Ronnie Goodman
Ronnie Goodman. Photo by Joseph Johnston

Update: August 13, 2011:  A memorial service will be held this Saturday, August 15th at 12 noon, on the corner of 16th Street and Capp Street  It is being organized by one of Ronnie’s friends, Walter, also known as “Coach,”  wrote Kerry Rodgers, a longtime friend of Goodman’s who also created and managed the artist’s website.

There is a also a memorial GoFundMe campaign.

Original post: August 7, 2020

Ronnie Goodman, a homeless artist and distance runner who has lived on the streets of the Mission District for years, died this morning at his encampment on Capp and 16th Streets. 

Rescue workers tried to revive the 60-year-old, but those efforts proved unsuccessful, said Paula Tejada, the owner of nearby Chile Lindo

It’s unclear how Goodman died. Only yesterday, Tejada said, the artist was helping remove a branch that had broken off from a tree. “We all watched out for one another,” she said. 

Goodman, who has shown his art locally for years, said he had been in and out of jail for many years. 

Joseph Johnston, a photographer who befriended Goodman, would visit him at 16th and Capp Streets, where Goodman had posted a sign “Art for Food” at his encampment.

Johnston discovered that Goodman was born in Los Angeles, but moved to San Fransisco when he was still a baby. “He recalls living in the hospital-green high-rise projects on Laguna Street and playing in Jefferson Square Park as a child,” Johnston wrote. “He says he probably became an artist because many of the people he hung out with were artists.

“He honed his skill as a portrait artist in prison. Photography was not allowed, and Ronnie became known for his hand-drawn portraits of other prisoners which they sent to their family and loved ones outside.”

Kerry Rodgers, a longtime friend of Goodman’s who also created and managed the artist’s website, wrote in after we published the news of Goodman’s death that the artist will be included in a show in New York at MOMA PS1 in Queens called  Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” The pandemic delayed the show’s April opening. No new date has yet been set. 

“Ronnie’s artwork is featured in a recent article published in the New York Review of Books about a book for the exhibit: Creation in Confinement: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” wrote Rodgers.  “Both the exhibit at PS1 and the review of the book are both extraordinary achievements, and Ronnie was so proud these last few months of his life about this.”

Already, his work was well-known locally and had been featured in several shows after he was released from prison in 2008. Although homeless, Goodman continued to paint and to show his work. In December 2010, Precita Eyes featured the work he created while spending eight years in prison for burglary.

Detail of “Broken Wings” by Ronnie Goodman, from the Precita Eyes Show, December 2010.
Detail of “The Art Class” by Ronnie Goodman. From the December 2010 Precita Eyes show.

In 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story on a campaign that paid for his running shoes and an entry into a half-marathon. And a former student worked on a video that was produced at the time to help Goodman raise money for his run.  It’s a beautiful eulogy with Goodman’s voice. 

SF Marathon_The Runner_Full Video from HEIST on Vimeo.

And as late as 2016, Goodman was included in a group show at the Mission Cultural Center and only recently had completed a mural for Maruya, a Japanese restaurant on 16th Street. 

Emiko, the owner in front of her restaurant, Maruya where Ronnie Goodman painted the front mural. Photo by Paula Tejeda.

His son, also named Ronnie Goodman, also a muralist, died at the age of 20 after a Sept.  9, 2014 stabbing at 24th and Capp Streets. After his son’s death, the elder Ronnie Goodman told Mission Local, “I’m taking this pretty tough, here.”

In the last few years, Tejada said, he had made his home around 16th Street, living for a while in the basement of the Redstone Building and then moving to a makeshift sleeping area on Capp Street. 

Ronnie Goodman’s makeshift home at 16th and Capp Streets. Photo by Paula Tejeda.
The scene Friday morning at Capp and 16th Streets. Photo by Paula Tejeda

Lydia Chávez

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...

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41 Comments

  1. Ronnie thought me a life lesson when he stopped by my house & gave me copies of his art as gifts.

    He had a good memory & had remembered meeting me at Precita Eyes – a meeting that I was not proud of remembering; since I had been startled by his appearance when he showed up completely covered in paint.

    I am grateful to have had my second meeting with him.

    Rest in peace Ronnie.

  2. beautiful article, lydia. thank you for telling the story of a human life. a precious soul lost
    R.I.P.

  3. Tragic, the lives of this city’s artists shouldn’t be so precarious. Lucky to have met him a few times and to have bought a painting.

  4. I’m so saddened to hear of this news. Rest in peace and power Ronnie, Ase. You will be missed. Thank you for our conversations, laughs, for your art that hangs on my wall, and all over our city.

  5. Thanks to Paula Tejeda, for taking & sharing these pix.
    More so, THANKS to Lydia Chavez for this article about one of many people
    whom we might, regrettably, overlook.

  6. Ronnie was extraordinary. I wish the article included one of Ronnie’s proudest accomplishments: he had artwork included in an upcoming exhibit at PS1, “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” The exhibit was supposed to open at the beginning of April 2020, but it got postponed because of the pandemic. There was a book published along with the exhibit, and a book review in the New York Review of Books in April 2020 featured Ronnie’s work. Rest in peace dear friend.

    1. It looks like they edited the article to highlight this wonderful accomplishment. So sorry for your loss; may his memory be a blessing.

  7. This is so sad. He’d been a fixture in and around the Redstone Building for years and years, mostly level and sane but occasionally possessed by internal demons .

    1. We spoke regularly. I believe he was not possessed by internal demons – But simply his behavior was a reflection of the injustices he experienced in the prison system and the racist and unfair housing in San Francisco.

      Checkout: this YouTube Video Tribute To Mr. Ronnie Goodman: https://youtu.be/bgA7taNDFDI

  8. Fuck actually it was Thursday night I saw him. I’m so sad he was my friend. Rest in power my brother.

  9. 2008 was tough time for finding work and housing, right after the stock crash. What a man… it looks like he had much to offer, but the street is no place for an elder to live on.

  10. There’s a great short film about Ronnie Goodman and one of his recent paintings. It’s called ‘Humanity Scale of Love.’ Morgan Schmidt-Feng is the filmmaker. So sorry to hear of Ronnie’s passing.

  11. The day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.
    Jean Cocteau

  12. Share this YouTube Video Tribute to Mr. Ronnie Goodman by his Friend Phyllis Bowie: https://youtu.be/bgA7taNDFDI

    The first time I saw Mr. Ronnie Goodman’s art was in 2015 in the office of then Supervisor London Breed. I had a meeting to discuss fair housing in the Fillmore. I was extremely nervous and anxious. When I saw the Black Lives Matter art above Breeds’ desk my anxiety was quelled and my nervousness was replaced with an open heart. Art is known to elicit human emotions and Mr. Goodman’s’ art did exactly that for me. I went on to have a productive meeting.
    In 2019 I featured Goodman on the local Black Renaissance CW TV show for gifting for the holidays. We met at his “art encampment” located at Capp and 16th. He and I connected as artists, as native San Franciscans raised in the Fillmore and as a Black person. We became fast friends. When I told him my story of how his art helped me, he shed a tear. I commissioned him to create a lithograph of Black Lives Matter. He gave me a copy of it to have in the meantime. He made his transition before he could complete the lithograph.
    I would regularly bring him food and money until the pandemic. I continued making sure he had food via the Black owned Ms. Adrian Williams Village Project. He needed art supplies and running shoes. A group of us made it happen with the help of the Village Project (Kyle) and the SF Neighbors Solidarity Network (Natalia).
    As a thank you he gave me a (5ft x12ft) large piece in his elephant series. He told me he danced from side to side with his paint brush to create this large art piece. The day after his passing I hung it in the room that used to be my Mom’s room. I can’t believe it was a perfect fit. Mr. Goodman signed this piece on 5.10.20. This is significant because it was 1 day before my Mom’s 80th birthday and 3 days before she passed on 5.13.20. Not knowing at the time but this date was also the last time I would speak with him. I will treasure it for the rest of my life. Ms. Phyllis Bowie
    May Mr. Ronnie Goodman Rest In Art. Homecoming 8.07.20
    Thank you to his friends and supporters here are only a few:
    Mayor London Breed, Kerry Rogers, Joseph Johnston, Paula Tejada @chilelindo, Precita Eyes, Emiko @Maruya, Lydia Chavez of Mission Local

  13. Rest in power.

    Life gave you a rough start and ended much the same. You had worth. You had talent. You had love.

    Hope you took that with you on your journey to Paradise.

  14. Thank you Ronnie for the laughter we shared.
    Thank you for allowing the intimate moment of giving your hair & beard a trim.
    Thank you for protecting my collegues and I during tense moments.
    Thank you for the long talks.
    Thank you for asking me to stand still while you drew a portrait of me.
    Thank you for being so polite even on rough days.
    Thank you for teaching me technique for my own art.
    Thank you for leaving paint on my skin when we shook hands.
    Thank you for the constant encouragement.
    Thank you for saying ‘I love you guys’ every week.
    Love you too brother.

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