Art Appears on Site of Future Affordable Housing

If you do a double take when you pass the giant letters spelling out “Home Street Home” on Folsom Street, that’s exactly what artist Brian Singer, the man behind the piece, wants.

“There’s a lot of homelessness [here]. Over time we’ve become desensitized to it,” Singer said.

Singer is known for outdoor art with a message, from his billboard campaign calling out drivers texting while behind the wheel to his unnerving reflective door hangers calling attention to the repercussions of careless social media commentary.

The Home Street Home piece, evocative of a cross-stitched decoration usually found in comfortable interiors, has been installed in the Mission before. Last year, after a large homeless encampment was moved off of Division Street, Singer installed the laser-cut plastic “stitches” there.

“It was this out of sight, out of mind approach. They’d just be there on the other streets…It didn’t solve the problem,” he said.

At Division Street, the art was quickly removed, though Singer doesn’t know by who. This time, however, he has permission. The words are installed on a chain-link fence surrounding a lot at 1990 Folsom Street recently acquired by the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation to build 140 units of below-market-rate units, one fifth of them intended for formerly homeless families.

It will take time for the housing to be built, but in the meantime, with tents lining the adjacent blocks, Singer isn’t sure what the answer is, but his art calls attention to the problem.

“I don’t pretend this is a solution…I just want to keep people aware,” Singer said. “We’ve got a lot of things to worry about in this world, but this one’s pretty close to home.”

The completed installation. Photo by Brian Singer.

Singer’s is not the only art that will adorn the site of the future housing. MEDA has been reaching out to arts organizations to liven up the space before construction begins.

The Growlery, a privately-run artist residency program in the Haight, sponsored the project and also has murals planned for the currently vacant warehouse. Galería de la Raza will be contributing both visual and performing arts installations.  Artists Mike Kershnar and Piper are also painting a mural on what is currently a loading bay on 16th and Shotwell streets – their work has appeared previously on the former location of art supply store Flax on Market Street. Kershnar said the work will likely include animals indigenous to the land, a reminder of wildlife in stark contrast with the site’s concrete surroundings. On the Shotwell Street side of the property, Native American artist Douglas Miles will paint a mural exploring themes of displacement and colonization.

Miles, who was a de Young artist in residence for the month of February, is a San Carlos Apache-Akimel O’odham painter living in Arizona. He likened the gentrification of the Mission to the experience of Native Americans.

“Our whole country was gentrified. We were like, hey, yeah, welcome, you’re starving, let’s feed you. Next thing you know everyone’s moving in,” he said. “I look at the Mission as an indigenous community. I’m also honored to be invited to paint and work here in this community.”

Artist Douglas Miles works on his mural at 16th and Shotwell streets. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Precita Eyes Mural Center sponsored the project. The sponsor is The Growlery. 

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