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New Murals Are 'Gateway to the Tenderloin'

On April 10, 2015, a group of merchants, artists and neighborhood supporters gathered to commemorate a new public art installation: a series of mural panels providing a colorful, historic timeline of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, one of the city’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods.

A team of Academy of Art University students, led by School of Fine Art instructor Carol Nunnelly, donated approximately 1200 hours to research and create 13 unique panels at a substation of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). The murals were designed to beautify the neighborhood and highlight neighborhood icons, institutions and milestones, ranging from the 1906 earthquake to Newman’s Gym and the Blackhawk Jazz Club.

Part of a class offered online and on campus, the murals were created in partnership with Academy student artists, faculty and alumni, as well as the client, PG&E. “The class employs ‘real-world’ skills and models the art opportunities students are preparing for,” says Nunnelly. “This experience is a chance to learn about the business side of mural production and the painting of one. Students create budgets for paint and supplies and write Memorandum of Understanding documents in preparation for making art for a living.” It also proves to be a great way for the students to showcase their work even outside the usual art gallery venues.

The project’s creative vision and art direction was provided by Dr. Craig Nelson, executive director of Fine Art—Painting, as well as Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. Shaw provided the student artists with historical reference materials.

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