Swiss TV RTS Un takes my tour

Had a great time for a few hours with this journalist and her crew. I chose CELLspace to give a tour and film the shots. Good to see some final clips of murals that have already been taken down before the wrecking ball takes the rest. On and off camera, I spoke of my reservations with the share economy. Called it a euphemism as well as a warning about how one sees work and the ways that the share economy’s work ethic leaks into personal and private time. I also spoke on how AirBNB does NOT pay into the Hotel Tax Fund, which funds the arts here in San Francisco.

Watching this piece, with almost no French comprehension, feels fluffy. Maybe the butterfly and flower animations gave it away. Those are still beautiful shots of the art at CELLspace. And the journalist and crew were very nice, lefty Europeans.

Tour Makes SF Weekly’s 2013 Best Of


SFWeekly Best Of

 Best Way to see the Mission Before it’s Annexed to Google – 2013

Scout for Street Art Walking Tour

Russell Howze describes his tour as a “three hour zigzag through the Mission District.” For fans of street art, or anyone curious about the changing city, it’s a zigzag worth taking. Howze has been chronicling the stencils, tags, murals and graffiti that decorate San Francisco for 15 years, and is the author of the street art tome Stencil Nation. His tour explores alleys that will be new to residents and tourists alike, and keeps an eye on the shifting cultural tides of the neighborhood. “Urban landscapes are always changing,” Howze said, pointing out that while many of the tech workers moving into the Mission appreciate street art, they also bring security cameras and fences.

2013 SF Weekly Best Of Winner....
2013 SF Weekly Best Of Winner….

Old Bid-ness… Stencils and Friends

In the Facebook worlds, posting all this stuff is instant, and friends find things and post them. I take the trouble to pull things off of there for the Stencil Archive, my own archives, etc. and then maybe, just maybe, post it on here. I forget that some friends don’t do Facebook! And I have to remind myself that this blog belongs to me, as opposed to a multi-billion dollar corporation that is currently dot com booming the Bay Area. This site is also a great, long archive of my life here in San Francisco.

So back in late January, Regan Ha-Ha Tamanui stopped over on his way back to New Zealand and Australia. He’d been traveling the world for a year, but got stuck in Berlin for eight months. How unlucky. I got him four walls here in SF, and he took my photo after a day of wandering around the Tenderloin looking at street art. He cut a stencil portrait out of that photo, as well as the photo he took of my friend Monica that evening in Hayes Valley.

Icy and Sot, expats from Iran who now live in Brooklyn (leave Iran to have a street art show, go back to Iran and get arrested for satanism) were driving through. They all took my tour and I got them two walls to paint on. Regan collaborated with them. Icy and Sot came back to SF for an art show at a Noise Pop concert. I missed it (always seem to miss the good art shows!).

Here are photos from early Feb, with the stencil portraits thrown in.

SF Chron: SF murals become targets for vandals

S.F. NEIGHBORHOODS Graffiti marring much of city’s street art – vandalism on the rise
Matthai Kuruvila
Published 4:54 pm, Thursday, December 27, 2012

Read more:

Muralists around San Francisco say that they’ve seen an increase in vandalism of murals by taggers, who are defacing the art with their monikers.
Vandals have wrecked murals from North Beach to the Tenderloin. In the city’s liveliest mural zone, the Mission District, muralists say it’s been particularly bad. Street paintings made in months have been ravaged in seconds.

“There’s been a very specific mural destruction going on,” said Russell Howze, a muralist and author who does street art tours of the Mission District. “There’s really no logic. I don’t know if there’s any organization or conspiracy behind it. More than anything, these murals are well-loved and huge amounts of time have gone into them.”

Vandals this year have defaced parts of the Mission District’s Clarion Alley, a 20-year-old street museum of murals. “Gold Mountain,” a North Beach mural depicting Chinese history, had to be repainted when the building owners couldn’t keep it free of graffiti.

Continue reading “SF Chron: SF murals become targets for vandals”

San Francisco’s Street Art

The Mission District: San Francisco’s Street Art

16 December 2012
Hanna Wolf
From the Fair Observer (link here)

Street Art – The Fun Loving Criminals?
For many decades, street artists have made San Francisco’s Mission District one of the most colourful and fascinating places to see [7], mirroring the city’s vibrant multiculturalism and diversity.

We are walking through some of the stinkiest alleys in San Francisco, yet still tourists from all over the world come here to take pictures and admire the street art gallery surrounding them. Whether huge murals, stickers on the floor or graffiti: art is all around in this area of the city.

Our tour guide Russell Howze, who offers street art tours through the Mission District, has been walking through these alleys for 15 years, and still he discovers new pieces. “Once you train your eyes, it’s everywhere” is what he tells us as he points at a street light covered with almost torn off stickers and scribbled words, which would normally never catch someone’s eyes as art.

The Higher, the Better

Walking through Mission and Valencia Street we come across walls with both illegal and legal graffiti, stencils and other street art styles. Comics as well as posters and abstract pieces look down on us from the left as we try to read a graffiti on the right. Unlike in European metropolises, in San Francisco trains are no major hotspots for graffiti. The sprayers here prefer trucks instead and almost every truck we pass during the tour wears at least a small graffiti tag.

Continue reading “San Francisco’s Street Art”

Photos featured in Vienna zine

During my 2008/9 Stencil Nation book tour, I set up an event with Matteo Grieder at his art space Zeitvertrieb in Vienna, Austria. Matteo was nervous about the turnout (a common anxiety during my European tour), but I had Pod and Austrian artist Dieter Puntigam backing me up with live VJ and DJing. A nice crowd came for my presentation, bought books, ate and drank, and made a great scene for the event. Matteo was surprised and happy with the results.

A month ago, Matteo approached me with a request for photo submissions to his fun art zine “Artyfucked”. It is mostly a sketch zine, but he also features street art from cities around the world. Issue #8 features my stencil photos (the cream of the crop) from SF. They mostly cover 2011’s greatest hits. He also put them all in an online album.

Support a great project and buy a copy of “Artyfucked” today!

SF Weekly Promotes My Tour

Original blog post here.

Graffiti Guru Offers Street Art Tours

art by Get Up, Upper Haight St.

​No matter how cool you are, there’s still a pretty good chance that the only thing you know about street art is sometimes you come across it, and sometimes it’s amazing. Who did it? What’s behind it? Where can you see more? Who knows?

We do. Or, we know who knows: stencil artist Russell Howze. He’s the author of Stencil Nation, and he offers a three-hour, small-group tour called Scout for Street Art. Howze just started giving these tours two weeks ago, and promises to provide “expert explanations, stories, and background for most of the art that constantly changes on the streets.” And he’s not joking about the “expert” part.

Russell Howze

​Howze has dedicated his life to street art, especially stencils, and he knows a lot about the S.F. street art scene. “I have this particular affinity for San Francisco street art,” Howze says, “especially Mission district — there’s something really special and magical about it.”

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Howze has lived in San Francisco since 1997. Since he saw his first stencil in 1990 in Clemson, S.C., Howze has been photographing the public art in places around the world. In 2002 he created an online stencil archive, which features tens of thousands of photos of stencils. Stencil Nation, published in 2008, is the paperback extension of his site, documenting 350 artists in 28 countries.

Howze does not have a fixed schedule for his tour — you can just sign up by yourself or in a group ($37) per person and state your preferred times. The tour is run through Vayable, a company that draws on locals to give their own tours. Anyone can sign up to offer a tour, and Vayable acts as the conduit, handling bookings and payments. Vayable operates worldwide, and as one might expect, it offers numerous S.F. tours, including horseback riding on Ocean Beach, a used bookstore crawl, and a potentially perilous “Whiskey on Wheels” tour.

Vayable hosts a mixer called “A Vayable Idea” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Galeria de la Raza, where Howze will start the night with a 10-minute talk, “The Present Future of Street Art.” The event is free, but you can register here.

A Vayable Idea (Wed); Banksy Tour (Sat)

Join me Wednesday on 24th St. when I speak for only 10 minutes at A Vayable Idea

Join me Satuday with TransportedSF for the Banksy Tour.  I will guide you through the six remaining Banksy pieces via a biodeisel bus (drinking and fun allowed).

Some thoughts about Street Art Tourism in SF

Sometime around 2002, when an article about “The Mission School” of public art appeared in the SF Bay Guardian, the alleys where I wandered to photograph stencil art. Of course, this was around the time Banksy was becoming a sensation, Melbourne, Australia’s walls were exploding with public art, and Tristan Manco released his book “Stencil Graffiti.” As books began to get published, websites like MySpace and Flickr began to allow massive photo and info sharing, and digital cameras became cheap and easy to use, people started noticing that I was taking photographs of the sidewalk (and other strange locations). People started asking me questions about the art. Then I eventually saw people taking their own photographs. Prior to about 2005, very few people documented what was now being called street art. But this began to change. Like me, people were traveling around the world to see the art, the exhibits, and the freshest city walls. One of the pillars of street art entailed that artists had to travel and put their art up all over the world. It was only a matter of time before this all went mainstream.

When Banksy wandered through the USA about two years ago, there was a frenzy of Tweets and posts sharing the locations and art he left behind. I jumped into the frenzy and saw many other people wandering San Francisco to snap up photos of the fresh work. A few who scooped Banksy’s visit ended up on TV, and the blogosphere many cities ate up his art (and the eventual removal of much of it). In my mind, the sensation had arrived. Irionically, Banksy was promoting his documentary that looked at the hollow sensation of art’s next greatest thing.

I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to speak as an expert for a Banksy tour in May. With only six pieces remaining (well, one is totally destroyed but still possibly relevant), and a law in the books where drinking alcohol on a bus is legal, there was a good combination for a fun Saturday afternoon. The tour sold out, and we all had a great time. I know that Precita Eyes gives mural tours, and Chris Carlsson gives FoundSF tours, both of whome fill in gaps where the mainstream double-decker buses never tread. Antenna Theater developed the Magic Bus as a multimedia bus show, but demand was so high, they turned it into an ongoing “tour”. There are other tours that I probably do not know about, and some, like the Barbary Coast, Dashiell Hammett, and Beat Generation tours are a bit more mainstream. Jeremy Novy has an exhibit titled “A History of Queer Street Art” which is closing just in time for Pride Weekend. I am sure that people here for Pride are going to this exhibit and then looking for the illegal art afterwards.

Prior to the Banksy tour, I had wondered how many people came to San Francisco to seek out the painted alleys and walls. As street art became a topic of LA tabloids (“Is Banksy going to appear at the Oscars???” “The Art in the Streets show is causing more graffiti!” ) and Shepard Fairey became a household name, I saw the back streets of San Francisco turn into photo opportunities. Back when I visited Melbourne, Australia in 2008, their official tour brochure boasted that tens of thousands of tourists came to the city to see the painted laneways. As I visited the Citylights gallery just off Hosier Lane, I saw Japanese tourists snapping photos, a newlywed couple posing in front of the walls, and even a school group of young children looking at the art. This was only in maybe an hour of visiting the area!

As San Francisco spends $22 million a year to erase graffiti and street art, these changes beg the question “just how much money is the City making from all the graffiti and street art?” The best way to find out would probably be a funded study of underground and subculture tourist trends. If two people stood at both ends of Clarion Alley on a Saturday, and asked a small list of questions, I assume that the results would be surprising for the bureaucrats that only see vandalism. Then there are the stores that cater to the culture of street art. Upper Playground reigns supreme in the Haight. 1AM holds it down in SoMa. White Walls makes the illegal walls quasi-legal with their top shelf legal walls.

This is what I hope to talk about Wednesday night A Vayable Idea. This is a start up dot com that allows people to purchase tours from everyday people who love their cities. I’ve already done a few tours through Vayable and they’ve been great. My tourists have been curious about all the art that they see around them. I try my best to answer all their questions and show them the best spots. There are skateboard tours on Vayable, available in SF. There’s another underground tourist source that is understudyed. Our hills are famous for skating down. So I’m putting the word out: Who is catering to alt-tourism and why isn’t San Francisco paying attention? I’m crious to see what happens. Hope you come by and visit so that I can hear what you think about it all.

Dec. 20: Stencil Nation Lands in Greenville, SC

“Russell Howze is a native Greenvillian and a stencil artist. He runs the Stencil Archive and published the collection Stencil Nation: Community, Graffiti, and Art in 2008, documenting the work of over 350 artists from 28 countries. The Stencil Nation Book Tour will stop by the Warehouse Theatre Monday, December 20 at 7 PM.”

Check out the rest of the Create Greenville interview here. FaceBook invitation and info found here.