Since 1987, Saturday night at Artists’ Television Access has meant an experimental film showing. It’s no different today, but there’s a newcomer to the longstanding series: Ivy Woods, a Louisiana film buff 15 years younger than the series he’s helping to put on, and an exception to the rule that today’s young people only move to San Francisco to make apps, not art.
Woods’ move would’ve been more typical three decades ago. But even though he’s an anachronism, the 21-year-old — who never left his home state of Louisiana until a 2021 road trip — is having a kind of innocent abroad experience in San Francisco:
“I was homeschooled,” says Woods, whose large blue eyes reflect his perennial wonder.
“I’m from a town of like 2,000 people. I was lonely. I was bored. I grew up going to fucking church and, like, being at home and not knowing anyone.” And, he fits in here, with chipped navy polish on his nails and arms scrawled with notes written with a Sharpie.
Woods first met Craig Baldwin, the director of ATA, during the summer of 2021 after a three-and-a-half month road trip that ended in San Francisco. He had been directed to Baldwin by a mentor and close friend of his who runs a microcinema in Shreveport, Louisiana, a city of 184,000 where Woods moved at the age of 10 and found some like-minded companions.
“The initial road trip was my leaving home, trying to grow up, like faux beatnik,” he says.
He returned to Louisiana after the road trip, but asked Baldwin if he could work for him someday. This past summer, he moved into the basement of ATA on Valencia Street.
“I’ve been out of the basement for, like, three months now,” he says, giving a brief tour of the now-very-cluttered storage space where he once lived.
“I put a little mat on top of this cabinet, and it was my loft,” he explains.
“It wasn’t bad, honestly,” he says of the set-up. “But the rats suck. It’s very cold or very hot. And it’s very wet. It floods in here, but I’m used to mold and stuff, because I’m from Louisiana.”
When he arrived in San Francisco at 19, he was enamored with Baldwin and his collection — and the Mission. Working at ATA affords him access to both.
“The community that first made me feel like a human being and made me feel connected to people was through art. But now that I’m here, I’m meeting people through gardening, through love of a bookstore or donut shop, through walking the same street. So, luckily, my community is expanding.”
Though Woods has stumbled into the world beyond the screen, in conversation he drops the names of filmmakers, artists, musicians, and poets like old friends.
He’s also working at a frame shop, Back to the Picture. “I’m like, totally, I’m a nerd,” he says. “Like I said, no friends. So that’s why I’m this way. I’m so sorry. I hope you’re getting something out of this interview other than this guy just knows stupid stuff and does stupid stuff.”
Before the kick-off show for ATA’s spring season, Woods toys with a broken slide projector that Baldwin wants to use to light the show.
“Craig and I are going to bicker, but don’t feel like you’re in the middle of it,” he says, putting the machine on top of a copy of Swami Rama’s “Living with the Himalayan Masters.”
When Woods isn’t working with Baldwin or selling picture frames to pay rent, he volunteers at Adobe Books, where he plays upright bass at monthly improv nights.
“Now, I can’t go anywhere without meeting people,” he says of the Mission, which he describes as “more ecstatic, more interested, and more open” than other parts of San Francisco.
He hopes to live here for a long time.
I honestly don’t know how anyone could live a bohemian type lifestyle in S.F. the way rents and food prices are now. I was paying $40 a week in the 80’s for a 6th st residential hotel room. That opened a lot of doors. Now, things are very, very expensive, even in the Mission, which would be totally gentrified if the developers had their way.
It’s great to here these type of experiences can still happen for young adults in SF. It was life changing for me coming from a small rural town.
Hey Ivy, Great article about you. I’m from a small 2000 pop town in Louisiana too. Welcome to Frisco:-). Good to hear you like gardening-we do too. Good luck to ya, Lance
Good for you! I’m from the Lake Charles area so I understand about limited resources. Keep learning and grow but stop telling people you’re used to mold. That’s only during hurricane season and you make us sound unclean/backwards.
Wonderful story. He seems to have found something special here right now. Hang onto it dude for dear life.