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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Polk Street Mural Depicts Neighborhood as Seedy, Enrages Neighbors

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM

click to enlarge This isn't Art
  • This isn't Art

Art is subjective unless you are a Polk Street dweller. Then it's considered objective.

In effort to make the area, well, a little less crappy, neighbors have been working for years to revitalize Polk Street, with nicer trees, flowers, and some more tasteful art. But the project hit a small snag when artists came forward with a proposal to sketch a mural on the east side of Hemlock Alley, just off Polk.

Polk neighbors were completely offended by the mural, which depicted San Francisco's notoriously rebellious neighborhood as rowdy.

The sketched mural was a scene filled with thousands of people, including Harvey Milk, a nameless transgender person, and an unidentified Beat poet around City Hall. The artists also drew "aggressive-looking" cops who were presumably trying to control the crowd.

"It looked like there were riots going on," said Ron Case, chairman of the Lower Polk Neighbors, which represents neighbors and merchants. "It was really crude."


Still, the mural couldn't have been entirely inaccurate. Case acknowledged that the artists did their research, even speaking with a historian before crafting a sketch of the incendiary mural.

The explanation for the neighborly rage is clear: The Polk District is trying to change its historically seedy image, and a mural depicting it as a breeding ground for pimps and prostitutes won't help "calm" the area.

"It doesn't fit into the spirit of what Polk Street is trying to do," says David Villa-Lobos, executive director for the Community Leadership Alliance, a neighborhood services group located near Lower Polk. "Folks are concerned it might incite anger from people on the street."

Never fear. The neighbors have spoken, and the mural won't be painted. The Community Leadership Alliance is holding a neighborhood meeting next month so residents can tell artists what they would like to see on the walls of their neighborhood.

So what is it they are looking for?

"Something beautiful, like flowers," Case says.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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