THE TENDERLOIN NATIONAL FOREST
(*TNF: name derived from SFSU student Marco Crescenti)
Cohen Alley, between Leavenworth and Ellis Street, San Francisco
A continuing public art project lead artists DARRYL SMITH/LAURIE LAZER of the luggage store
1989 – present
“from black flies to butterflies” Tommy Guerrero at Tenderloin National Forest
Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer of the luggage store have been working to transform Cohen Alley since 1989 from a place emblazed in a health-hazardous cesspool of bodily fluids and other dumped items, non-supervised open-air chemical experiments and illicit – criminal activities — to a community commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects. and classes and activities related to this inner city garden which is home to naturally growing vegetation and built organic structures, or just to sit….
The Alley has been reclaimed and will be rededicated May 9, 2009 as “The Tenderloin National Forest.” With recent funding from the San Francisco Art Commission/Creative Space Fund and the Mayor’s Office, Community Challenge Grant, a series of physical improvements were completed.
One of the very few open spaces in our high density neighborhood of over 40,000 culturally and ethnically diverse residents, the Alley lies adjacent to two heavily trafficked inner city streets (Leavenworth running north and Ellis running est); and it is roughly 23 feet wide by 136 ft. deep. It is surrounded by multi story residential buildings and hotels that house formerly homeless, immigrant individuals and families, as well as seniors, artists, active drug users, dealesr and others. The Tenderloin Children’s Playground is situated directly across the street.
In 2000, Lazer and Smith negotiated a lease with the City of San Francisco for $1.00 per year, which permanently closed the alley to traffic. A sculptured gate, commissioned by the luggage store and built and designed by Bay Area artist Kevin Leeper was installed.
Over the years, Lazer and Smith have organized murals to be painted on all sides of the Alley, produced and presented hundreds of performances and cultural events, planted trees, vegetables, herbs, flowers, built a small “ green” structure with a living roof, a staging area, seating, a clay oven, and upgraded lighting.
The Tenderloin National Forest is now dynamic, and is one of the most peaceful, quiet and inspirational areas in then neighborhood.
The name “Tenderloin Naitonal Forest” came from Marco Crescenti, a student of Sarah Lewison’s at SF STate University during Lewison’s residency in the alley…The alley’s original name is Cohen Place.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS AN ABRIDGED HISTORY AND WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY….
and in celebration of the completion of several projects “CULTURAL GEOMETRY,” a project by RIGO 23 in collaboration with JOSE FERNANDO CARDOSO and the luggage store funded by The Creative Work Fund/SF see below for more information on “Cultural Geometry”(scroll down and click on “More” for additional information)
Rigo was invited to design a walkway for the TNF… His vision to celebrate the special and evolving nature of the “ground in mosaic, yielded Cultural Geometry” – a pathway that leads visitors into the Tenderloin National Forest and was created as a tribute and prayer to our ancestors, in particular the Ohlone Indians and all immigrants and peoples who have landed in San Francisco and other areas of “immersion.” The center piece, designed by Fernando Cardoso is an intimate plaza, and depicts a hummingbird – one of the “Forest’s” many special visitors, who can actually be seen flying by some mid-afternoons.
Cultural Geometry helps to formalize the transformation of Cohen Alley and symbolizes– to our very transitional and richly diverse neighborhood, a lasting engagement of the space with the community–a place for reflection, shared cultural activities and experiences.
The stone mosaic, per excellence a labor-of-love, very time consuming and laborious, manifests a relationship to the ground very different from the one embodied in asphalt and concrete. On a stone mosaic people are meant to walk, linger and interact with others. On concrete or asphalt loitering is a crime. Cohen Alley is a natural location for this project.
Bringing Fernando Cardoso from Portugal was an integral part of Rigo 23’s vision and desire to share an enduring yet undervalued cultural tradition of his native country. In bringing this tradition to our neighborhood and our City he wanted to weave two vernacular traditions: Portuguese calçada and Ohlone basket weaving – to honor and celebrate our ancestors and affirm the possibility of multiple worlds co-existing in time and place. This in many way parallels the “ways” of the residents of theTenderloin, many of whom are immigrants, and bring and attempt to carry on their cultural practices, traditions and religions within our very special neighborhood. In our eyes, these actions and desires create a true Cultural Geometry.
Rigo 23 has completed many works of public art, commissioned projects, self-initiated projects, temporary and permanent works, and has worked locally and internationally in very disparate contexts. He created a stone mosaic for the main thoroughfare of Lisbon’s WorldFair Expo’98; tile mosaic murals at San Francisco and Madeira Island’s International Airports; murals in several housing projects in the suburbs of Lisbon; a
twice life-size sculptures for San José State University and iron cages for St. George’s Hall stone lions in Liverpool. Often involving issues of social justice Rigo 23 has also sought to collaborate with workers from different crafts in his art practice, such as stonemasons, tile setters, and embroiderers. Rigo 23 is represented in San Francisco by Gallery Paule Anglim.
IMPROVEMENTS AND RENOVATIONS IN COHEN ALLEY/TNF
funded by The Mayor’s Office of San Francisco/Community Challenge Grant and
The San Francisco Art Commission/Creative Space program
JEFF BROWN + DARRYL SMITH, landscaping
ELAINE BUCKHOLTZ, lighting design
MARY CONRAD, light sculpture
DARRYL SMITH + GREGORY SMITH, seating
BECCA LAFLOR + STELLA BRESLIN, horno (oven)
JOSE FERNANDO CORDOSO, other mosiac tile work
+ the installation of solar panels and irrigation…
MANY THANKS TO
Mohammed Nuru, formerly of San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners and currently with Department of Public Works, the former Mayor Willie Brown and the SF Board of Supervisors, CCSF Attorney’s Office, Miriam Stombler, James Hughes, Esq., (Sullwood and Hughes), Leroy and Kathy Looper, Midge Wilson, Jeff Brown, Tenderloin Task Force, Suzanne Gautier, SAFE, Department of Public Works, Ellis Street Neighbors Association, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center, Community Housing parternship/Zeke Weiner, Sham and Shawna Saenz , Pearl Ubungen, Kate Kusnick Hernan Cortez, Amy Christian, Moshe Cohen, Keith Grier, Gregory Smith, Alicia McCarthy, Carolyn Ryder Cooley, Pearl Ubungen, Johanna Poethig, Ricardo Richey, Nome, Andrew Schoultz, Tauba Auerbach, Krissy Keefer, Tenderloin Childrens Playground/Diana Chinn, Marina Drummer, Marion Greene, Phillip Ross, Marina McDougall, Amy Franceschini, Michael Swaine, Alexandria Pembleton, Jenn Smucker, Mari Hashimoto, Kevin Binker, and the many volunteers and artists who helped during the most recent period, Gregory Smith,,..Yarrow Lazer Smith, Ruty Smith, Jin Chong, Magdalena, Shawnee, Pascale Montadert., Julia Glanville, Kai Lundgren, Elaine Buckholtz, Mary Conrad, names being added….
In Loving Memory of: William “Bill” Stroud, Karl Yeargans, Sgt. Kenny Sugrue, Margaret Kilgallen, Tess Ventresca, Ann Chamberlain, Brian Fritz.
Special Thanks to the LEF Foundation (Marion Greene and Marina Drummer), The Columbia Foundation and Bill and Christine laven of the Potrero Nuevo Fund for supporting this project in it’s “seed” period.
OTHER PUBLIC PROJECT IN COHEN ALLEY/TNF, COMMISSIONED BY LUGGAGE STORE OR COURTESY OF ARTIST
* Evan Bissell, mural, side of wad and daub house
* Kevin Binkert: window grid sculpture
* Brett Cook-Dizney: mural, “Lives” on Aarti Hotel
* Dan Flanagan: Carved “GreenLab” sign
* Gestalt Collective: mural, back of alley on Western Hotel
(Nome Edonna, Ricardo Richey, Andrew Schoultz)
* Julia Glanville/Darryl Smith: wad and daub house
* Cameron Hockenson: bird house
* Kay: sign in book
* Kevin Leeper: Cohen Alley Gate
* Alicia McCarthy: mural (courtesy artist)
* Johanna Poethig: mural, “Guardians” on the Senator Hotel
* Darryl Smith, fish pond
* Sham Saenz: staging area
Trust Your Struggle Collective: murals on fence
* Landscaping: Jeff Brown, Sarah Lewison, Darryl Smith
Funders of Cohen Alley Project/TNF Over the Years:
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
California Arts Council
The Columbia Foundation
The Creative Work Fund
Grants for the Arts of the Hotel Tax Fund
James Irvine Foundation
The LEF Foundation
Mayor’s Office of San Francisco: Community Challenge Program
JP Morgan Chase
National Endowment for the Arts
Neighborhood Beautification and Grafitti Clean UP Fund
Potrero Nuevo Fund (Bill and Christine Laven)
The San Francisco Art Commission/Creative Space Fund
The San Francisco Art Commission Cultural Equity Fund
San Francisco Beautiful
The San Francisco Foundation
Tenderloin Community Fund
Zellerbach Family Fund
ˆn Kind Donations:
OFFICIAL DEDICATION OF
PERFORMANCES DANCE/MUSIC/DJS/SPOKEN WORD/INTERACTIVE
please note: times are approximate…..
• Tommy Guerrero + Friends (7PM)
• Erik + Ivy (4:15PM)
* Cathie Caraker (5:10PM)
* Darya Chernova + Karen Light + Kazoo (5:25PM)
* Amara Tabor-Smith and Sherwood Chen (6:10PM)
* Nectar, with Christina Braun, Jeffrey Scott Perry, Corinne Okada Takara (5:45PM)
* Push Dance Company (4:50PM)
* Cuba (3PM)
* Floor Vahn (8PM)
* Mr. Robinson
• Youth Speaks (4PM)
* Akosua Adoma Owusu
* Kara Allen
* Jonathon Angelini
* Andre Emiello
* Arnold J. Kemp + Nina Zurier
* Sahar Khoury
* Walter Kitundu
* Ari Marcopoulos,
* Santiago Maricar
* Clare Rojas + Andrew Jeffrey Wright
* Tavares Strachan
* Margaret Tedesco
* Lauren Woods
* Sixth Street Photography Workshop; community portraits
* Michael Swaine, “Sewing for people (Swaine will be sewing on
“Tenderloin National Forest” patches – so bring something to have
the patch sewn on to–)
Arizmandi Bakery, pizza bake
Eric Cohen: coffee roast
Lahore Karahi Restaurant, naan bake