"Valencia Street Posts" by Michael Arcega (left). "Faro" by Brian Goggin (right).

After a four-hour meeting held by the San Francisco Arts Commission Wednesday morning, the two lead artists vying for the Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project are still tied for first place.

“I guess the process is going to drag on a little longer,” said panelist Carolina Ponce de León, executive director of Galería de la Raza. “A tie is a tie. What can you say?”

The re-vote on Wednesday came after the commission decided it had mishandled a vote in September that gave the $52,000 project to Michael Arcega. Brian Goggin, who was either runnerup or tied in September — depending on how that vote was counted — clearly tied with Arcega on Wednesday.

The Visual Arts Committee, a subcommittee of the Arts Commission, will review both projects in a public meeting on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. Then it will recommend one project to a panel of arts commissioners on Nov. 2.

Wednesday’s vote came from a special committee that has selected the artists who competed for the project. It comprised a commissioner, community members and a representative from the Department of Public Works.

The groans and laughs that filled the room when the verdict was announced suggested some frustration, but P.J. Johnston, president of the San Francisco Arts Commission, calmly closed the meeting. “Well, now it goes to the Visual Arts Committee,” he said. Then he gathered his things and left.

But the re-vote wasn’t a complete waste of time. For one, Ana Teresa Fernandez and Misako Inaoka, who tied for second place, can move on with their lives. Both of their projects were reconsidered Wednesday, but rejected for logistical issues.

Fernandez’s project, a metal fishing net that seemed to float above the street, would have been too expensive; and Inaoka’s project, mutant animals on different public and private perches, was too complicated, members decided. The re-vote also gave the panel more time to discuss concerns with the top two projects.

Arcega’s proposal was discussed first.

Initially conceived as a series of six wooden posts with wooden Victorian crowns on top, Arcega’s “Victorian Street Posts” seeks to involve Mission residents by providing them with public space for hanging fliers and posting signs. (Read the full description here.) However, at the first meeting it was mentioned that wooden posts might increase the cost of the project. The committee also feared that if Arcega used wood to make the domes, his installation might not last as long as intended — at least 25 years.

In the interim, Arcega came up with an alternative: four metal posts with steel domes. The latter, however, are more expensive to build, and Arcega said he would have to stick with only one dome design rather than six.

“I’m worried about the limitation in design with the switch to steel,” said Kevin Chen, program director of Intersection for the Arts. Others agreed.

Goggin also spent time fine tuning his proposal. New problems arose for him as well. Originally conceived as a 49-foot tapered pole resembling “a blade of shoreline grass from the banks of now-underground Laguna del los Dolores,” Goggin’s design, “Faro,” would be constructed of recycled bicycle parts visualizing “the bulkhead of a boat as it tilts up and careens over a wave.”

In the original plan, Goggin included a system of blue, green and yellow lights that would flicker when the wind hit them. (Read the full description here.) In the redesigned version, Goggin’s lights would be activated not by the wind, but by a series of buttons community members could press. All the panelists liked the idea, but many of them worried about the extra money it might require.

“I think it’s gorgeous,” said Johnston. “But this just screams ‘more than $50,000’ to me.” He added that he would keep an eye on Goggin’s design for future projects if it didn’t pass at the next meeting.

“That’s astounding,” said Goggin when he heard the news. He did not sound thrilled.

Justin Juul

Justin Juul is a freelance writer based in San Francisco's Mission District. He covers culture, arts, entertainment, and city living.

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15 Comments

  1. I’d vote for the one on the left — it’s classic San Francisco. On the other hand, it is The Mission, so it would probably be covered in graffiti in a matter of days.

  2. Four cookie cutter posts – or ONE modern elegant peice?

    It seems like the Post Design (Arcega’s) will be reduced in its visual/tactile atributes while the Boat/bicycle could be really exciting and dynamic.
    All the pieces were great, it’s a shame we can’t have it all.

  3. Arcega’s proposal strikes me as more decorative, like something you’d see at a theme park, than an art piece. It could be anywhere in SF–there’s nothing distinctly Mission about it. Goggin’s proposal is much more specific to the neighborhood and evokes both the past and present. I’d vote for Faro.

  4. Goggins’ 49-foot tall behemoth proposal strikes me as more hideous, like something you’d see at Burning Man, than an art piece. It could be anywhere that people ride bikes or sail boats – there’s nothing distinctly Mission about it. Arcega’s proposal is much more appropriate for the neighborhood as it is an homage to history, and is also functional in the present.

  5. Brian’s piece is so much more interesting, with meaning and questions and everything that art should provoke. The other too much of a simplistic male statement.

  6. Brian’s piece is exciting to me and relates to the location. Being a cyclist myself, I love idea riding on the waves of the wind! (like when I am on my bike on Valencia)

  7. “Faro” (Goggin’s piece) responds to the history of the site in an interesting and unexpected way. It’s lines are elegant, forms whimsical and lights wonderous. I love the idea of using recycled bicycles to build a boat: It links the history of the place that was once a Lake, with the present of the Mission and its colorfully rich cultural diversity.

  8. Michael and Brian’s pieces feel local and beautiful – both referencing the historical architecture and landscape of Valencia Street. I’m a fan of both artists and their work – but Goggin’s Faro strikes me as an incredibly unique and inspiring homage to the neighborhood’s evolving history. We’re at a pivotal moment for this particular transportation corridor, and Faro celebrates that. I remember when Valencia was dangerous for bicycles, though with the long buried lake and creek perhaps Valencia has always been a transportation route. I think both proposals are beautiful (and both, strangely, are like light houses). It seems like Goggin’s Faro will be a source of great wonder and engaging conversations.

    I miss having public notices in the streets, but I thought SF authorities were no fans of street posted notes? Seems like the note board part of Arcega’s post will always be a little messy (as it should be on telephone poles). But won’t tape/staples/different layers of colored paper notes significantly change the elegant simplicity of Arcega’s piece? I know you can get in trouble posting fliers anywhere else, might be a little confusing or crowded if there is only one or a half dozen posts for posting out there.

  9. I was at the Arts Commission hearing, and would like to say that when Johnston made a comment/question about how much he liked Goggin’s piece but weather it was possible to keep the cost of the piece within the allocated budget, Goggin was very clear about the research he had done in terms of feasibility and cost, and committed to work within the budget. I’m just saying this because from the writer’s article, it could be suggested that the modifications to the original Faro design would have an extra price tag attached to it, which according to Goggin’s throughout explanation, doesn’t seem to be the case.

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