Artist Selection for BART’s 24th Street Plaza Disputed

Principle planner for the 24th Street BART Plaza, Rube Warren, shows members of the community where artwork will be showcased.

A meeting Wednesday night to advise three artists bidding to create artwork for BART’s 24th and Mission Street plaza turned into a heated exchange between residents and BART officials over the lack of local artists selected as finalists for the job.

After the three artists showed examples of their previous projects to a crowd of 40 Mission residents, audience questions for planner Rube Warren and public art consultant Regina Almaguer set an angry and suspicious tone.

“Where are the artists from?” asked Miguel Bustos. “I’m disappointed there aren’t any Mission artists among the group. As a taxpayer, I would love to see local artists be part of this.” The room erupted in applause.

Two of the three finalists, Kipp Kobayashi and Anne Marie Karlsen, reside in Los Angeles, while the third, Charles Sowers, is from San Rafael.

Warren and Almaguer tried in vain to placate the room, insisting that the selection process involved an open call for artists. The three finalists were selected from a five-member group that included residents of the Mission District, they said.

“We tried to limit the selection to the Bay Area but we didn’t get responses,” said Warren. “The challenge that we faced is that the artists must have completed two public art projects.”

Almaguer reminded the audience that the selection committee extended the contest deadline in May of this year due to a lack of applicants.

“I feel embarrassed,” said Mauricio Aviles. “You missed a step in informing the community about the selection process. We are a mecca of murals, and I want to see art that reflects who we are.”

Warren, who is also a Mission resident, advised the audience that the plan had to move forward or its funding would be lost.

“I devoted more than a decade of my career to make something happen here,” Warren said, referring to the project, which received a majority of its $3.2 million funding in the last two years.

“We brought good artists and they are going to be involved,” said Tom Radulovich, BART director for the 9th District. “Give them room to create.”

The artists listened to the debate in silence. Members of the community repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the art, insisting that their objections weren’t personal.

Many mocked a questionnaire entitled, “What I’d like the artists to know about the 24th Street/Mission neighborhood,” for its simplicity and inability to express the Mission’s distinct attributes. Others expressed concern that artwork that didn’t reflect the Mission might be destroyed.

The three finalists offered the crowd a presentation of their previous installations, ranging from etched and mosaic pieces to kinetic sculpture.

Sowers, the only Bay Area finalist, has been an exhibit developer at San Francisco’s Exploratorium for the last 14 years.

“Everything I do is kinetic. I try to set up the conditions for something to happen and let nature take over,” he said while presenting his latest exhibit, “Windswept,” which is installed at the Randall Museum. The piece consists of 500 arrows that move independently with the direction of the wind.

Artists Karlsen and Kobayashi displayed a mosaic at Los Angeles’ North Hollywood Metro Station and etched images of historical firefighters at fire station in San Jose.

BART officials said the contract for construction of the new plaza would be awarded this December, with building beginning in January. The redesign is scheduled to be completed in October of 2013.

Warren proposed that the community supply the planning committee with a specific process for collaborating with local artists in the design of the 24th Street BART plaza.

The three finalists are scheduled to present their proposals for the plaza art around Christmas, he added.

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  1. cwwsf

    This is why programs like this are a giant waste of money… That money should go to schools and programs that help people, not the epitome of subjectivity, i.e what you or your panel believe to be art

  2. I’d like to know how to get involved in “the community supply[ing] the planning committee with a specific process on how to collaborate with local artists in the design of the 24th Street BART plaza.” If you could share with readers any contact info, that would be great.

  3. o'really

    “… said Warren of the lack of Bay Area artists. …”. that’s it. game over. hipsters and cupcake restaurants go home and, um, BART execs, you should be held personally responsible along with the SF political base who condone and support appointees to entities like this for misuse of public funds and a disregard of their fiduciary responsibility. this junk will just never ever end and with an election coming up, i just wish people would remember. just once. that reelecting these parasites makes no sense.

  4. randolph mortimer

    Can’t stop laughing at the artists being from LA and San Rafael.

    More of the same ignorance from BART about our neighborhood that has led to the BART plazas being open sewers where open drug dealing goes on every day. Then they shit on our neighborhood more by picking people who aren’t even from the City, let alone the Mission.

  5. Mission Raised

    The Questionaire said it all.. The artist that were picked have no idea what OUR Mission District is all about.. This is a total slap in the face for “La Mission”……….. and I DO NOT include the people you call Hipsters


    I was at that meeting and I got annoyed when they kept talking about BART on 16th n Misssion. 16th st and 24th Street are two different worlds. It’s bad enough people have been coming into the Mission and putting coffee shops on every block. Years ago nobody wanted to come down here, they were to affraid of coming down here, Now they see how beautiful are neighborhood is and try to change it. The art needs to reflect the neighborhood. These “hipsters” that are trying to change the neighborhood will leave and the people, our people will still be here.

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