By ANRICA DEB
A surprisingly small group of Mission residents attended a meeting on Thursday to select the community’s representatives on a panel that will decide on the art that will be installed on Valencia Street as part of an improvement plan.
Clare Hyland, an architect, and Elizabeth Aife Murray, a writer and artist, will be the Mission’s community representation on the panel.
In the second of the community meetings – the first had even fewer attendees – around 16 members of the community voted for the two women from of a choice of four applicants.
Hyland and Murray, both Mission residents, were the only candidates who came to the meeting. Anyone could apply to be in the panel.
The city has a budget of $52,000 to add art to a four-block improvement project on Valencia Street between 15th and 19th Streets.
“They expect construction to be starting around August or September,” said Tonia Macneil, project manager for the city’s public art program. Construction could begin as early as July.
The other five members of the selection panel will be two art experts appointed by the city, the architect, the project manager from the Department of Public Works, and the arts commissioner.
On May 18, the panel will meet to pick three artists from a pool of 20 to 25, which the city will reduce from a total of 326 applicants. Those three will be invited to develop proposals, and a finalist is expected no earlier than July.
The artwork will be installed at least ten feet above the ground to avoid issues with vandalism, posters, and graffiti. Macneil noted that this was because street level projects in the area have been “remarkably unsuccessful – the vandalism has been terrible.”
The city will provide up to six posts for the artist to mount work, though it is unlikely funding will be sufficient for as many as six sculptures. Artists will not be required to produce designs that use the posts, but art cannot be attached to private property.
Macneil said that the city has not chosen a precise location within the four blocks for art, so location “could be part of the artist’s thinking.”
Some community members disagreed with the way that the San Francisco Arts Commission had conducted the voting. Because only two of four applicants were present, some attendees thought that preference should be given to them.
Others wanted an opportunity to ask questions, but Macneil said that questions would be unfair to the two absent applicants who did not know that they might be missing the opportunity to speak in their defense.
Instead, Macneil said that voting should be based on a handout with written summaries of the applicants’ experiences.
Wendy Collins wanted the chance to ask the panel candidates about their taste in art.
“There is some really terrible public art in San Francisco,” Collins said. She pointed out that when “Chicken” John Rinaldi ran for mayor in 2007, he promised to hold a raffle for the chance to drive a truck into the city’s waterfront giant bow-and-arrow sculpture.
“I’d vote for that,” she said.
The Valencia Streetscape Improvement will also remove the center lane, widen some parts of the sidewalk, improve lighting, add trees and bike parking, and enhance the bike lane and parking, according to the project’s website.