Artists help fill empty storefronts

October 23, 2009 11:55:17 PM PDT
San Francisco has come up with a creative way to make use of empty storefronts in the so-called "Mid-Market" area. It's one of the neighborhoods where they're turning to art, in hopes of getting rid of blight. The "Art In Storefronts" program kicked off on Friday night on Market Street, between Fifth and Eighth.

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At first glance, there is a storefront filled with crumpled pieces of paper, but if you take a closer look, it's an artist's interpretation of the Mid-Market neighborhood in San Francisco.

"To crumple a piece of paper and throw it on the floor is sort of an act of abandonment and that's what happened to a lot of these spaces from the businesses that were in them," says artist Paul Hayes.

Mid-Market has become synonymous with blight, but the city has turned to artists in hopes of turning things around on this major commercial thoroughfare. The San Francisco Arts Commission selected 20 artists to come up with art installations in vacant storefronts.

"What we want to do is really make sure people passing through feel that there's a reason to come by here," says Luis Cancel from the art commission.

A few of the art pieces can be found at the vacant storefronts of the Warfield building. The building's owner David Addington says he went along with the idea right away.

"Artists are always the first people to view an area, see it is beauty and are willing to take the risk to come down and be part of it," says Addington.

Vacant storefronts are popping up all over the country as a result of the recession, but this is the city's way of dealing with it at least in the short term. In the long run, city leaders acknowledge art alone isn't the answer.

"Don't expect everything to turn around overnight. It's going to take some time," says San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Other plans for Mid-Market include better lighting and greenery. A measure on the November ballot also calls for digital billboards to be placed along a two-block stretch. For now, though, passersby are certainly noticing the art that's suddenly appeared on Market Street.

This pilot program is being rolled out in phases. This week, it's Central Market and the Tenderloin. The Bayview and the Mission are next, scheduled to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

LINK: www.sfartscommission.org

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