There may be a solution for some of us. The amazing P Segal has a plan that might actually work. A plan that would encourage well heeled business types to invest in keeping some (not necessarily web-based) creative types in our fair City. Sounds crazy I know, but hear me out.
Many people I know are already in Oakland or have moved back East and taken over small towns or established themselves in compelling corners of decaying East Coast, South West/East, or Midwest Cities. Places they can afford. Places they can live in and work and create without every goddamn dime they make going to more and more exorbitant rents for closets in poorly retro-ed apartments with eight roommates or greasy cold floor spaces in ramshackle garages. How many would stay here if they could simply afford the rent with enough $ left over to continue creating?
I don’t hate the 100k salary ‘puter kids for coming here and falling for our City. If I were 25 and making that kind of dough, working in a field I enjoy, for a company that doubles as my Mom and lover, I’d probably do the same thing they do – work 90 hours a week, while snuggly ensconced in the warm folds of Googledom, take a comfy luxury bus ride home to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, arrive around 8PM, meet friends for dinner, drop a C-note apiece at one of the fabulous new restaurants in my fabulous hip neighborhood, bed down around 1AM, then take the comfy bus back to Mt. View in the AM to do it all over again. Then I would save up for my company sanctioned week long vacation/team building exercise at Burning Man©™ every year. That’s a pretty killer lifestyle for a young person in the corporate world we now live in; hard to blame them for not really realizing how difficult it is for a painter (art and/or commercial), old school writer or journalist, welder, arborist/landscaper, non big $ earner to continue to live in this special place. The kids might not even realize that these skint bohemians helped make San Francisco the super cool place that attracted them here in the first place.
Well, P. Segal has a dream. Like so many dreams – it seems….. dreamlike. How can it work? Will investors buy buildings for poor and poor(ish) artists to live in? Why would any one with $ do that? They just might want to consider the scheme that P Segal and the heavy-hitters she has recruited to sit on the board of her CA State non-profit 501 c3 organization have devised. It’s pretty tasty.
The plan is simple. Encourage investors to buy a residential or mixed use building already occupied by artist/craftsmen or a building to be converted to artist/mixed use/live work. The non-profit would provide a comfy tax incentive for the buyer, while facilitating artists to live and work in the building for way below market rents. Investors who buy buildings get the tax benefit of nonprofit donations and they still own the buildings and can sell them for a profit (possibly to the tenants) when the 10 years of allowable write-offs end, making a profit on the sale. More traditional nonprofit housing works for general housing needs, but the Art Houses will be residential AND commercial in order to provide a place for the residents to build and develop their art: actual live/work space. This plan could also enable artists to dial back dependency on the “conventional art world” that is dominated by a few established critics and their gallery owning friends or traditional galleries that take a huge percentage of sales. Common areas in the Art Houses will doubtlessly be utilized as collective galleries, maybe even generating some income for artists. For the investors, well they’re doing a good thing with their dough AND buying some good will in our less than huggy San Francisco affordable housing crises. Artists, worker bees and regular Frisco eccentrics, many of whom made SF the interesting place that investors, tech owners and tech workers are profiting from, get to stay and continue working in this amazing place. Win-win.
The first step is a fundraiser for the non-profit that takes place Thursday April 23rd (see flyer above) at 7PM above the Castro. For $25 you can hang with artists, patrons and SF characters in a very sweet location with one of the best views in SF. For $100 you will be able to choose from a pile of original art made by local endangered artists. See Paypal info below and on the flyer above or pay at the door. Please come and ask Ms. P and her non-profit board members just how this plan will work and if YOU can get involved as an investor or as an artist /creative qualifying for inclusion in the SF Art House pool of SF survivors.
This show is not a retrospective, rather a small selection by Steven of two memorable BLF “Improvements” with beautiful photos by A. Leo Nash and Nicole Rosenthal. We’ll be sharing the gallery with Anthony Discenza, Jacqueline Gordon, Victor Moscoso and psychedelic poster artist Robert Fried. The opening is this Saturday the 12th of July, 2014. I won’t be there – I’m off on a UE trip to the Midwest. Other BLF Ops may be in attendance. Steven is planning a closing party for August 16th which I will be attending – I’ll be missing Lynyrd Skynyrd to be at this closing party, a sacrifice I had to make, so I hope you will drop what you’re doing and stop on by too.
The BLF finally retired a few years ago after a 35 year run. It had been a lot of fun, but the thrill was gone. Addressing later generations in a book foreword, Shepard Fairey said (to paraphrase a bit): “Check out the BLF, they’ve been hacking billboards since before you were born!” And that was years ago.
Then, a few years later, I was inadvertently outed by my pal, rocker Anton Newcomb and, unlike Banksy, no one seemed to notice or much care. Ow! Then I outed long time copywriting partner and retired BLF propagandist Stuart Mangrum “_____ DeCoverly”. Bruised egos crave company…. Well, I had to remind myself, it was a heckadventure and, after any number of close calls, we remained unscathed, un-injured (35 years and not one single work place accident!) and with the exception of the initial Suicide Club improvement in 1977, un-captured. We had stayed incognito, using silly nom de guerres, sporting masks, dyed hair, funny glasses and the like, for decades. We kidnapped journalists, shocking and amusing them enough that they wrote about our exploits with humor and energy without being too critical.
By the end of the new millenniums first decade, the new generation of BLF Ops had moved on to the serious pursuits of middle age. Many passed thru the organization over the years, most were fellow pranksters in Cacophony and the earlier Suicide Club. Co-founder Irving Glikk (David T. Warren, co-founder of the Suicide Club and early ignitor of the silly wooden figure now worshipped on the Black Rock Desert each year) passed away in 2010 at seventy-one. Dave was one of the great inspirations in my life. He was the “Spirit of Chaos” in the Suicide Club. Once in the late 70’s as I was just embarking on a lengthy solo cross-country hitch-hiking adventure, Dave with somber mien, gave me a giant rubber thumb declaring: “Here kid, you’ll need this on the road!”
The BLF was a primary creative outlet for me for many years, but all things come to pass. I’ve settled into other pursuits in recent times, becoming more interested in and energized by slipping back into small group UE adventures, restoring the ridiculous and sublime giant DogHeads that I somehow have become responsible for, and knocking off the occasional book event for our history of the Cacophony Society with co-author (and past BLF Art Director) Carrie Galbraith “Ethyl Ketone”.
Former BLF operative Conrad Hoc “Scott Beale” our first webmaster, got us online initially, and way back in the 90’s convinced me of the importance of the digital realm as a means of archiving and preserving work done in meat space. Milton will probably link this blog post to the official BLF website <billboardliberation.com> and we’ll call it a day with the exception of any future gallery, academic, historical or law enforcement interest (the statute of limitations is closing fast, fellas..)
This is the first of 2 posts that will serve, for the time being, as my digital “closing the book” on the BLF. In the next post before the closing party at Wolfe Fine Arts, I will out and tip the hat to everyone I can recall that passed through the group from 1977 til we closed shop in 2010. If you are a past operative, please drop me a line and let me know if I may use your “real” name in my next post. I will also include many more photos of “improvements” made by BLF over the years with short anecdotes about the actions.