Amid a wave of negative attention, the LGBT Center on Wednesday erased the much-maligned fnnch-painted honey bear mural on the side of its Market Street building.
“As part of our rotating project, the mural designed by fnnch has been taken down,” the center tweeted in a statement Wednesday. “We acknowledge the fact that fnnch has engendered a host of opinions and that some of his recent comments about being an immigrant have brought pain to many members of our community.”
Instead of the honey bears painted in the colors of LGBTQ+ flags, there is now a fresh coat of white paint, and a graffitied message, almost certainly not written by the center, that reads in red: “This city means more to me than most.”
Tensions regarding whether the artist’s ubiquitous honey bears have become a symbol of gentrification came to a head last Thursday, as the activist Doggtown Dro confronted fnnch, a tech worker turned artist, while the artist was removing graffiti from the mural.
“This shit represents gentrification in my city, which you ain’t from — where you from, partner?” Doggtown Dro said in a video that has amassed more than 128,000 views on his Instagram page.
“I’m an immigrant here,” fnnch said, adding that he was from Missouri and he “immigrated” to San Francisco.
The tense encounter went on for at least seven minutes as Dro accused fnnch of enabling the displacement of local artists, while fnnch argued that the activist’s views were inherently nativist.
In the following days, the interaction sparked renewed scrutiny over whether the city has an over-saturation of those honey bears — multiple variations of which (masked, movie theater-themed, Black Lives Matter sign-bearing, etc.) can be found all over boarded-up storefronts, inside house windows, and inside Muni buses.
A multitude of organizations have worked with the artist, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Cal Fire Foundation, The Roxie Theater, and St. Anthony’s. And they have received large donations from sales of the bears that can be placed inside windows. The artist has noted that he “went from raising or donating $12,000 in 2019 to $293,000 in 2020.”
But critics are now saying the honey bears’ popularity have homogenized San Francisco street art. And even those who earlier applauded or accepted his work appear to be abandoning him quickly.
“In the past 12 months, San Francisco has become so oversaturated with fnnch’s honey bears that what was once an occasional sugar rush now feels like a nausea-inducing force-feeding,” wrote KQED’s Rae Alexandra in a thorough summation of the issue published Wednesday.
Alexandra, who in 2018 included him in a list of six San Francisco prolific artists, explained she’s not alone in feeling this: A new Instagram handle, “@fuckfnnch” recently sprung up, and around the time fnnch was confronted at the LGBT center, a group called the “Coalition to Stop Fnnch” started a Change.org petition demanding the center remove the honey bear mural.
“The local street art and queer community are already blighting out his mural regularly and have vowed to keep it up until it is removed and replaced for good,” the petition says. “Remove the fnnch piece and replace it with art from a local gay, queer and/or trans artist.”
It appears the LGBT Center got the message, appearing to backtrack from its initial embrace of the artist.
In its Wednesday statement, the center explained fnnch approached the center and offered to donate the mural and its maintenance throughout the year. “We accepted this donation knowing that it was going to be part of a larger rotating mural project that we were launching,” the statement says.
“Though we believe that every artist we work with is entitled to their own opinion, the Center does not agree with fnnch’s recent comments, and we have shared our concerns about the impact of his comments directly with him,” the statement adds, referring to fnnch’s claim that he was an “immigrant.”
Fnnch responded to last Thursday’s incident in an Instagram post this morning, characterizing the incident as a “detractor” telling him that he was not welcome in San Francisco.
“I was shaken by this encounter and did not handle this the best,” the artist wrote. “In particular, I used the word ‘immigrant’ to describe myself, a person who moved from Missouri to California 16 years ago.”
“This is an insensitive usage,” he added, “and I am deeply sorry.”
The center said the next mural, which it has selected, was created by members of the LGBT+ and Black, indigenous, and people of color communities. The center will announce the artists’ names and title of their mural next month.
Clara-Sophia Daly contributed reporting.
The bottom line here is that fnnch is successful–that’s his real sin. No matter what you think of his art, he had the temerity to become known and to rake in (and share) hundreds of thousands of dollars. The street art scene isn’t terribly welcoming to people who capitalize on their art and fnnch had the audacity to be from Missouri on top of it all.
I have a honeybear in my window. I bought it just before the largely manufactured controversy. It’s cute. It’s art. It’s definitely overdone. However, fnnch has done at least three things he deserves credit for:
1) The honeybears are an outdoor, walking treasure hunt during a time when people are in lockdown.
2) He convinced the LGBT center to host a rotating mural to showcase local art and produced LGBT art for our community.
3) He partnered with and donated large percentages of his income to LGBT and other causes.
We’ve called on white, CIS heterosexuals to use their privilege on behalf of others. Here’s a guy that has done that. Look how we’ve rewarded him.
Thank you Marty Combs, well said.
Obviously someone wants the honey bear enough to put it on their business or house. Maybe people should direct their frustration instead at the people who are putting them up?
Better yet, maybe people should have been protesting over a decade ago when flippers started grey washing painted ladies and selling them off to investors who have no interest in contributing to the larger SF community.
Maybe people should have protested the hordes who started going to Burning Man only to dance and do drugs rather than actually help create art there or participate in that community.
Maybe we should have pushed for the more artistic rendering of the Salesforce tower – the one with red girders to match the Golden Gate Bridge and an exposed egg beater wind turbine on top – rather than the boring Gillette razor for which people voted.
This gentrification has been happening for over 20 years. Complaining about change is just as conservative as 45 supporters complaining about BLM because others who don’t look like them or worship like them are moving into town. Asking someone to “go back to where they came from” sounds a lot like 45 did with anyone coming from a s**thole country. It’s still anger directed at an outsider. Worse, it’s anger directed at someone who actually raised nearly $400k to give back to the community.
Rather than complaining, perhaps people should live the eccentric life we want San Francisco to be. Wear loud clothing. Dress like an elf for a day. Paint your nails.
Don’t act like sheeple and maybe, just maybe we’ll attract more eccentric, artistic people to move into the city. Anyone too weirded out will move away.
What should stop is being drama queens over a damned honeybear.
Murals in San Francisco have always been about social commentary and justice. They tell stories of the people who struggled to come here as well as what is going on in other parts of the world. Those stencils have nothing to do with the rest of the murals here, they are cute but have no social commentary at all-they have no place here. Fnnch is just another entitled, self absorbed “immigrant” brat. We have enough of them already, go back where you came from. This is coming from a born and raised San Francisco girl. Been here all of my life
The “One Way” mural painted pointing up on the side of the building the 101 near 8th didn’t seem to have anything to do with social justice nor did it seem particularly original. Yet it stayed there for over a decade and no one complained about that.
I am still confused as to how the bully Dogtown was able to get away with their blatant homophobia when they and their “woke” followers continued to vandalize our LGBTQ Center and the mural depicting diversity. Is it OK because they are a person of color, were born is SF? As a gay person myself- I am stunned that the LBGTQ Center, KQED, and Mission Local are to afraid to call those who defaced the mural the homophobes that they are. If someone was defacing a church, synagogue, or race based cultural center they would be rightfully accused of bigotry. But do it to the LGBTQ under the and our own LGBTQ Center and local press all say “no problem”. Keep giving the homophobes power and they will keep taking it. Why will no one call them out?
The most prolific bumper-sticker in California in the early ’80’s:
Welcome to California.
Now Go Home.
Except even other Californian’s aren’t welcome here. This nativist vein runs deep in San Francisco and Oakland.
I find it ironic that Rae Alexandra and KQED publish a hit piece on fnnch at the same time KQED devotes an entire section of their website (/thehustle) devoted to stories of artists trying to make a living doing art. Of course fnnch is boring and overplayed – so what. Obviously lots of people like his work. Get over it. Oh… and since Rae Alexandra is on the nativist bandwagon – she’s from Wales! carpetbagger!
I hope people start defacing every doggtown art piece city wide. What a douche. I guess he’s suggesting people should limit the art they sell? Only 3 similar pieces and that’s it! If people want more of your work, you must refuse as it might become popular. I guess you aren’t and artist unless you are poor and starving…..
And, yes, he should have said transplant.
Those honey bears are all over the place because people bought them to post in Windows, others hired him to paint murals. he didn’t force them. They had the option to buy someone else’s work or hire somebody else to do a mural. I’m gay and an artist and think the only thing fnnch is guilty of is not making a limited edition. But then if he had he wouldn’t have raised so much money to support a number of organizations.
What a laughable controversy. Only in SF do we have turf wars over drawings of a stupid bear.
Stop reading this and look up cookie gonzalez or las muralistas or el grupo ASCO
I appreciate his apology for using “immigrant.” It does seem like he was ambushed there. That said, I think it’s a good thing to have a rotating art space there and to host and highlight LGBTQ artists given it is the LGBT center.
i can’t think of a more hilarious example of the pompous and vapid whims of the SF liberal “art critic” crowd than to write fawning reviews of his work only to condemn him months later for being a symbol of gentrification. it’s like something out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. the woke eats their own.
I don’t know Doggtown Dro or fnnch, but I do know SF has far too many privileged pricks and toxic demagogues. The pricks don’t care about the rest of us. The demagogues take issues that are often valid, but they also don’t truly care — the communities and issues they claim to represent are just grist. Put it all on social media, mix in a few trustafarians with daddy issues, and down the toilet we go.
If you’re a regular person, try finding other regular people from many different walks of life. Build up enough trust to have honest, challenging, good-faith conversations, and if your experience is like mine, you’ll hear something far more nuanced and constructive than you’ll ever get from the professional demagogues and pricks.
Kind of funny the lgbt center has to do the identity politics dance, and over a god damn mural. Make sure the next artist is a left-handed, quadriplegic, indigenous transgender, below-six-figure income, Pisces with Aries moon rising … or there’ll be hell to pay!! Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? I
Man, all I can say is that this is some woke ass shit.
Who made bully boy Doggtown Dro the King of San Francisco? And playing identity politics by cancelling someone for being a heterosexual artist is a childish tactic. Fnnch’s art is okay but he isn’t? Then don’t whine when that game is played against you.
he doesn’t have a clue. Yuppie “artist” This is COMMERCIAL “art”. Maybe 1 or 2 places, but it’s everywhere. Like “COMMERCIAL” graffiti.
I live right across from the LGBTQ center and am staring at the white painted-over wall right now. Fnnch using the term “immigrant” was a misstep (I think “transplant” would’ve been more appropriate), and I agree with the sentiment that the honeybears are crowding out other artists and homogenizing/gentrifying the street art space (to a degree).
But, truly, the Bay area has struggled with nativism seemingly forever. It’s one of the first things I noticed when I moved here (see, I’m also a transplant, and also a bona fide brown-skinned immigrant). Nativism is an arms race here of who is the truer Scotsman, and it stinks. Let’s not try and displace one bad influence with another.
No one can choose their time or place of birth, but they *can* choose how they’re going to support their local community (native or adopted) and help it grow and thrive and be healthy. And while addressing gentrification and equity should be core to our community, justice won’t be served by chasing away “outsiders” and playing gatekeeper.
It’s pretty creepy when white people from the Midwest call themselves immigrants to SF. I imagine they are the same sort who would dress up as a Native American for Halloween and think they were being funny. It also seems weird to have a straight dude’s art featured on the LGBT Center’s wall. I have lived in SF for 30 years but do not consider myself a local (although I have been assured by friendly locals that I am one now haha). Respect, people, respect.
Americans can live any where they want. Why should a 20 year old born in SF have any special status over someone who has lived here 30 years?
never said anything about special status. but considering the level of gentrification and economic disparity that has occurred in this town, I cant blame LOCALS for feeling resentful about some of this stuff. like I said, I’m not a local but I try to be respectful of the people that were here before me. i have no interest in colonizing or claiming the word “immigrant” even though my entire family’s generation before me are immigrants. i don’t even hate the bears but honestly prefer the galloping horse graffiti I used to see around town if we’re talking aesthetics.
Oliver, What is so wrong with gentrification? You like crime and blight?
Any why single out only WHITE midwesterners?
Calling it creepy is a little melodramatic. He wasn’t trying to hurt a soul. He is painting picture of little bears and donating money to good causes. He donated over $200,000.00, but he’s creepy for getting upset that people are saying he doesn’t belong here because he’s not a native of San Francisco and called himself an immigrant to San Francisco. He did apologize. Can you find it in your heart to forgive him? Jesus tap dancing Christ, pick your battles. 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄
Willy sheds no tears for the fall of this particular en-twee-preneur.
“This shit represents gentrification in my city which you ain’t from — where you from partner?” Doggtown Dro said…
I, for one, did not realize that Doggtown Dro has a special right to determine who should be allowed to live in “his city”.
One cannot simultaneously claim to be pro-immigrant and anti-migrant.
Nativism is repugnant — no matter what part of the political spectrum it hails from.
I didn’t realize Doggtown Dro was 100% Ohlone.
“Doggtown Dro” sounds like someone trying to borrow the best from Snoop Dawg and Dr. Dre while claiming to be a local.
Doggrown dro isn’t even from the Bay Area. He is from Watsonville.
People are very jealous and possessive. Basically, a bunch of people couldn’t stand to see someone else be successful and came up with a pretext to bring him down. The idea that anyone was at all offended by his use of the term “immigrant” is laughable. That is just faux outrage to cover base motives.
These so called “natives” need to get over themselves and maybe figure out why they haven’t been successful. Probably because they are too busy whining.
Moving from another state in your own country isn’t immigration. Immigration is specifically international.
While his “immigrant” statement was clumsy, he was very clear that he meant he’d moved to SF from Missouri. There is no misunderstanding him. The only reason I can see for taking his “immigrant” comment out of context is to use it to underscore the the nativist bigotry without being seen as being nativist. Or, to put it another way–It’s a “dog whistle.”