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“The hardest thing to do when you get out of college is to continue painting,” said local muralist/photographer/painter Christo Oropeza, 26. Which is why he didn’t waste any time starting his own art collective after graduating from the arts program at San Francisco State in 2008.

His group, the San Pancho Art Collective (better known by its anagram SPAC, pronounced Ess-Pac), was originally comprised of a handful of Oropeza’s art-school friends and acquaintances from his full-time day job at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s information desk. It’s grown to include more than 17 artists from San Francisco and beyond.

SPAC is holding a fundraiser tonight at El Rio to promote the collective and encourage its expansion.

But its roots will always be here in San Francisco.

SPAC founder, Christo Oropeza

SPAC founder Christo Oropeza.

“The name, San Pancho, is kind of like a slang term or a nickname referencing my hometown, San Francisco. But because it’s not called the San Francisco Art Collective, it allows us to reach beyond the Bay Area,” said Oropeza.

For now, most of the collective is still located in San Francisco and surrounding areas, but that doesn’t mean SPAC hasn’t branched out. Artistic variety has been their motto from day one.

“Oh man, we got a puppeteer on board. We got a drag performer… just everything you can think of,” said Brian Perrin, 29, a painter/installation artist and one of the original SPAC members. “That’s the idea, you know. We want talent of all kinds.”

Max Allbee, 26, a muralist/screenprinter/apparel designer who also plays drums in a band called SEULOVE and teaches muralism at Precita Eyes in the Mission, agreed. “SPAC is just a great way to promote working artists of all kinds,” he said. “It’s also a great way to reach out to the community.”

Oropeza said he and his colleagues started the collective as a way to continue critiquing each other’s work outside the school setting, but eventually he realized he could use collectivity as an umbrella to catch a wider variety of projects and make more connections. He said he took some of what he learned as a member of student government in college and simply applied it to the arts.

“We’ve turned into a functioning unit for fine arts… a committee of artists who take action together. Basically, when we get commissions as a group, we break down into smaller groups to get it done, but it’s still all for the collective,” said Oropeza.

Check out the crew tonight at El Rio

Check out the crew tonight at El Rio.

An example of this is SPAC’s most recent commissioned mural behind Mission Pie on Lilac Alley. The design (and most of the painting) came from Oropeza, Perrin and Max Allbee, but when it was all said and done, at least a half-dozen members of SPAC had contributed in some way.

As far as SPAC’s future goes, Oropeza said the group is looking forward to more commissioned murals, group shows and some gallery work. “Of course,” he added, “some members don’t want to be in galleries at all, and that’s cool. We’re a loose collective.”

SPAC is also in the process of applying for Southern Exposure’s Alternative Exposure Grant, a re-granting program in which SO/EX gives money received from the Warhol Foundation to unincorporated art collectives and artists in the Bay Area.  “If we get that,” Allbee said, “it would allow us  to grow much more. We want to do a series of screenprinting workshops, a works-on-paper show, and we’re trying to get our own official space in the Mission.”

San Pancho Art Collective’s Fundraiser
Sun., Dec. 6, 6:30pm.
$5-$10. El Rio, 3158 Mission St. 415.282.3325. Featuring music by Seulove, Thank You Julius, and the Young Mars Project as well as a drag show, puppetry, free BBQ, and live painting by FREE of Precita Eyes.