You’re not seeing things: A whopping 450 “honey bears”—variations on the immediately recognizable and widely imitated bear-shaped honey bottles sold in seemingly every store in America--appeared all over SoMa late Sunday night, from the Embarcadero to Fifth Street.
The culprit behind the unexpected SoMa bear jamboree unmasked himself in a Monday morning press release: Local street artist fnnch (pronounced “finch”), noted for sneaking whimsical and subversive images into the working fabric of the city, is the one going around exercising his right to bear arms.
The honey bear’s picnic on downtown streets is not just any fnnch outing—the anonymous Instagram star is protesting restrictions on San Francisco street art. He’s started a petition trying to decriminalize the posting of art in public that, like stickers, uses adhesives.
Note that the honey bears look like stickers but are technically “signs” held up with twist ties. According to SF Public Works, signs are usually legal in SF public spaces if “attached with tape or other non-adhesive material such as twine, string or other non-metal banding material.”
“Our residents want to express themselves. Visitors come here for their art,” fnnch said via press release. “And yet the city criminalizes certain forms of street art” disproportionately compared to other cities.
In his petition, fnnch strikes a populist tone, noting that street art is the most accessible form:
High art institutions like galleries and museums are wonderful, but they only service a small percentage of the population. Galleries often close at 5 pm, which prevents a typical working individual from visiting, and museums charge high fees that are not accessible to every individual. [...] Street art and murals are art for the other 95 percent.
Fnnch has so far garnered over 10,00 signatures, although many are from non-locals hailing from other states. The goal is to net 11,000 signatures in hopes of drawing the attention of the Board of Supervisors.
For the curious, the Dutch Gold Honey company takes credit for the original “honey bear” design, created in 1957 during a dinner conversation between four California beekeepers. Oh to have been a fly—or bee, perhaps—on the wall during that fateful meal.