Displaced artists’ vessel for healing: workshop for the evicted


By Eli Wolfe : sfchronicle – excerpt

Ben Smith arrived at the Mission Cultural Center the other day in search of healing.

A local artist and business owner, Smith had been homeless for two years after being evicted from his San Francisco home. His mother died in 2015, and his bike shop was on the verge of closing down. Depressed and unsure of the future, he could barely remember the last time he had taken out a paintbrush.

“I may have painted once since I was evicted,” Smith said. “Normally I’d have my paints and easel out every day, but now it’s not as possible.”

Smith made his way Sunday to a special workshop led by Jennifer Ewing, a longtime Mission District artist. With only four hours a session, Ewing hopes to start the healing process for fellow San Francisco artists like Smith who are being displaced from their homes, a fast-growing group in the bustling region that has been the center of the tech boom.

The way it works is simple: Attendees make “spirit boats” out of plastic bottles and decorative materials, and through the process gradually unburden themselves.

“What happens is when people make the boat, the stories come out,” Ewing explained. “The boat https://www.facebook.com/events/1302086589820060/?ref=22&feed_story_type=22&action_history=nullis the vehicle to go into the unknown — it keeps them safe.”…

Displacing our artists

“There’s been mass displacement of local artists,” said Peter Papadopoulos, a co-director for the Mojo Theater and a member of the Cultural Action Network organization, “and once they’re displaced, they don’t stay in San Francisco; they leave for Oakland, Richmond and San Jose.”

This is a common gripe in San Francisco, but there are actually few data on the exodus of artists from the city. In September, the San Francisco Arts Commission conducted a survey of almost 600 local artists that reported roughly 70 percent of the artists had been displaced from their home, workplace or both.

The remaining respondents expressed fear of future displacement due to issues of affordability and unstable living situations, said Kate Patterson, SFAC’s director of communications.

Cheyenne Concepcion, a researcher for the Todco Group, a community development nonprofit, has been interviewing displaced artists to help map their movement out of the city. One of the issues she has found is that because artists frequently covet the same areas sought after by growing tech companies, they’re increasingly getting boxed out.

“Most of the people I talked to are really angry and have given up,” Concepcion added.

Eviction worries…

At the end of the workshop, Ewing had the group form a half-circle of boats on the floor, or what she called a marina. It’s hard to gauge how much healing occurred Sunday, but the group celebrated with a round of applause. Then the circle broke and the participants dispersed on their own journeys… (more)


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