Llano River Blue and friends share craft tips at Flore during Castro Art Walk Photo: Chris Robledo
Free Castro Art Walk Engages Locals, Visitors & Millennials
Free public events are a real boon to any city, and luckily San Francisco boasts a wealth of them, including neighborhood art walks. If one ventures out into the evening on the first Thursday of any month, one will be fortunate enough to find that the Castro has been transformed into a bustling, neighborhood art show. A growing number of businesses within our community have joined Castro art galleries in staying open a bit later on the first Thursday of each month for the Castro Art Walk. Each of them participates in their own way, be it by displaying art, by providing the opportunity to create art, by presenting performances, by bringing in a DJ, or by offering whichever creative contribution they feel best suits them and their space. Angie Sticher co-founded the Castro Art Walk in 2017, and is now the principal organizer of the event.
Wendy: While they aren’t what the neighborhood is known primarily for, there are so many art studios within the Castro.
Angie: It’s really grown over the last few years. I co-founded Spark Arts in 2015 with Aviva Kanoff, who is now the sole proprietor for Spark Arts. At that time there was really only one other gallery in the whole neighborhood; that was The Artist’s Gallery, which was the front-facing part of a realty company on 18th Street. Over the years more and more art businesses have moved in, and now we have Spark Arts; we have the front of AHF, [which is] a dedicated gallery, The Artist’s Gallery, Art Attack SF, and all these business [that] showcase art in their own way. like Ixia, and Dog Eared Books, and Norden Living.
Wendy: Free public events are so important to this city, as a way to unite people who might never otherwise meet, and it’s so egalitarian in that anyone can attend, no matter their attire, age, financial circumstances, etc. What have you noticed, in terms of who is attending?
Angie: I only started going on the Art Walk myself about 10 months ago, because I was at Spark Arts. On Art walk night, I was working. It’s been a really interesting mix of people, because it is totally free. We’ve seen millennials coming into the neighborhood who weren’t aware of some of the things that were going on. [During] the remodeling of Harvey Milk Plaza, they had an exhibit for the last two or three months, and these kids came into the neighborhood, and they didn’t even know who Harvey was. So, we’ve got a younger demographic that’s coming into the neighborhood and are really excited about engaging with art and engaging with the community. We also have, on the other end of that spectrum, an older crowd of people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for a long time, and are getting out and about and enjoying that there’s something to do on a weeknight that doesn’t revolve around going to a bar, or spending a ton of money.
Wendy: Along with the art of course, is that what you set out to accomplish for the community when you started the Castro Art Walk?
Angie: I tried to do a few different things in the neighborhood to bring the people who live in the city together with people who own businesses in this neighborhood. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 13 years, and part of why I founded Spark was to have a community space that wasn’t expensive, and wasn’t associated with any particular agenda. Then I joined the merchants association; I was on the board of that for [two years]. My goal was to get more art into the neighborhood, first and foremost, but also to get people out engaging with the business owners. That means a lot, especially now, as we see more and more small businesses closing. It’s really important for us, as people who live in this neighborhood, to frequent the businesses that are here, to keep them open.
Wendy: Right, and while there are many new businesses, like BREWCADE, and relatively new businesses, like Apothecarium, there are also a lot of businesses that have been here for many years, like Flore, that should always continue to get our support Flore, for instance, has such great events, and if someone lives in the Castro and has never been there, then they have no idea about some great opportunities within their own backyard. During the monthly Art Walk, Flore has a resident craftsperson, Llano River Blue, who introduces participants to his projets d’arts du jour at his crafts table. How fun to be able to create, as well as look at the art on display.
Angie: Yeah. We don’t dictate how a business engages; it’s really up to them. Our only requirements are that they’re open from six to nine, and that their staff knows that people are gonna come in and ask about the Art Walk, so everybody has to be prepared for that. It could be anything; it could be music; it could be poetry, it could be rap, DJs, visual arts, 3D artists, or crafts.
Wendy: You had mentioned DJs; Spark Arts will be having a DJ spinning to coincide with their current exhibition.
Angie: Spark has a big party every month. I think that they’re going to keep having local DJs, local artists perform. They’ve had drag performers; they’ve had singers; they’ve had rappers; they’ve had DJs; they definitely like to have a musical aspect in addition to the art that people are there to see.
Wendy: Let’s say someone would like to get involved with the Castro Art Walk by volunteering. Do you need volunteers?
Angie: Oh yeah! If people wanna help, we would love their help! They can just email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy: And for the monthly list of participants, attendees can just visit your website, castroartwalk.com.
Angie: Exactly. We have the full list of who’s doing what, and there’s a map on the front page that they can look at on their phones if they’re walking around, or all the businesses also have that in postcard form that they can carry around as well.
Wendy: That’s super helpful, because it isn’t just along one avenue, like it is in some other neighborhoods.
Angie: All of our participating locations have those maps, as well as a few drinking establishments, and two coffee shops.
Wendy: It’s great to see Ruby’s Clay Studio on the list. They have been a part of this community as far back as I can remember.
Angie: They’re always on; they participate every month. We have about seven businesses that are always gonna be on the Art Walk, and Ruby’s is one of those.
Wendy: Do you have a background in the arts as well?
Angie: I’m an art lover, to the chagrin of my partner; we have art coming out of our ears at all times. It’s kind of funny because I come from the technology industry, which is not a very creative industry, some may say, but I’ve always admired the artistic community because I just don’t have that creative bone in my body. If someone tells me to do something I can do it, but it’s not something that comes to me naturally, so I’m always fascinated by artists, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to do Spark Arts. I took a break from my technology career for a few years, and that’s one of the things I wanted to do while I was off, just do something that was completely different than my career, and I did. It’s still something that I want to hold on to, even though I’ve definitely gone back into technology. It’s something that I wanna remain engaged with, with local community, and art, and creativity.
Wendy: You’ve been organizing Castro Art Walk from the start; do you have any help in making sure it comes to fruition every month?
Angie: I lead the charge every month. I go to the merchants meeting and I make sure everything is happening. I have a list of about 40 businesses that have, at one point or another, said they wanted to be involved, and I ping them every month, to ask them if they wanna be involved for the following month. I pull that list together. We have a graphics designer [Megan Totah] who puts the card together, and she just redid our logo this year, which is really cool. Ashley Voss, who works at Art Attack, helps out on social media. We have a photographer, who is a friend of mine, Chris Robledo, who does all the pictures that you see on the site. Another friend of mine, Erin Norman, just joined after going on the walk with us in November. She was just floored, and she was like, “I have to be a part of this; it’s so cool.”
Photos of Tammie Brown courtesy of Tammie Brown
One of the original cast members of cult television phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race, and now an international singer and entertainer, Tammie Brown will make a stop in the Castro’s real soon. Under the guidance of nightlife promoter Joshua J at dance club Beaux, Big Top Sundays will host Brown on Sunday May 19 for an exclusive music performance.
Dialing in to Castro Courier from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Brown was perked up and ready for the interview.
She’s currently doing a cabaret at Blue Chairs, a beachfront spa and hotel vacation destination most popular with gays. Though Brown admits that the gig is not what she was expecting it to be, she is nearly done with the residency. Always working and on the go, Brown shares just a few up the details of her upcoming engagements.
“I’ll be in Provincetown for the summer,” Brown says. “While in P-town, I’ll be constantly working on new music in the studio.”
Filming her YouTube miniseries, The Browns, a dramedy revolving around family dynamics, also keeps her busy. And last year Brown released an EP, A Little Bit of Tammie, featuring the unforgettable song title “Porta Potty Prostitute”.
“At Big Tops it’s going to be a nightclub show,” Brown says. “Expect two out of sight numbers…” Brown begins humming the melody to “Porta Potty Prostitute”.
Inside Canela, guests dine on Roasted Whole Fish (Seabass) with Squid Ink Rice. Photo: Mitch Bull
The teams at venerated Castro venues Starbelly, Canela, and Blackbird treated a small group of “foodies” to a progressive “culinary crawl” last week on April 3. The one-night-only event (in a continuing series) started at Starbelly, located at 3583 16th Street.
Sitting in the enclosed and tented back patio at Starbelly, under grey skies, the four decorative tin stars on the wall aptly “graded” the “4-star” event as the 25 attendees wound wind their way through the Castro. On the patio they were presented with their first course, a house-made chicken liver pate, with sweet onion marmalade and whole grain mustard, which was paired with an “English Tea Rose” cocktail, comprised of Earl Grey tea, gin, lemon, and Montepulciano topped with a floating rose bud. The creaminess of the pate was offset with the mustard and the citrus overtones of the drink, with the softness of the rose and earl grey tea to moderate the gin and citrus. Prepared by Chef Adam Trimney, the appetizer was delicious and set the stage for the next stop.
Crossing Market Street, the group made their way to Spanish-themed restaurant Canela, located at 2272 Market Street. Chef and Owner Mat Schuster delighted the crowd with entrees of Roasted Whole Fish (Seabass) with Squid Ink Rice, with baby artichokes and caper aioli. Paul, the wine manager paired the entrée with a 2008 F. Schatz Lemberger red wine, a German grape being grown in the Acinipo region of Spain. It was perfect with the roasted white fish. Many of the diners were unaware how a red wine can complement a white fish without overpowering it. The entrée was delicious, with the fish being flaky and soft, almost melting in your mouth. The rice and artichokes were also expertly prepared and made the total entrée one to remember.
For dessert, the group moved further down Market to Blackbird, the bar and lounge located at 2124 Market Street. Dessert, in a cocktail lounge? In a word, yes, and unique too. Mixologist, and dessert creator, Timofei, crafted a “Spring Foret” Pine Meringue, with young ginger gateau, yarrow ice cream, Hine Cognac, candycap mushrooms, and foraged flowers. Crafter indeed, as the mixologist prepared the dessert using only bar tools, mainly consisting of a microwave, a small hot plate, blender and some refrigeration. The concoction was tasty, melding the different components into a creamy unique finish to the evening.
Chef Schuster explained that the “progressive dinner” events are being planned to occur every two months or so, with the number of diners set at 20-24, for the 3 and ½ hour event. Future events can be tracked by following restaurant Canela on Instagram.
The enclosed and tented back patio at Starbelly, 3583 16th Street.
This story was originally published in Bay Area Reporter.