Art Around Town: Hayes Valley’s Public Art Installations

The transformation of Hayes Valley is one of the great success stories of 21st-century San Francisco. Patricia Walkup, a local community activist, founded the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and worked for decades to improve the neighborhood by lobbying the city to reduce crime, create housing and open space, and replace the discontinued section of the Freeway with tree-lined Octavia Boulevard. The neighborhood’s famed green space and outdoor art gallery, Patricia’s Green, is named in Walkup’s honor.

The first installation on the space, the Hayes Green Temple, was built by David Best, who is perhaps most famous for his Burning Man temples. This summer, Best was invited back to create a new temple at Patricia’s Green, and The Temple at Patricia’s Green went up on June 26. The structure will be in place—uniquely for a Best temple—for a full year. Like the stories behind the neighborhood’s revitalization and Patricia’s Green itself, the design and intent of the temple, which Best says “has no life until the community brings that life to it,” reflect both the neighborhood’s strong sense of community and the Hayes Valley commitment to public art.

Another example of this commitment to public art is the Hayes Valley Mural Project, which began in 2011 with two large iconic pieces by British artist Eine, Brighter Faster and Great Adventure. There are other large sponsored murals here and there: the recently unveiled psychedelic piece at Van Ness and Market is a collaboration between Caratoes, Lolo, and Tati, internationally recognized women street artists from, respectively, Hong Kong, Oakland, and Miami. How Can We See More Than Skin Color went up last spring, with residents joining in the project by providing suggestions and answers on stickers integrated into the piece. The neighborhood’s newest mural is Sam Flores’s piece on Linden Street. “Unofficial” murals also pop up throughout the area; an artist known as McFry frequently posts small paintings on telephone poles, walls, and even traffic cones that often feature a whimsical “owlbear,” a childlike animal with a bear’s body and an owl’s face.

A stroll through Hayes Valley can feel like a visit to a hip, urban outdoor gallery, one in which world-famous artists appear next to and often collaborate with anonymous local residents on works that are necessarily, like the neighborhood itself, subject to time and change. New pieces and projects appear constantly; currently underway is a “walk in” outdoor movie theater funded through a Kickstarter campaign. A notable piece, the 2005 Ghinlon/Transcope, deserves mention both for its concept and because, like most of the neighborhood’s installations, it was transient and is now only a memory. The piece consisted of a dozen transcopes along Octavia Boulevard that were designed by Berkeley-based artist Po Shu Wang as miniature observatories, each transforming the traffic along the boulevard into a unique kind of kinetic image. Every view existed only for the moment and only for the specific viewer whose eye was pressed to the viewing lens.

Along with a roster of frequent community events, the SFJAZZ Center, the Hayes Valley Farm, and the ever-growing collection of local boutiques, restaurants, and galleries, the art scene in Hayes Valley has helped make the neighborhood one of most active and attractive parts of San Francisco. With a dedicated sense of its own history and an eager desire to develop and offer Hayes Valley homes for sale to the city’s continuing influx of new residents, the area provides those searching for San Francisco condos and apartments the best of the Bay Area’s exciting new developments while retaining and improving on the sense of local charm and neighborhood pride that have characterized the City by the Bay for so long.