Enhancing San Francisco’s well-known legacy of public art, students from the Academy’s Schools of Fine Art and Illustration are creating a mural for Samesun Hostel on Franklin Street in the city. Led by Fine Art Executive Director Craig Nelson and instructor Carol Nunnelly, the students are enrolled in a mural painting class that in prior years has installed murals on many Bay Area landmarks.
Nunnelly explains that the class challenges students to develop a “real-world” project in which they can obtain professional experience with a client, cost estimates, a budget, deadlines and all the other aspects of creating public art.
Part of ongoing urban renewal efforts in the Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood, the mural project was proposed by its owner, Simon Sin. His request was approved by Academy Vice President of Community Affairs Rebecca Delgado Rottman, whom Nunnelly credits as a “tireless advocate” for public art. “As a member of the city’s Graffiti Advisory Board, Rebecca believes murals are an essential way to bring together communities, promote public safety, and enhance neighborhoods,” says Nunnelly.
Participating students were asked to produce options for the project, including art deco and realistic painting styles and color variations appropriate for the structure and remodeling plans.
The Design Journey
Themes for the mural include concepts that bring together San Francisco and the world, reports Nunnelly. Brainstorming sessions provoked questions like: Where do we find the world in San Francisco? What does San Francisco give to the world? What does the world give to San Francisco? Exploring answers to these questions created a basis for initial sketching and design work.
The process included gathering references, doing research, and developing concepts. Three students each created an original design. Treatments were painted to scale using measurements gathered on-site at the hostel.
The test paintings show different approaches to the project. In one option developed by Mykaela McGrew-Higgins (BFA, School of Fine Art), we see the backstory of San Francisco. Starting in Golden Gate Park at Hippie Hill and moving through to Chinatown, stories unfold about the unique nature, diverse characters and icons of the city by the bay. The composition depicts North Beach, cable cars, street performers and familiar sights: the famous wild parrots, Tree Man, Gold Man and more. The artist ties everything together with rhythmic ribbons of music; postcards from around the world are shown in a flying scatter.
A study by Zihao Wang (BFA, Fine Art) is a depiction of the city as a map or 3D game board. Pop-up figures and icons of the city flow throughout the design. The artist has included imagery of the San Francisco Zoo, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park and Bridge, and the Ferry Building.
Xiaolu Lin (MFA, School of Illustration) created an art deco-style design showing the Ferry Building, Japan Town and additional elements of San Francisco, with graphic images flowing seamlessly throughout the design.
Samesun Hostel: Affordable Lodging
Samesun Hostel is located among mostly two- to five-story buildings along a commercial corridor in the Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood. Renovation of the building will restore it to its original use as a hotel built in 1905.
Upon completion, the hostel will provide 30 “no frills, but quality” hotel rooms in a part of the city close to tourist destinations and California Pacific Medical Center facilities, allowing medical personnel and family members of patients an affordable option for visiting.
According to the San Francisco City Planning Commission, the renovated property will contribute to a “more vibrant” neighborhood. Tourists and other visitors will visit and spend their money in nearby neighborhood commercial districts such as bars, restaurants and retail shops on nearby Van Ness and Polk Streets and in the Civic Center area, which are not currently tourist destinations.
Final Selection & Next Steps
In late October 2107, Xiaolu Lin’s design was chosen for the mural; painting has begun with completion scheduled for December.
Article by Carol Nunnelly, School of Fine Art faculty