter hand delivered to each Arts Commissioner just before their vote on whether to accept the bust, asking them to reject it, and they did, by a seven-to-three vote. The bust, being shown at Moscone Center, was removed and Robert Arneson returned the thirty-seven thousand dollars he had been paid to do the work.

In December 1994, Spero Anargyros’s sculpture of George Moscone was unveiled.

Moscone by Spero Anargyros

The pedestal reads: San Francisco is an extraordinary city, because its people have learned to live together with one another, to respect each other, and to work with each other for the future of their community.  That’s the strength and beauty of this city – it’s the reason why citizens who live here are the luckiest people in the world.”…a quote from George Moscone.

Jan 312014

City Hall
South Light Court

Cyril Magnin Painting in City Hall SF

Cyril Magnin served as San Francisco’s Chief of Protocol from 1964 until his death in 1988.  He was responsible for keeping many key international consulates from moving out of San Francisco and to Los Angeles.  He is seen here walking his dog Tippecanoe.

In Magnin’s 1981 autobiography, “Call Me Cyril,” opera superstar Beverly Sills is quoted as saying: “He twinkles, he’s a song-and-dance man, a sentimentalist, a tough businessman, a sucker for a hard-luck story–and one of the great philanthropists. He’s a prince of pleasure, a king of kindness, a formidable friend, and I am madly in love with him.”

Cyril Isaac Magnin (1899–1988) was one of the most prominent San Francisco businessmen of the post-World War II era, chief executive of the Joseph Magnin Co., which evolved into a multi-million dollar chain of upscale women’s clothing stores.

Personally gracious and urbane, Magnin was a veteran political fund-raiser and power broker in the Democratic Party, dating back to New Deal days. He was Treasurer of President Franklin Roosevelt’s northern California re-election campaign in 1944, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1948 (that nominated President Harry Truman) and again in 1964, when he co-chaired the Finance Committee of President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign in California.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Magnin was one of a quartet of fabulously wealthy San Francisco Jewish contributors to Democratic candidates, appreciatively called “The Green Machine” by career politicians, the others being Fairmont Hotel magnate Benjamin Swig, Lilli Ann clothing company founder Adolph Schuman, and real estate mogul Walter Shorenstein.

The painting was done by Elaine Badgley Aarnaux.   While her website is sparse, this article from the San Francisco Chronicle is charming and revealing about the lady:

Elaine Badgley Arnoux, painter of mayors
By Sam Whiting
 Thursday, November 1, 2012

Each mayor of San Francisco receives a letter from Elaine Badgley Arnoux with an invitation to sit for a portrait. The strategy has worked for every mayor going back toDianne Feinstein. Badgley Arnoux (her professional name), 86, would now like to advance to governors, starting with Jerry Brown.

Q: Describe your occupation?

A: I am a professional painter. In 1985, I did 100 people in San Francisco, which was shown at City Hall in 2001. I’ve painted 190 portraits of San Franciscans over a 30-year period.

Q: How do you pick your subjects?

A: Carefully. I spend a lot time debating within myself. It is based on how this person relates to the whole feeling. The shoeshine man, for instance, at Second and Townsend. Most everybody knows him who goes to the ballpark.

Q: You set up an easel where you find them on the street?

A: Oh, no. This is one thing I’m very particular about. I really want people to sit for me, so they come to my studio.

Q: How long do they have to sit there?

A: If I’m very direct that day, I can do someone in two hours.

Q: How do you know when the time is right?

A: I’m certain within myself that now I want to do this mayor. It might be after they retire and it might be before they are elected. I was able to find George Christopher after he was out of office.

Q: What was the most recent portrait you did?

A: Eight months ago, I did George Moscone. I found an excellent photograph and was able to draw him and show it to his family before it was shown in City Hall.

Q: How did Mayor Ed Lee react to the finished product?

A: He was absolutely delighted, and he was delightful to work with. He came to my studio twice.

Q: Who was the least delightful to work with?

A: Oddly enough, Willie Brown, who is generally very effusive. It was before he was mayor. He came to my studio because he was told to come, and he didn’t say a word, not one word during the whole sitting.

Q: Which mayor was most difficult?

A: The portrait of Gavin Newsom was the most difficult because he doesn’t really stand still. He moves and moves and moves.

Q: Have another mayor portrait in you?

A: Not a mayor but a governor. I would very much like to do the portrait of Gov. (Jerry) Brown. I think he has an interesting face.

Q: Latest project?

A: It’s not portraiture. It’s figurative paintings and sculptural entities. I’m going to be in a group show at a new gallery in Burlingame. It is called Gallerie Citi. I’m going to be showing a three-dimensional sculpture that includes a donkey, an elephant and Mother Goose all having tea in a voting booth.

Q: Where do you live?

A: My husband and I live in the Golden Gateway, on the sixth floor. We look out at the bridge.

Q: What is your husband’s name?

A: Harold Kozloff.

Q: So were you Elaine Badgley growing up?

A: Now we’re going to get into a sticky wicket. I was Elaine Harper. Then I was Elaine Stranahan. Then I was Elaine Badgley. Then I was Elaine Arnoux. Now I’m Elaine Kozloff. Take a deep breath.

Q: What would you buy if you could?

A: A condominium in San Francisco on a hill so that the earthquake would not topple us down.

Q: When did you arrive in San Francisco?

A: It was 1964.

Q: What do you miss about old San Francisco?

A: The buildings are now so high that they are diminishing the character of the architecture.

Q: What is the key to longevity?

A: You just work all the time, and you work with people and they give you so much of themselves. So you have a thread that goes from one person to another until it becomes a community and a city and a life.


The paining shown above was done in 1981.

Jan 302014

City Hall
Supervisors Legislative Chamber
Civic Center

Bust of Harvey Milk

This is the only bust of a supervisor in San Francisco’s City Hall.

Harvey Milk  was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office. Milk won a seat as a San Francisco supervisor in 1977.  He served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor. Milk’s election and assassination were key components of a shift in San Francisco politics.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”

This sculpture was designed by the team of Daub Firmin and  Hendrickson of Berkeley at a cost of $84,000. Rob Firmin said artists tend to avoid busts that show toothy smiles, as Milk’s does. They went for it because, Firmin said, “Harvey Milk’s signature expression was a huge, amused and infectious grin.”

Part of the inspiration for the bust is from a photograph taken by Daniel Nicoletta, who worked in Milk’s Castro Street camera shop and is a co-chair of the memorial committee. His photograph caught Milk’s tie blowing in the San Francisco breeze and the bust includes that detail.

Harvey Milk Sculpture


Engraved in the pedestal is a quotation from one of the audiotapes Milk recorded in the event of his assassination, which he openly predicted several times before his death. “I ask for the movement to continue because my election gave young people out there hope. You gotta give ‘em hope.”


Eugene Daub is D & F’s principal sculptor.  He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and taught there. He has been an instructor at the Scottsdale Artists’ School.  He has work in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute, The British Museum, Ellis Island Museum, as well as many public-sculpture installations across the United States.  He is accomplished in all sculpture modes and in a wide range of more general art.

Rob Firmin, in addition to hands-on art creation, works on concepts, composition, research, model building, and project management.  Firmin holds a double major in history and art history from Denison University. His career and education have ranged across:  realist-figurative sculpture, the formal study of history and art history, to the invention of project management techniques, financial risk reduction, dynamic process control, modeling techniques, and software concepts and design.

Jonah Hendrickson lives in Oakland where he splits his time between sculpture and his real estate business.

Jan 292014

City Hall
South Light Court

Head from Old City HallGoddess of Progress by F. Marion Wells

The plaque that accompanies her reads: On April 17, 1906, the dome atop San Francisco’s City Hall that was completed in 1896 supported a twenty foot statue by F. Marion Wells.  The Goddess of Progress, with lightbulbs in her hair, held a torch aloft in her right hand, causing some contemporary counts to refer to it as the Goddess of Liberty.  The statue was so securely mounted that on April 18, 1906, when City Hall and the city around it lay in ruins from the great earthquake-fire, it continued to stand at the peak of the now exposed steel tower.  After workmen brought it down from the precarious perch when the building was finally torn down in 1909 the statue fell from a wagon and the 700-pound head broke off.


It is my understanding that the whereabouts of the body is unknown.

City Hall after the 06 earthquakePhoto courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library taken in 1906

Francis Marion Wells was born in Pennsylvania in 1848. Wells arrived in San Francisco about 1870 and was a cofounder of the Bohemian Club in 1872. He was Douglas Tilden’s first teacher in 1883 and the following year was commissioned to do a bust of Hawaii’s King David Kalakua who was visiting in Oakland. Wells was active in the local art scene as a teacher as well as a producer of portrait busts and bas reliefs.

Once a very wealthy man, he fell on hard times, as this article from the San Francisco Call of July 14, 1903 attests:


Well-Known Sculptor, Artist, Literateur and Former Club Man, Afflicted by Illness, Compelled to Ask Municipality for Help

FRANCIS  MARION WELLS, sculptor, literateur, club member and well-known man about town, was forced by dire illness and strain of circumstances to apply for admission to the City and County Hospital yesterday. He is now lying there in a helpless and pitiable state. Not one single friend came to him in his distress, although when in affluent circumstances his beautiful home and grounds at Berkeley were filled with those who enjoyed the royal hospitality that they were always welcome to there.

Broken in spirit, sick nigh unto death, his arms paralyzed, his mind partially deranged from his sufferings, he was compelled to seek the only relief at hand and become a ward of the city. His faithful wife has struggled nobly during his four months illness. He has been during all that time entirely, helpless, the result of five apoplectic shocks.

Two months ago, to save the family from actual starvation, Mrs. Wells took a position as housekeeper at the Vienna Lodging-house, 533 Broadway, where, with their two young sons, she was just enabled to make enough to keep the wolf from the door. As she had to do the entire work of twenty rooms and also cooking for the family, she had no time to give her husband the constant nursing that his case required, but was by his side whenever she could steal a moment from her work.

Yesterday afternoon when the ambulance came to take Wells away he said: “I hope there won’t be a crowd to see me put into the ambulance, as I don’t want the people to see me in this poverty stricken condition.” This was too much for his wife to bear, and she borrowed $2 from some kind neighbors, a hack was procured and the sufferer was, carried down the rickety stairs and placed in it. His wife and sons accompanied him, to the hospital and made him as comfortable there as possible and then bade him farewell and returned to  their humble lodgings.

Mrs. Wells, who is a highly educated and refined Parisian, is broken hearted over the thought of his position.” She said with tears streaming down her pale face: “I do not care for myself;  I am young and can work for my two boys, but to think that my husband’s friends should allow him to become a burden to the city is almost more than I can bear. When we were in deep distress, surrounded, by poverty and sickness, I wrote to several of his former wealthy, old-time and intimate friends in the Bohemian Club  to come to his relief with food and medical attendance, but not one of  them replied. I did not ask for anything for myself, only for him, and that  appeal they refused him. Today he fainted four times on the way to the hospital, and when I left him he was almost, unconscious. Oh! I do not want him to die there. Don’t you think some of his old friends will do something for him and put him into a private sanitarium where his last hours can be spent?


“We have been very unfortunate.. When I came from Paris, fourteen years ago, I brought $60,000 with me and used it in buying  property here and then built a beautiful home in Berkeley. All went well until General Ezeta persuaded us to go into his San Salvador scheme,  and he was so persuasive that we put in $40,000— and we lost every cent of it.

Bad luck  followed, we mortgaged our home; and lost it. Then I commenced to sell my jewels. My  $8000 diamond necklace, which my mother gave me, I pawned for $1200. I had hoped to redeem it, although Mr. Shreve had offered to buy it for $5000. Little by little everything went, and now we are worse than penniless. My husband was always goodness itself to me, and we all love him dearly. My oldest son is 13. He has just ha, the misfortune to cut off the end of his finger. My youngest boy, Emanuel, is 11, and helps me as much as he can.  “My husband is a member of the Universal Order  of  Knight Commanders of the Sun, and here are the original parchments granted him.  I think he was also one of the charter members of  the Bohemian Club. It is a very sad ending to the  life of a man with a brilliant brain, with accomplishments and with so generous and kind a heart for all his friends.

He was born in Louisiana, his father being General Francis Marion Wells, but he was educated in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.

SCULPTOR OF LIBERTY. Marion Wells, as he was called, has been well known here for many years and has been one of the most prominent sculptors in the city. His statue of Liberty on the dome of the City Hall is a fine piece of work and a monument to his abilities. The figure is modeled from his wife and the poise is extremely graceful. The bas relief of John Lick, which was executed at the request of the Lick trustees, and now hangs in the Pioneer Hall, is a splendid likeness of the great philanthropist. The John Marshall monument in Sonora County, erected to commemorate the first discovery of gold in California, also exhibits great talents.

Among other works are the bears over the entrance to the First National Bank, which have marked merit in conception and design. He also did some artistic modeling for the Hibernia Bank, which adds much to the beauty of that handsome structure. The great owl which stands at the top of the grand  stairway of the Bohemian Club is also of his handiwork. Other work which has been highly commented upon adorns St. Ignatius Church, the quadrangle and the memorial chapel at Stanford University.
Wells Died, July 22, 1903

Francis Marion Wells

The head suffered a few indignities on its way to the San Francisco City Hall Museum area.

The head was apparently given to John C. Irvine by former mayor James D. Phelan after it was removed from the old City Hall. It was, later, owned by his son, William Irvine.

It then came into possession of the South of Market Boys who gave it back to the city April 18, 1950, the 44th anniversary of the Great Earthquake.

It was later displayed in Golden Gate Park, then placed in storage.

Seven years later, in 1957, the head was sold, along with several cable cars, at public auction to Knott’s Berry Farm, a Southern California amusement park. It was given back to the city by Knott’s Berry Farm in the mid-1970s.

The goddess was, for many years, displayed at the Fire Department Museum, but was moved in 1993 to the Museum of the City of San Francisco. The goddess was then moved to City Hall in 1998 to celebrate the reopening of the structure after it was repaired following the 1989 earthquake.

Jul 022013

201 Van Ness
Civic Center

Fletcher Benton at Symphony Hall

Titled, Balanced Unbalanced T, this Steel and Flat Black Enamel piece sits on the exterior second floor of Davies Symphony Hall, it is accessible at all times via a staircase that can be accessed off of Grove Street.

The piece, done in 1981, is by Fletcher Benton, who has been in this website before .

Fletcher Benton (born February 25, 1931 Jackson, Ohio) is from San Francisco, California

He graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1956. From 1964 to 1967 he taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and taught as an associate professor and then professor of art at San Jose State University from 1967-1986.

Balanced Unbalanced T by Fletcher Benton


This piece is actually owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


Jun 152013

400 McAllister
Civic Center

400 McAllister Doors

This building houses the Superior Court of California and was designed by Mark Cavagnero and Associates.

Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 3.35.33 PM

*doors by Albert Paley

There are three identical doors at the entry to the building.  They were designed by Albert Paley.  Paley’s work can also be found at 199 Montgomery Street.

Albert Paley is a modernist American metal sculptor, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1944. He earned both a BFA and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Paley initially worked as a goldsmith and moved to Rochester, New York in 1969 to teach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he now holds an endowed chair.

Jun 142013

505 Van Ness at McAllister
Civic Center

State of California Building in San Francisco Civic Center

This is the Edmund G. Brown State Office Building.  Built in 1986 and designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merril, it is one of the anchors of the San Francisco Civic Center.

State Seal by Rosa Estebanez

The seal was created by sculptor Rosa Estebanez.

Estebanez’s life has been described as a remarkable story of courage, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit. Born in Cuba, Estebanez graduated from the National School of Art in Havana with a master’s degree in art and became the official sculptor for Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. In 1960, Estebanez left Cuba following the communist overthrow of Batista’s government.

Estebanez arrived in the United States unable to speak English with her 10 year-old-son, Jorge, and a $5 bill in her purse. She chose to settle in Petaluma, California because she had a brother living there.

At first Estebanez worked as a chicken plucker at a local poultry plant before she was able to resume her art career. For a time she was employed part-time as a “re-toucher” at Decker’s Photo Studio. Estebanez also held a position with Kresky’s Sign, communicating with her supervisor through drawings and sign language. Estebanez taught classes privately and at night at Petaluma High School; led tours abroad, and created a prolific body of work, including murals, bas reliefs, sculpture, public statues, and paintings. In 1978 she joined the National Art Board of the American League of Pen Women. Estebanez also hosted a 7-part television series entitled “How to Sculpt with Rosa” on KQED’s Open Studio.  She died in 1992.


The Great Seal of the State of California was adopted at the California state Constitutional Convention of 1849 and has undergone minor design changes since then, the last being the standardization of the seal in 1937. The seal features the Roman goddess Minerva (Athena in Greek mythology), the goddess of wisdom and war.  According to ancient Roman myth, the goddess Minerva was born fully grown. Just as Minerva was born fully grown, so California became a state without first having been a territory. Minerva’s image on the Great Seal symbolizes California’s direct rise to statehood.

The seal also features a California grizzly bear (the official state animal) feeding on grape vines, representing California’s wine production; a sheaf of grain, representing agriculture; a miner, representing the California Gold Rush and the mining industry; and sailing ships, representing the state’s economic power. The phrase “Eureka,” meaning “I have found it!” (εύρηκα in Greek) is the California state motto. The original design of the seal was by U.S. Army Major Robert S. Garnett and engraved by Albert Kuner. However, because of the friction then in existence between the military and civil authorities, Garnett was unwilling to introduce the design to the constitutional convention, so convention clerk Caleb Lyon introduced it as his own design, with Garnett’s approval. Garnett later became the first general to be killed in the Civil War, where he served as a Confederate general.



May 162013

Civic Center
San Francisco City Hall

Henri Crenier sculptures

These telamones by Henri Crenier have always taken my breath away.  They sit on the Van Ness side of City Hall.

Telamones (plural) or Telamon are sculptured male human figures used in place of columns to support an entablature.  They are also called Atlantes (plural) or Atlas.  They are called Caryatids if they are female figures.

Henri Crenier Atlas*

Henri Crenier Atlantes

Henri Crenier was responsible for much of the art work on City Hall.

May 152013

City Hall
San Francisco Civic Center

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco’s City Hall has an art collection of its own within its walls.  This is about the art work that graces the building.  City Hall was the cornerstone to the City Beautiful Movement in San Francisco.

On City Hall there are two tympanums each holding a sculpture by Henri Crenier.  A tympanum is the triangular space enclosed by a pediment or arch.

City Hall Tympanum by Henri Crenier

The tympanum that faces the War Memorial Building on Van Ness features a figure representing Wisdom.  Wisdom stands between the figures of Arts, Learning and Truth on the left and Industry and Labor on the right.

San Francisco City Hall Tympanum by Henri Crenier

The figures in the tympanum that faces the Civic Center represent California’s agriculture and riches (on the left) and navigational skills (right).  They also symbolize San Francisco’s role in the link between the riches of California and the mercantile needs of the rest of the world.

Henri Crenier (1873–1948) was an American sculptor born in France.

Crenier was born in Paris, studied at the École des Beaux-Arts with Alexandre Falguière, worked in Asnières-sur-Seine, and exhibited at the Paris Salon. In 1902 he emigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1911, and became active in New York City, serving as master sculptor in the atelier of Hermon Atkins MacNeil.

His solo work includes the James Fennimore Cooper Memorial in Scarsdale, New York, as well as his single largest commission, the two pediment sculptures in granite for the 1915 San Francisco City Hall. He also contributed to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) and designed the freestanding figure of Achievement that stands at theNemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware.

Apr 262013

Masonic Temple
25 Van Ness
Civic Center

25 Van Ness, San Francisco

Walter Danforth Bliss and William Baker Faville were the architects of this, the second Masonic Lodge in San Francisco.

The first lodge, at 1 Montgomery Street, was built in 1860 and burned down in the 1906 fire. In 1911 the Masonic Temple Association, headed by William Crocker, laid a 12—ton cornerstone (the largest ever in California at that time) for their new building. Two years later a grand parade of 8,000 Masons, with Knights Templar on horseback, marked its dedication.

Masonic  Temple cornerstoneCornerstone

An outstanding example of the Beaux-Arts period, the temple is primarily Italian Gothic in design, with a Romanesque—style arched entrance and touches inspired by cathedrals in France.



*Masonic Temple San Francisco

The entrance is through this elegant and noble portal, under a semi-circular hood supported on corbels formed by the stone figures of lions. The tympanum shows three allegorical figures in relief by New York Sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (The future creator of the Winged Head Liberty Dime and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar), consisting of three figures of Charity, Fortitude and Truth.  Beneath, the lintel is a row of nine smaller figures by San Francisco artist Ralph Stackpole, representing David, Abraham, St. John the Divine, Nathan the prophet, Moses, Aaron, St. John the Baptist, Joseph and Jonathan.

The 1913 Chamber of Commerce Handbook for San Francisco declared, “One of the few buildings in America comparable to some of the good buildings in Europe is the Masonic Temple.” And the 1919 Architectural Review said, “Bliss & Faville’s Masonic Temple is widely known as one of the best Masonic structures, both inside and out. . . . It looks like what it is, and this cannot always be said of lodges and fraternity buildings.”



The sculpture of King Solomon is also by Adolph Alexander Weinman.  The canopy itself is adorned with sculptured angels, and with enshrined allegorical figures all done by Ralph Stackpole . The man with the capital represents the Builder: the one with the book, Social Order; the one with the lyre, Reverence for Beauty of the World; the one with his hands on his breast, Reverence for the Mystery of the Heavens.

Walter Danforth Bliss was born in Nevada in 1872, the fourth of five children born to Duane and Elizabeth Bliss. Duane Bliss had migrated out to California from Massachusetts during the gold rush period and had become a partner in a Nevada Bank, which was purchased by the Bank of California. Later Duane formed a partnership with Bank of California President, Darius Ogden Mills, in the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. This successful venture secured the education of the Bliss’ children, each of whom was sent back to Massachusetts for schooling at MIT.

At MIT, Walter Bliss met his future partner William Baker Faville. Faville, more than 5 years his senior, was born in San Andreas, California, but had grown up in western New York State, and had already served an apprenticeship in Buffalo with architects Green & Wicks. Bliss and Faville both left MIT in 1895 and began working at the prominent New York firm of McKim, Mead & White. Although neither appears to have attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, they would have been exposed to its philosophy in New York at McKim, Mead & White and also at the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects in New York, of which John Galen Howard was then President.

In 1898 the pair decided to form a partnership and selected San Francisco as the city in which to work.

The freemasons moved from this building in 1958, it  is now home to a number of city and county departments, including the San Francisco Arts Commission, the New Conservatory Theatre, and the San Francisco Parking Division.

It allegedly sits along the outlines of a pyramid shape planned for the streets of San Francisco by various influential Freemasons. The shape reflects a prominent Freemason symbol and also the pyramid in the Great Seal of the United States. Supposedly, the first diagonal runs from Market to Mission Streets, the second runs along Montgomery Avenue, and the base is formed by Van Ness. The Transamerica Pyramid sits at the capstone.



Jan 112013

214 Van Ness Avenue
Civic Center

The Beaded Quilt at Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco

This “Beaded Quilt” sits on the outside of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired building on Van Ness Avenue.  According to the Please Touch Garden Site this mural is part of a LightHouse community arts initiative created by dozens of blind San Franciscans.

 The mural is created out of 150,000 colored beads. As part of the Please Touch Community Garden, artist Gk Callahan envisioned the “Beaded Quilt” mural as a social arts project and enlisted clients from his art classes plus blind staff and volunteers at the LightHouse to assemble the 576 beaded squares that make up the six-foot-tall mural.

It all began in 2010 when Callahan partnered with the LightHouse to obtain a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission to create a major community arts project – the “Please Touch Community Garden” – on the once unkempt vacant lot at 165 Grove Street, in the shadow of the dome of the city hall.

The Please Touch Community Garden is currently under development by Callahan and his students in the Blind Leaders Program at the LightHouse. “A big part of our project has been cleaning up Lech Walesa alley which is where the entrance to the garden is located”, says Callahan. “With the installment of the Beaded Quilt mural we’ll highlight the garden’s entrance and the alley itself. Making the alley more visible to the surrounding community will help with the squatting and drug use that has been rampant for years in this part of the neighborhood.”

Callahan explains that another facet of the mural is working with blind seniors in a program that historically produced craft art. As a local artist, he wanted to illustrate how art made by people with disabilities does not necessarily have to be craft or outsider art. The Beaded Quilt is made by blind and visually impaired people as a public art piece and as a statement about what one with disabilities can accomplish.

The mural has been touched by many people. For example, over many months, Starrly Winchester, one of the LightHouse’s long time volunteers, spent hours at home separating the more than 100,000 beads into sixty color groups. Every week she brought in more color-separated beads for the artists to work with.

Linda Fonseca, a long-time client of the LightHouse, is one of about ten clients who worked on the beaded quilt for over a year. She says that it was motivating and gave her a sense of accomplishment. Her designs were influenced by the ever-present music the artists listened to as they affixed the 150,000 beads. “Classical music brought out the clear, white and pastel colors and more subdued designs. When we were rocking out, I made more geometric designs with purples and reds.” And what about jazz and the blues? “Oh,” she says without missing a beat, “many shades of blue came into play.”

“Each square is a small reflection of the person who made it, highlighting the colorfulness and diversity of our community,” says Callahan. “The mural is not only about accomplishing my own vision as an artist, but about bringing new challenges, learning, activity and artistic growth to our programs at the LightHouse. It’s about helping Linda find an outlet for her artistic expression. It’s about helping James, who found that the project improved his skillfulness and eased his arthritis.”

Mural at 214 Van Ness AvenueGk Callahan is a multi media and socially engaged artist in San Francisco, CA. Trained in painting at San Francisco Art Institute, earning his BFA in 2006. During his BA studies he facilitated public work under Catasta Gallery©, an alternative arts group he co-founded in 2003. 2008-2012 he set as the artist in residence at both the LightHouse for the Blind and Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy severing on both the LightHouse’s Insight Art Show board and Harvey Milk’s Comity Art board. Gk most recently joined the MFA program at the California College of the Arts in Social practice.

Dec 292012

San Francisco City HallSan Francisco’s 1906 fire and earthquake not only destroyed much of San Francisco, it also destroyed the dream of many to bring the City Beautiful Movement to large sections of San Francisco.

The City Beautiful Movement began with the “White City,” also known as the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. The Exposition took place in Chicago and was an exercise in light, order and forward thinking.

The shimmering “White City” was a model of early city planning and architectural cohesion. In the Court of Honor all of the buildings had uniform heights, were decorated roughly in the same manner, and painted bright white. The beauty of the main court, the well-planned balance of buildings, water, and open green spaces was a wholly new concept to the visitors of the fair. Dignified, monumental and well run, the White City boasted state-of-the-art sanitation and transportation systems. All of this was in sharp contrast to the grey, urban sprawl of Chicago in 1893.

1893 02 Architecture Spotlight: San Francisco Civic Center Chicago – 1893 World Columbian Exposition – (Photo courtesy of Boston College)

The City Beautiful Movement was a response to failing urban life. An attempt to improve cities through beautification, it was hoped that the solution of social ills would inspire civic loyalty, and make city centers more inviting to the upper classes, in hopes that they would return to them for work and therefore spend money.

The City Beautiful Movement used the language of the Beaux Arts (Fine Arts) Style. This style was named after the art and architecture school of Paris the Ecoles des Beaux Arts and flourished between 1885 and 1920.

The Beaux Arts is a classical style with a full range of Grecian and Roman elements, including columns, arches, vaults and domes.

General defining elements include the following:

Highly ornamented exterior decorations
A single architectural element as the center of the building composition. This could be an over-scaled
archway or a dramatic line of columns.
A dramatic roofline, often with sculptured figures
Monumental steps approaching the entrance
Floor plans that culminate in a single grand room
Axial floor plans so that vistas can be obtained throughout the building

SF City Hall DomeClassic Elements of Beaux Art Architecture.

The City Beautiful Movement began in San Francisco in 1904, when James Duval Phelan, former mayor and president of the “Association for the Improvement and Adornment of San Francisco,” invited Daniel Hudson Burnham to town. Daniel Burnham was the indisputable “Father of City Beautiful.” He was the Director of Works for the Worlds Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and took a leading role in the creation of master plans for a number of cities.

Burnham’s group proposed that a new Civic Center complex be built at the corner of Market and Van Ness with radiating grand boulevards. A landscaped park would begin at the Civic Center and extend to the Golden Gate Park Panhandle. Twin Peaks was to be crowned with a neo-classic library overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The plan created neighborhoods, which would be accessed by a grid pattern, and tied the transportation systems to scenic views. The groups’ plan prescribed careful treatment of the hills and streets and even took into consideration the issues of building costs, maintenance and upkeep.

SF War Memorial BuildingThe War Memorial Veterans Building – San Francisco

War Memorial Opera HouseThe War Memorial Opera House is almost identical to the Veterans Building.

In 1906 the earthquake and fire presented the City Beautiful movement with a blank canvas-with one caveat, the merchants of San Francisco, eager to regenerate commerce, would have the final say as to the direction of future building in San Francisco.

Nevertheless, there was still a significant Beaux Arts influence in a number of buildings that were built after the earthquake, and the Civic Center we know today is one of the finest examples of the movement.

Bill Graham AuditoriumThe Bill Graham Auditorium

The Beaux Arts buildings that create the heart of Civic Center include City Hall and the Exposition Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Auditorium) completed in 1915 in time for the Pan Pacific Exhibition, the War Memorial Opera House and the War Memorial Veterans Building, the Main Library and the State and Old Federal Buildings built in the 1920s and 1930s.

These classic buildings give the San Francisco Civic Center a visual cohesion that should encourage visitors to sit and enjoy this area. Sadly, due to the continued onslaught of vagrancy, the City of San Francisco has destroyed the central park area, Civic Center Plaza, that brings the buildings together.

“The biggest single obstacle to the provision of better public space is the undesirables problem,” wrote William H. Whyte in his 1980 book, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. “They are themselves not too much of a problem. It is the actions taken to combat them that is the problem.”

The Civic Center open space has no benches, and if you are looking for a place to sit, you will find poorly maintained lawns interrupted by sparsely planted annuals. A colonnade of pollarded London Plane trees stands like sentinels over a vast bed of decomposed granite that used to house a reflective pool. While the Asian Art Museum has often placed intriguing and world-class art in the plaza, it is not yet enough to make the average citizen want to visit.

Dealing with the homeless problem in San Francisco has never been one of calm and reason; making the area scream, “go away” has not worked. It is time to find a way to bring vibrancy and humanity back to the area. It is time that the city slowly works its way back to the ideals of the City Beautiful Movement within its own Civic Center.

SF Federal BuildingThe State of California building

Sep 302012
Civic Center
Hastings Law School
200 McAllister at Hyde
 I would like to extend a big thank you to Suzanne Parks, the Volunteer Art Curator at Hastings Law School for this information.

This sculpture  is titled “Gary Diptych #1″ and is by San Francisco Bay area artist Richard Mayer. He loaned Hastings the sculpture back in the early 1980’s and then gave it to them in 2008.

In his statement, the artist said: With its affirmation and ambiguity, “Gary Diptych #1 is intended as a metaphor for our times.

Mayer sat on the board of the SFAC when Arneson was chosen to make the, at the time, highly controversial sculpture for a memorial to slain mayor George Moscone
Sep 172012

525 Golden Gate Avenue
Civic Center

This is the new Public Utilities building in San Francisco.  It is touted as one of the more “green buildings” built in the US. Four egg-beater-like wind turbines are on view behind a 200-foot-high, 22-foot-wide curtain of polycarbonate squares called Firefly.

Ned Kahn’s Firefly is a lattice of tens of thousands of five-inch-square, clear-polycarbonate panels that are hinged so that they can freely move in the wind. During the day, the ever-changing wind pressure profile on the building appears as undulating waves. At night, this movement is converted into light. As the wind presses the hinged panels inward a small embedded magnet connected to an electrical reed switch triggers the flickering of tiny LED lights. The lights are colored to mimic fireflies which are a threatened species due to their dependence on riparian ecosystems. The entire sculpture requires less energy than a 75-Watt light bulb.

 An artist from Northern California, Kahn replicates the forms and forces of nature. Kahn combines science, art and technology to integrate natural, human, and artificial systems, and his specific works emphasise natural elements, such as water, fire, wind and sand; how these behave independently, and how they interact.

After graduating from college with an environmental studies degree, from 1982 to 1996 he designed educational exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He apprenticed there to Frank Oppenheimer, the centre’s founder and brother of atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Ned Kahn presents projects both in scientific settings and in art contexts.


Wind Turbine taken from inside the building


Aug 292012

McAllister and Hyde
Wall of the Asian Art Museum
Civic Center


UPDATE: The artist on this is actually an artist from Iowa that goes by TheUpside.


Apparently the UpTown Almanac and I spotted this one at the same time.  Here is what they wrote:

Tim Hallman, the Asian Art Museum’s Communications Director, dropped us a line about the beautiful piece:

I think the Asian Art Museum got “tagged” by this famous Parisian street artist. No confirmation from the artist yet, though. It appeared overnight on the McAllister Street side of the building, near Hyde. We didn’t hire her, but we like it.

The artist in question is Mademoiselle Maurice, who has been lighting up the streets of Paris, Hong Kong, and Vietnam with her rainbow-patterned origami art for the past few months.


Aug 152012
Civic Center
Performing Arts Garage
Grove and Gough Streets
The Dancing Musicians and The Dancer by Joan Brown 1986-1986  Bronze
Joan Brown has several pieces around San Francisco.  These pieces were commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commision.  The flautist and guitar player are twelve feet high and five feet wide and sit on the outside of the fifth floor of the garage.  The smaller dancer sits on the first floor. The simplified silhouettes are based on the classic Greek black-figures found on Etruscan pottery.