Publisher’s View: Art

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The Potrero View is San Francisco’s longest-running neighborhood newspaper.  We’ll celebrate our 45th anniversary this August. Throughout its years, the View has had an ongoing commitment to and engagement with the arts and artists.  The paper’s founding publisher, Ruth Passen, was part of the mix of craftspeople, artists, activists, and writers who settled on the Hill mid-century last, chasing cheaper rents than what was available in North Beach or The Fillmore.  Our masthead was drawn by Giacomo Patri, who operated The Patri School of Art Fundamentals, which catered to adults who had no previous art training.

More recently, the View has presented a serialization of an original graphic novel, McKinley Square.  And we regularly publish photographs, cover the local arts community, profile artists and offer images and photos of art pieces.  The View itself is a work of art, a monthly gift to the community that provides a tactile information and entertainment experience.

The View’s arts and culture activities emerged organically from the neighborhoods we serve.  At 60 years, the annual Potrero Hill Artists’ Exhibition is even older than the newspaper.  The exhibit serves as a living memory of the emergence of an “artists’ colony” six decades ago, a moniker that’s being rejuvenated today with a recent influx of galleries to Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, the siting of the Museum of Crafts and Design on Third Street, and the flourishing of the California College of the Arts.

At the same time, the View’s readership area is among the fastest changing in San Francisco.  What was not so long ago a Blue Collar haven of working class housing surrounding by production, design and repair companies – what used to be called light and heavy industry – is today among the top ten places in the world for high-technology venture capital investment.  This transformation has brought higher property values, better restaurants, and increased traffic.  It also challenges the community’s sense of self, and threatens to disrupt an unusually strong social cohesion that’s been nurtured, in part, by a sense of community isolation fostered by being encircled by two freeways and the City’s last significant power plant, which closed just five years ago.

While the community changes so too does the nature and use of art.  This month’s cover speaks to an ancient tradition of deploying art to help us interpret difficult concepts, and make sense of the world, in this case as understood by The Gurdjieff Society.  Our inside pages focus on arts’ power as a healing tool, pioneered by the University of California, San Francisco.  And art is increasingly being incorporated into redevelopment efforts and urban infill project. It’s a rare large scale development that doesn’t include a public sculpture, or embed historical and cultural interpretations into its common space. 

As the community reimages and reinvents itself, a reinvigorated engagement in art offers a pathway to create a new identify that’s anchored in recent history and catalyzed by current creativity.  It’s in this spirt that the View offers this special issue.  Art has always been a way to express our experiences, hopes, fears; what’s in our hearts and minds.  It’s a teaching tool and a conversation starter.  It can help create a sense of place, an understanding of possibilities, and a way to make sense of our world.  It can help us create the future we want.