Coronavirus kindness: SF street artist fnnch and his cute honey bear paintings launched major COVID-19 fundraiser

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Honey bear paintings launch major COVID-19 fundraiser
He doesn't like to appear on camera, but San Francisco street artist fnnch is showing up in a big way for struggling entertainers and artists. He launched a fundraiser that raised $130,000 by selling cute honey bear paintings.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- They have been popping up everywhere. You can spot them along Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, along 18th Street in the Castro and on Valencia Street in the Mission.

RELATED: Coronavirus inspired honey bear murals pop up on San Francisco's boarded storefronts

The paintings of masked honey bears began appearing shortly after the stay-at-home order took effect in March and many businesses were forced to shut down. Some covered up their windows with plywood to keep someone from smashing them. That was almost an invitation to street artists.

"I noticed a lot of boarded up storefronts in San Francisco. It had been a while since I did street art in San Francisco, so I thought, let's take something that would otherwise be depressive and turn it into a canvas for art," said fnnch, who creates contemporary pop art.

His work can be seen all over San Francisco. Fnnch has made colorful murals of honey bear bottles, flamingos, lotus flowers and giant red lips. But he likes to keep his identity hidden. You won't find pictures of him on social media or news reports, but he decided to talk to ABC7 News about his decision to paste honey bears wearing masks on boarded up businesses.

"If we all wear masks, if we all wash our hands, we will get out of this faster. It's a public service reminder," said fnnch at his Mission District studio.

The artwork was printed out on white paper sheets that he would cut out and paste on the plywood, sort of like wallpaper. He tried to customize each painting. He put up a bear holding a pizza on a pizza restaurant, a soap bear on a beauty salon.

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"Instead of putting one up and walking away, I thought, what if I put different ones in a row and then it is like an art piece. Something fun and lively."

He said some businesses reached out to thank him. One in the Castro District even covered their honey bear with plexiglass to protect it. That gave him an idea.

"People were asking me, 'Hey, can I buy one?' Eventually I was like 'maybe I should sell them.'"

He decided to offer prints and wood cutout versions of the masked honey bears on his website. They sold for several hundred dollars each with half of the proceeds going to charity.

He also teamed up with a designer who shares his studio to create honey bear themed masks for people to wear. They sold them for $75 each. The first batch of 100 masks sold out in 22 minutes, so they sold a second batch of 250 masks that also sold out quickly.

"The fundraiser helps us with the masks we have been making to give away to restaurant workers, grocery store workers. If we see someone with a bandanna, we give them one," said L. Stockhausen, who hired several out of work artists to help him sew the masks.

All of the money raised from selling the masks will be donated to SF New Deal, which pays restaurants to prepare meals for people in need.

The money generated by the sale of the honey bears is going to the Safety Net Fund, a non-profit that supports artists and entertainers who have lost their income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The f

"We expected to raise $10,000 to $25,000," said fnnch as he looked at his phone once the timed sale was over. "I got the total. We are going to donate $129,375 to charity."

Not bad for a street artist and his iconic honey bears.

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