For four years now, Viracocha has been one of San Francisco's most cherished venues for everything from artisanal crafts and furniture to local art and literature, clothes, typewriters, custom light installations... you name it. Cactus in a boot? No problem. Hand-blown glass bottles from France? You betcha.
The store's ever-changing design and overall aesthetic is so appealing that proprietor Jonathan Siegel is often commissioned to assist other businesses with his interior design savvy. Simply walking through the store is an inspirational experience; each item invokes the precious, reminds us that no detail or characteristic is unimportant should we pay it the right attention. It's not uncommon for someone to stroll in off the street, sit down at the piano, and set the mood for an hour or two.
A recent finalist for best bathroom in America, Viracocha is also home to the innovative gem of a lending library, Ourshelves, and the downstairs speakeasy-esque venue that is one of the Bay Area's most intimate, breathtaking, and beloved performance spaces. It's also a classic S.F. story that many don't know because the event space is technically illegal and no one's officially allowed to talk about it. But that's changing.
Recently, Siegel announced he'll be bringing on some help to obtain an entertainment license and develop a sustainable business model. His original vision for the space was so inspired that the entire opening staff volunteered their time -- building the very walls, floors, and ceiling with their bare hands, and dedicating countless hours to assist operations in whatever ways necessary. It began as and remains a unique haven for local artists and the community at large -- a place where they can both perform and also keep their albums, chapbooks, paintings, and crafts for sale, often without consignment.
In short, Viracocha is an almost unparalleled combination of art and commerce that represents what used to make -- and still might make -- this city of art and innovation so great. Sadly, it is just as much a bastion of the Valencia Corridor's rapidly changing culture that is finding less room for art and its creators and more that is dedicated exclusively to commerce. The few venues like this one are disappearing at an alarming rate, and with them: the artists.
To ensure it maintains the magic in its ethos as it moves forward, Viracocha is hosting a weekly series of community meetings, entirely open to the public, every Sunday through the rest of the year.
This Friday, there will be a daylong benefit to help seed the necessary changes, with performances by an all-star cast of friends -- both up- and downstairs -- that includes Whiskerman, Quinn Deveaux, Sparkbox (Kelly McFarling and Megan Keely), Shovelman, Cello Joe, and many more -- a magician, an aerialist, poets, dancers, and surprises.
Whether Viracocha has provided you a second home, as it has for many, or you've never stepped inside, this Friday will be a special night and a chance to make a difference for a place that makes a difference.
In conjunction with the Valencia Corridor Holiday Block Party, which includes more than 50 businesses staying open late and offering food, drinks, and discounts, Viracocha's fundraiser runs from 11am until midnight at 998 Valencia St. A schedule of the performances and more information can be found here.