Thursday, June 29, 2017

Celebration Of Poster Art At The Haight Street Art Center

Situated in the heart of Haight at 215 Haight Street, near the corner of Laguna, the Haight Street Art Center opened its doors to the public on Saturday 1 July with a Grand Opening that included activities for kids, printing demonstrations for adults, gallery tours, and a welcoming address from Mariusz Knorowski, Chief Curator at Poster Museum at Wilanów, the oldest poster museum in the world located in Warsaw, Poland.

Festivities began at 1pm with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the iconic Bronze Bunny, gatekeeper to San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood. 

A series of galleries displayed 90 posters from the breakthrough years of 1965-67 in the opening exhibit entitled “The Art of Consciousness," while artists demonstrated the silk screen process, enabling visitors to walk out with a freshly inked poster.

Celebration of poster art

The “Big Five” of poster art, who made San Francisco the epicenter of the genre are well represented: Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, Alton Kelly, Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin. 

The purpose of the art center is to invigorate poster art by providing a print shop and gallery that dramatically lowers the cost of creating and selling poster art,” said Roger McNamee, the Moonalice lead singer and guitarist with a passion for poster art. “It also provides a platform so that the artists can form and manage a collective for mutual benefit."

When Moonalice started in 2007 as a ’60s-style San Francisco psychedelic roots band, one of the founding precepts was a freshly produced poster for every show. “We figured we’d play 30 or 40 shows a year,” said McNamee, adding, “And we’ve played 100 shows a year for 10 years.” There are now close to 1,000 Moonalice posters, many of which paper the walls as well as the stairwell between the floors at the art center.

Moonalice model

In the day of the Big Five, poster artists were paid around $500 for a poster plus a dozen copies. The promoter, or the band, got the copyright, which meant that if a design hit it big in the aftermarket, the income from all those concert posters sold in bookstores and record stores went to someone other than the artist.

This is in stark contrast to the Moonalice business model, which is to pay the artist more up front, plus allow the artist keeps the copyright. There are some 35 artists in the Moonalice stable, and they will be the first to benefit from the art center’s platform.

Living history museum

The building is part of a Spanish Revival complex put up by the Works Progress Administration in 1934 as San Francisco State Teachers College. It sits on a huge lot, most of which has been developed into market-rate housing by Wood Partners.

“This is like a living history museum on top of a museum,” said Peter McQuaid, executive director of the center, who will oversee a staff of four. “We want to return to the craftsmanship where the artists print the work themselves.”

The art center includes the original San Francisco State entrance on the southeast corner of Haight and Buchanan streets, and occupies the down-slope annex, its mid-block entrance marked by the Bronze Bunny sculpture by Jeremy Fish. The entry is on the gallery level, with the print shop above it fully outfitted with scanners, printers and racks of paper.

Opening exhibition

The opening exhibition, “The Art of Consciousness,” runs through September. Entrance is free. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday. 215 Haight St., S.F.

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