San Francisco artist closes Mission gallery after 18 years

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Carl Pisaturo has maintained a storefront in the Mission District as his home and work space for nearly 20 years. After thrilling gallery-goers with his art for years, he's leaving the Bay Area for good--an all too common occurrence for artists in San Francisco. (KGO)

On a cold Saturday night in San Francisco's Mission District, 50 art patrons gathered to bid a fond farewell to Carl Pisaturo's kinetic art gallery--a mainstay in the neighborhood for nearly 20 years.

RELATED: Rising rents forcing SoMa artists to move

Pisaturo is soft-spoken, dressed in a simple short-sleeved shirt and jeans, his brown hair tousled on the top of his head. In his arms, a baby boy no more than a year old.

The small, lively room was crowded with visitors of all ages. Children and parents, students and retirees gathered to interact with the art for the last time. Pisaturo is uprooting himself, his infant son, and the child's mother for Rhode Island, saying goodbye to the San Francisco art scene -- and not voluntarily.

"I think it's a great loss to the neighborhood," said close friend Iris Alroy, who helped organize the closing night party.

The storefront is no bigger than a common one-bedroom apartment, but inside there aren't home furnishings or closets full of clothes. Instead, moving-metal-sound engineering feats occupy the space -- free for all to enjoy and experience.

Robots with lighted arms and giant, spinning tops with sea shells were popular attractions.

Pisaturo says the greatest part of being an artist in the Mission was: "San Francisco. It's a great collection of people."

He said "was" because he's leaving.

The gallery served as a gathering place for Pisaturo's many eclectic friends, who regarded his art as something different for the ever-changing neighborhood, which the biomedical engineer by day says was slowly turning into something he didn't recognize around 2007. "The first few years from like 2000, 2003 or four, there still wasn't much going on in the Mission as far as real estate," he said as a visitor complimented his art.

When asked where the neighborhood was going as far as arts and culture, he replied bluntly: "Culture is going to be going out for expensive cocktails and expensive dinners."

The art inside the tiny space off 23rd and Florida streets is a technicolor dream. The collection of pieces doesn't have a name, but several patrons called it "magic."

Glittering lights and old-world objects like film reels and viewfinders stood in stark contrast to the wood flooring and accents of the room. Some of Pisaturo's work incorporated industrial gears and elements of motion, inviting people of all ages to control and operate the living works of art around them.

As San Francisco locals gazed at his creations for the last time, Pisaturo tended to his son, patting the child's back and rocking him to sleep. The artist says one of the reasons the landlord is terminating their "arrangement" is that the space is not made for children.

He and his partner live in the back quarters of the space. A small kitchen with beautiful photographs lining the walls, a futon, work space complete with tools, cameras, a computer and several installations hanging above it gave way to a Gerber stroller.

Pisaturo and his family are off to Rhode Island, uninstalling the art and attempting to sell what they can to help get them there.

Though the whirling objects and mesmerizing lights brought joy to visitors young and old, on this Saturday in the Mission there was sadness in the small work-live space -- an all too common occurrence in modern day San Francisco.

Click here for more information on Carl Pisaturo's work.

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