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SF female statues, another Target, illegal street art that stays

Three things to know today

Ruth Asawa's 1986 origami-inspired fountain Aurora at Bayside Plaza.
Photo by Shawn Clover

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Hey, ladies

“S.F.’s monuments to male supremacy: the city’s public art” proclaimed the headline of Heather Knight’s Tuesday column for the San Francisco Chronicle. It turns out, Knight says, that out of San Francisco’s 87 public statues (you can see the full list here), only two depict women: Former Mayor Dianne Feinstein’s City Hall bust and a statue of Florence Nightingale outside Laguna Honda Hospital.

Mark Farrell, the ethics-fined District Two Supervisor rumored to be preparing a campaign for SF mayor, has fashioned himself a bit of a white knight here, proposing this week that the SF become “the nation’s first city to sign onto an international movement to increase female representation in the public sphere to 30 percent.”

As a move toward that goal of equality, Farrell is proposing a $500,000 statue of former San Francisco cable car operator and internationally-beloved poet Maya Angelou outside the city’s Main library, half of which would be paid by taxpayers and the other half via private fundraising Farrell says he’s doing.

Knight writes today that she was deluged with other suggestions for XX public art. Of course, some readers told her that “this was a waste of money or political correctness at its worst,” because people who have the time to write into newspapers are often people with a marvelous sense of fun. The three top positive responses were local artist Ruth Asawa, Lillie Hitchcock Coit (of tower fame), and Mary Ellen Pleasant, the so-called “Mother of Human Rights in California.”

And here’s where Knight does something deliciously diabolical:

So maybe the most realistic way for San Francisco to see more statues of real women is for voters to elect more women as mayor. I asked Farrell, a rumored mayoral candidate in 2019, if the next mayor should be a woman. He paused.

“It could be,” he said. “It could be the next governor. It could be the next president. It could be the next supervisor. But no matter the order, I think it’s greatly important we have more women representation.”

Here’s hoping Farrell means “more women representation” in City Hall, not just in effigy.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Stonestown bullseye

Though San Francisco’s been historically opposed to big box/chain stores, going so far as to require chains that want to open in SF to undergo a notoriously rigorous process, there are a couple that seem (relatively) immune to the ire directed at, say, an American Apparel proposed for Valencia Street or a “technical cashmere” joint in Hayes Valley. (Interesting to note that both of these companies are dead, or nearly so. Is an attempt to open in chain-averse SF the move of a business intent on self-sabotage? Discuss.)

Less despised are big boxes like Trader Joe’s, the Market Street location of which was met with cheers, and Target, which opened its first San Francisco location in 2012 and now boasts four stores across town.

That number will rise to five in July, as Target is opening yet another of its smaller-scale stores in Stonestown Mall, this time in the space next to (you guessed it) Trader Joe’s) that—depending on time spent in San Francisco and/or meatheadedness—you think of as either the “old Borders” or the “old Sports Authority.”

According to Hoodline, this location is expected to employ 100 people, and will feature the retailers trademark mixture of staples (batteries, toilet paper, toothpaste) and all that stuff you end up freaking out and buying because that’s what happens at Target (“curated home and decor items, electronic goods, and health and beauty products”). As of publication time, a Target spokesperson tells Curbed that the doors to this location will open on July 19.

Photo by Kathy Drasky

Sweet street art

SF Weekly this week has a nice interview with fnnch, the artist perhaps most known for his (for though his visage is kept a secret, he describes himself as “he” on his about page) depictions of the bear-shaped honey containers, often bearing unexpected accessories, and often illicitly placed:

He wants people to encounter it in public places that challenge their perception of “illegal” art. His earlier work was often in places where he didn’t get permission from the owners or from any organization. In the past few years in Duboce Park, where the city had stenciled the pathways with official-looking signage to keep dogs leashed, fnnch added colorful dog art, so that one figure of a dog-walker held a Jeff Koons-like balloon dog, another a Keith Haring-like mutt, another a Snoopy, and so on. It was all in good fun — and all illegal.

Yet the city has let fnnch’s dog figures stay.

“As far as I know, I’m the first and only artist in San Francisco to paint something illegal in a public park and have the city not only let it stay but actually maintain it,” fnnch tells the Weekly.

A recently-painted construction site’s toilet facility is fnnch’s first San Francisco commission, the Weekly reports. But he’s hopeful that the city will loosen up in his, and other artists’, favor.

“San Francisco doesn’t have a utility box art program—which is embarrassing, since Sacramento has one and San Jose has one,” says the artist. “With my work, I try to open up new, alternative spaces for public art, to lead people to look at art differently. I also want to test out models for other artists. That’s why I’ve painted on mailboxes, construction sites, and sidewalks. I’ve done three projects on Lyft cars. It’s a lot easier to get permission to paint on a construction site or a Lyft car than it is to get someone to give you an actual wall for a mural, which can be extremely challenging in San Francisco.”