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Seniors and streets artists tag team Richmond building

Golden-agers learn the art of graffiti and tagging

Institute on Aging

The Institute on Aging, a non-profit that works on quality of life programs for Bay Area seniors, has a big building with a lot of blank walls on Geary Boulevard. You might say they’re providing a canvas that, normally, nobody gets to work on. But it was only a matter of time, and it turns out that the Institute’s own clientele were the ones getting in on the act.

Last summer, a pair of volunteers from LA-based art collective Crewest taught a three-day seminar for seniors at the Institute on the finer points of graffiti for beginners.

“We’d seen a similar project in Europe about just stencil art,” Crewest team member Man One told Curbed SF. “We thought it might be a totally crazy idea or maybe a totally great idea.”

The group has done graffiti classes before, but usually for kids and teenager. Expanding the pool to include those ages 65 to 96 (the oldest student in the August class) was pretty much inevitable once the notion came up.

After keeping the idea on the back burner for a while, Crewest pitched it to the Institute as a self-expression program, and it turned out to be a minor hit.

(The class included an expedition to Clarion Alley to discuss the long San Francisco tradition of murals and street art. Many of the attendees had never been to the city’s famous rue of street art.)

The three-day course ended with the class taking matters (that is to say, cans) into their own hands and gussying up a section of the Institute’s institute.

Man One says that whereas kids are often shy about starting a project and extremely anxious about making mistakes, the Institute on Aging crowd was much more confident upon approaching a surface.

“They took the can right out of my hand,” he says.

Apparently after making it through the 20th century, a mere blank wall doesn’t present much intimidation.

A repeat course is planned for 2017, and the artists say they’d like to take the same program to other cities.

In the meantime, if you’re curious to see the results, check out the whole affair at the Institute on Aging’s YouTube channel below.