Graffiti artist Tod the Bunny stands with a plastic carrot bat at Rossi Mission SF. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Once a high school class clown, Tod drew comedic and artistic inspiration from the cartoon classics he grew up with: Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit. It just so happened that his formative influences were rabbits.

“They’re kind of like the wise guy, prankster dudes,” says the 37-year-old artist. After years of sketching the well-known bunnies, he came to make a name for himself through his own character, Tod. 

“Eventually it became this bunny named Tod, and his carrot homie, Rod. So it’s Tod and Rod,” Tod said. Like many graffiti artists, Tod took his moniker from what he draws the most. At this point, he says he and cartoon Tod have “become synonymous with each other.” 

After 18 years in the city and 10 years in the Mission, Tod has found his groove within the public sphere and is living a “dream come true” with a residency at Rossi Mission SF, the newest street art shop on Valencia Street, which Tod helped build. 

The shop is like a graffiti artists’ heaven, with the walls covered in tagged apparel and rows of multicolored painted skateboards. Six of about 20 resident artists have their own workspaces and installations there, and Tod hopes the wall in the back may eventually host rotating exhibits from other visual artists. 

“A lot of street artists and graffiti artists don’t get the traditional showcasing of their work in more conventional galleries,” Tod said, but since Rossi’s opened in June, he’s realized there’s a need for this kind of venue in the neighborhood for all sorts of different artists. 

Though it was scary at first, Tod is glad he took the plunge: “We come in every day to the space that we built. There’s not that mask anymore, so it’s like this direct connection that I’m able to initiate and build … I can’t be a mysterious artist forever, and at some point I have to put myself out there.” 

The positive reception they’ve received, he says, has motivated him even more to be present in connecting with the community. Now, he just has to remind himself to take a day off every now and then. 

As to Tod the Bunny — the character is more more than just a name. The bunny helped Tod the human work through his personal life issues and express himself in ways he might not have otherwise. “The stories I started to share were very personal stories that I was able to kind of express through [Tod], as opposed to just talking about it.” 

He found that, beyond being his own personal outlet, Tod the Bunny was also someone his peers could connect to. “As dudes, that’s, like, it’s just not built into our universe to have that vulnerability,” Tod said. He began to realize the potential impact his work could have on his community. 

In his 18 years in San Francisco, he’s dabbled in different areas from photography and music to retail and logo design, but he says the new store on Valencia Street all “brought me back full circle to this thing I was doing since I was a kid.” 

A regular at Ali Baba’s Cave for over ten years before it closed, Tod started eating at Yasmin when it opened in late 2019 in the same spot at 19th and Valencia. The owner of the new Mediterranean restaurant also owned the storefront a couple doors down, they got to talking, and the rest was history. 

Rossi Mission SF is open Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday through Sunday 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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