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SF's Castro District Joins the Art Walk Trend

by Charlie Wagner

Manager Alycia Piazza stands in the Art Attack Gallery, which is participating in the Castro Art Walk
Manager Alycia Piazza stands in the Art Attack Gallery, which is participating in the Castro Art Walk  (Source:Charlie Wagner)

The creative buzz in the Castro will be louder the first Thursday of every month, thanks to the efforts of some Castro Merchants members and their friends in the neighborhood's arts and literature community.

After a soft opening earlier this month, the next Castro Art Walk is scheduled for Thursday, September 7, with 10 participating merchants within four blocks of Castro and Market streets. All will be open from 6 to 9 p.m., many with free refreshments and live music.

"Our soft opening last month generated a lot of foot traffic," said Alycia Piazza, manager at participating Art Attack Gallery. She noted the event was featured on http://www.sf.FunCheap.com and recommended by San Francisco hotel concierges.

Piazza and five other business representatives met with Castro Merchants and together they decided the Castro needed its own art walk.

"I think it's wonderful," Castro Merchants President Daniel Bergerac said. "I'm excited about it and hope the community supports it."

Art Attack, at 2358 Market Street (http://www.artattacksf.com), represents about 25 local artists and opened in April. For the September art walk, Art Attack will host a free workshop by the staff of Artist & Craftsman Supply on block printing titled, "Design your own linoleum block prints."

Local Take, at 3979 17th Street (www.localtakesf.com), has been open almost five years. Owner Jenn Meyer said they handle only Bay Area artists and currently present about 140 people. Media includes textile arts, jewelry, clothing, wood wall art, photo collages, and one-of-a-kind jackets and dresses made from repurposed T-shirts.

Meyer is participating because she hopes the art walk will "get the Castro more activated."

Thomasina Demaio acts as curator, teacher, and paint wrangler for ArtSavesLives studio at 518 Castro Street (http://www.facebook.com/sfartslave). Her gallery has live model drawing sessions each week from 6 to 9 p.m. with women models on Wednesday and men on Thursday.

For the art walk event, the male models will be wearing jockstraps. Demaio promised with a smile that there will be "no genitalia." There is a fee to participate in the drawing session but visitors will be welcome to check out the front of the gallery for free.

ArtSavesLives changes its show every month and typically includes 20 different artists. It also hosts dance, film, and performance art.

Joe Titi and John Giusti are the owner-operators of The Artist's Gallery at 4406 18th Street, Suite A (http://www.theartistsgallerysf.com). Started in 2003, the gallery offers a mix of about 30 local and non-local artists, currently including three different painters based in Assisi, Italy.

Works for sale are primarily original oils and prints, predominantly done in an abstract style.

"We try to keep most of the art affordable," Titi said.

The Castro Country Club, at 4058 18th Street (http://www.castrocountryclub.org), is celebrating its 35th year as a gathering space for the LGBT recovery community. Unique among Castro Art Walk participants, the club mission was explained by cafe manager Brandon Stanton as, "helping people in recovery find community."

For the event, the club will have art in multiple locations plus a pop-up gallery, a guitar player on the patio, and some refreshments.

Spark Arts is a gallery, event, and creative space at 4229 18th Street (http://www.sparkarts.com), owned by creative director Aviva Kanoff and gallery manager Angie Stitcher, who is on the Castro Merchants board. The gallery features mostly up and coming San Francisco-based artists.

Kanoff, herself an artist, chef, and cookbook author, said the gallery will have wine, refreshments, and live music.

Swirl at 572 Castro Street (http://www.swirloncastro.com) is a retail wine and spirits merchant that has a wine tasting bar in back and art work on the walls. Co-owner Casey Bowers said he changes the pieces on display monthly and for the art w2alk will show work represented by Spark Arts.

Ruby's Clay Studio and Gallery at 552A Noe Street (www.rubysclaystudio.org) is the longest-established participant, having been at that location since 1967. The nonprofit arts center is supported by members and fees from classes.

On display will be mostly works in clay with some mixed media. Most will have been made and fired in the studio.

For the art walk, Ruby's will have two greeters to assist visitors in touring the two-level space. People may be able to observe a class in progress. Ruby's will provide snacks and some works will be available for purchase.

Norden Living, described by owners Terje Arnesen and Christopher Sharpe as "Scandinavian design redefined," is at 3618 17th Street (www.nordenliving.com). Opened in April, the store imports Scandinavian furniture, lighting, and accessories, focusing on young designers and manufacturers.

On their walls will be works by Sonoma County acrylic and mixed media artist Britta Kathmeyer. They will serve wine and snacks and have music.

Visitors interested in literature, as well as art, will find both in Dog Eared Books, 489 Castro Street (http://www.dogearedbooks.com).

In addition to the usual selection of merchandise, the bookstore will show the work of five well-known San Francisco artists. Owner Kate Rosenberger herself is a painter and printmaker and will have works on display.

The store will offer visitors wine and snacks as well as a new cocktail, tentatively called the 3 Hole Punch.

Every gallery owner who participated in the August soft opening said they saw more people than expected. They consistently expressed a high level of optimism and enthusiasm for the September Castro Art Walk.

Art Attack's Piazza predicted the audience will build over time, based on her prior experience with the North Beach Art Walk.

"We hope people who like to visit the Castro will want to experience something different," she said.

For the Castro Art Walk map and more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/castroartwalk.

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