“Way Out West” Brings Contemporary Art to San Francisco’s Billboards

by Jessica RossPosted on

Billboard by Casey Gray

The on-going conversation about San Francisco’s transforming social landscape is one full of shared bitterness and tension. In a city where any given conversation begins with the baseline grievances of high rents, gutted arts programs and the overall influx of wealth and monopolizing industries, it’s no wonder people are frustrated. With that said, one nonprofit is hoping to make a positive impact. Art City, founded by former techie Luke Groesbeck, is a cultural establishment bent on retooling the perspective of San Francisco’s citizens by implementing a month-long public art program. Teaming up with local curators Tova Lobatz and Jenny Sharaf, Way Out West sets out to replace commercial advertising spaces with striking contemporary artworks.

Based in the Mission district, generally considered one of the most rapidly gentrifying places in the city, the project endeavors to give back to the community via these public art installations. Utilizing eleven billboards, four bus shelters and three mobile Muni buses, twenty artists were given the chance to install their work on a large scale and continue the rich cultural history that the Mission district is known for. Prolific Bay Area artists such as Alicia McCarthy and Chris Johanson have witnessed this urban metamorphosis since the ’90s and have been considered staples of the original Mission School Movement. Exhibiting alongside them are their Bay Area-based contemporaries: Jeremy Fish, Andrew Schoultz, Apex and Casey Gray.

“There is a major shift happening in San Francisco right now and a lot of people are being pushed out. I have lived in the Bay Area since 1996 and the City has changed more in the last two years than in the 18 years I have lived here. I hope the Way Out West project acts as a reminder of what San Francisco is made of and brings more interest back into the arts,” states Oakland-based artist Brett Amory.

This widespread sentiment is just one reason why this project has resonated with artists and the public. Way Out West not only reflects the sense of alienation felt by many artists, many of whom have been pushed out of San Francisco due to rising rents, but also offers a sincere cultural contribution to a place that has long been one of the most notably creative cities in the world. Bay Area graffiti artist Apex expressed his hopes for the project: “I would like to see artists treated with the same respect as all other entrepreneurs that live and work in this fast-paced society.” Including art in a place of commerce, the curators hope, will broaden the cultural dialogue occurring in San Francisco. It may not solve all the city’s problems but it is, at the very least, a symbolic gesture towards a better community.

A precursor to a more extensive public art project currently in the works, Way Out West will be on display throughout the Inner Mission until August 17. Check out the photos from the opening reception, held at Heron Arts, and some of the public art installations below.

Participating artists include: Brett Amory, Apex, Pakayla Rae Biehn, Anthony Discenza, Double Zero (Annie Vought and Hannah Ireland), Jeremy Fish, Casey Gray, Desirée Holman, Chris Johanson, Jet Martinez, Alicia McCarthy, Alia Penner, Andrew Schoultz, Dave Schubert, Jen Stark, Zio Ziegler, Creativity Explored, Andrew Li, John Patrick McKenzie, and Kate Thompson

Install photos courtesy of Art City

Billboard by Anthony Discenza

Billboard by Desiree Holman

Billboard by Jen Stark

Billboard by David Schubert.

Andrew Schoultz

Billboard by Apex

Jen Stark


Brett Amory with his work

Co-curator Tova Lobatz talks to gallery goers.

Jenny Sharaf and Desiree Holman pose with glasses based on Holman’s painting.

Casey Gray

Kimberly Johanson, Luke Groesbeck, Jenny Sharaf and John Duket

Jenny Sharaf and Alicia McCarthy

Anthony Discenza

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