A newcomer to the Mission art scene
Ashley Voss in Voss Gallery during a soft opening. The gallery is at 3324th Street at Bartlett. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Despite fears that rent hikes and the influx of the younger tech community would push out artists and diminish the Mission art scene, galleries in the Mission and lower Potrero are popping up at a pace not seen in years. 

Art spaces now number 38, compared to 27 in 2017 when Mission Local last counted them. 

This year alone, at least five new gallery spaces have opened, including EUQINOM gallery, Ruth’s table, the Drawing Room and the scene’s newest additions, an.a.log S.F. at 886 Capp St., and the Voss Gallery at 2244 24th St., which will open officially September 14. 

The new galleries are owned by a mix of artists and enthusiasts. The owners range in age from 20-somethings to someone who retired recently, renovated a Victorian and turned his garage into a gallery space. 

“Galleries keep popping up, that is just how it goes,” said Alan Bamberger, who has been covering the city’s gallery scene since 1983 and recently switched from blogging to Instagram posts.  “The ones that are popping up these days for the large part seem to be better funded, although there are still young upstarts – whether they survive for a year or not is anyone’s guess, but that is the nature of the gallery scene here, they come and go.” 

Most of the new spaces in the Mission art scene appear to be aimed at the newer collector looking for low- to mid-priced art. 

Owner and founder of Voss Gallery, Ashley Voss, a recent graduate from an art’s administration program, said part of her challenge will be getting people interested in physical art in a time where “everything is more experience-based.” Citing the Museum of Ice Cream’s popularity, she added, “People are interested in buying expensive tickets.”

As it turns out, they are also ready to buy art. At the end of August, as Voss tested the space with a soft opening, she had already sold two paintings. Prices, she said, typically range from $200 to $5,000, in an effort to cater to “young, emerging collectors.”

 The Voss gallery took over the corner spot that Campfire Gallery vacated several years ago. The upstairs will be a traditional white-walled gallery for solo and thematic group shows, and the downstairs will be an experimental show space called “The Down Low.” 

Voss said she plans to feature local artists, many of them Latinx and street artists and will be primarily focused on low-brow contemporary art rooted in illustration, street art, and pop-surrealism. 

Her first show, “Plants and Machines,” features San Francisco-based artist Tim Irani. The exhibit, opening September 14, aims to depict the current era of “bio-digital integration” where “the natural and vital world carefully coexist” by juxtaposing circuit boards and engines with flowers. 

Across Mission Street and around the corner at 886 Capp St., Guy Campbell turned his garage into an.a.log S.F. On Friday it will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. for RAPT, a new show featuring Deirdre F. White and photographer Don R. Ross. Unlike most other galleries, its hours will be limited to openings, closings and Saturdays during the shows, said the 71-year-old Campbell, who retired from working in the collections department at SF MOMA.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for accessible space,” said Campbell who has tried to create his space with the “ethos of making it accessible”  and welcoming. 

Just behind the gallery space, Campbell has built a cafe-like room where he invites viewers to enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or some conversation. It’s an artful arrangement and includes a few pieces made by Campbell, who claims not to be an artist.   

Guy Campbell in the space he created behind his gallery at 886 Capp St. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

Nearby, Renée DeCarlo, the owner of The Drawing Room at 3260 23rd St., said she had been painting and producing art from her Bayview studio for eight years before moving to the Mission. In Bayview, she longed for a space that would be more open and public, but the cost was an issue. Then, a hefty sale of art to the new Sutter Hospital last year gave DeCarlo the capital to rent the studio/gallery space on 23rd Street. On one side is her studio, and on the other side is gallery space for shows or pop-ups. 

The Drawing Room’s current show of photography, “Men & Women” by Kelly Castro, happened because Castro, who lives in the neighborhood, walked in to see the space. It turned out that Castro, who works at San Jose-based Adobe Inc., is also a photographer. His beautifully detailed portraits hang on one wall and are juxtaposed with his more abstract photographic work on another wall. 

Renee DeCarlo in her studio room next to The Drawing Room gallery space at 3260 23rd St. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

DeCarlo hopes to soon offer classes at the studio and possibly to work with the Mission Grafica printmaking studio at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. 

Old-line galleries are also doing well, and some have expanded or are planning to expand.  

Back to the Picture, at 934 Valencia St., has been around as a framing and gallery space since 1985, and Derek Hargrove, the general manager of all four Back to the Picture spaces, said they’ve seen a “mini-surge” in art purchases from the Valencia gallery this year. Just last week, he said, the gallery sold three pieces of art that he moved to the front window.  

Southern Exposure, located on 3030 20th St., celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. And although Galería de La Raza – founded in 1970 – had to relocate to 1470 Valencia St. this year, it has survived nicely in the new space and could soon have more than one space in the neighborhood, one at a forthcoming development at 1990 Folsom and another at  2779 Folsom near 24th. 

“[The art community] is resilient and there are a lot of people supporting it,” said Carman Gaines, a 26-year-old San Jose native who has worked as the engagement coordinator at Southern Exposure for two years. “[The increase in the number of galleries] isn’t too surprising.” 

Gaines and others said some of the success has come from reaching out to new residents. To embed in the community, Southern Exposure has a territorial council that works to nominate artists from the community. Through this, said Gaines, they’ve gained neighborhood support, and have even seen an increase in attendance. 

Southern Exposure also works to bring the tech and art industry together with their Alternative Exposure program. 

These adaptations are not always feasible for smaller artists and art galleries, however. 

Lisa Bowes, who owns Mission Art 415 near 25th and Mission, as well as the Lilac Mural Project with her husband Randolph Bowes, said that smaller businesses like hers do not have the staff and resources to make partnerships with large tech companies or create a territorial council.

She’s seen a downturn in sales. “People aren’t buying art like they used to,” she said, suspecting this has to do with the increased cost of living in San Francisco. Residents have to make sure they have the resources to buy food and pay rent, she said, they aren’t thinking about putting art on the walls.

Artist George Lawson experienced a decrease in foot traffic at George Lawson Gallery at 1401 Potrero Ave. before relocating to Mills Valley two years ago.

He believed this decline in foot traffic is the result of a “broad cultural shift” in the Mission. He characterized the shift by “more reliance on virtual content” and a “drop in expectations for gallery the experience,” that he said were “more pronounced” in younger folk, which the Mission attracts.

Still, the Mission art scene is resilient, and some galleries evolve with the changing community. To be sure, Bowes said that, despite the slowdown in demand, Mission Art 415 and the Lilac Mural Project will remain.

Other shows opening soon in the Mission: 

The Incline Gallery at 766 Valencia St. also has an opening on Friday, Sept. 6.  And on Sep. 20, and the Juan Fuentes Gallery opens a group show Somos/Funky at 6 p.m. Bamberger keeps a calendar of openings here

Similarly, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts at 2668 Mission St has a reception scheduled for Friday, Sep. 6 that will be showcasing the art of Diego Marcial  at the Ch’in Kana Exhibit. Then on Sep. 20, Mission Grafica Printmaking Studio will be hosting a panel of  four artists who have contributed and worked at the studio for a reception called “Off the Wall”. Posters made by the artists will be on sale.

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Aleka A. Kroitzsh grew up in Mumbai, India and now lives in Berkeley, CA. She is an English major at Dartmouth College and is passionate about poetry, hiking, and travel.

Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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1 Comment

  1. There is also Black + White Projects in Pacific Felt Factory that’s been open for 5 years and is run by a Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen, who is a woman of color who was born and raised in San Francisco.

    I say this because often when reporting on arts in The Mission it’s overlooked. She shows a wide range of works from installation to experience to paintings to sculpture to performance. Almost all art is from queer, trans, or folks of color.

    There is also Mission Arts + Performance Project that’s been producing art, music, and cultural events for over a decade through homes, backyards, secret gardens, and garages.

    Please remember when reporting to not just name the “up and coming” or even the well known and established. It’s a bit frustrating to constantly see the resilient, small, community-centered arts get left out time and again.

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