The Bay Area Reporter has the story of a piece of LGBT art that may never see the light of day thanks to a few neighborhood associationists in the Lower Polk area of San Francisco.
Last fall, local artists Helen Bayly and Aaron Bo Heimlich were tasked by a Lower Polk Neighbors committee to "design a mural depicting the influence of Polk Street's Beat poet community on the LGBT movement." In January, they unveiled their mock-up (at right), which depicts various pieces of queer SF history--protests; harassment by police; Harvey Milk. In the country's gayest city, a city known for its progressiveness, this is hardly controversial stuff. But according to the Reporter, the response from certain people at the showing was "decidedly hostile."
The majority of meeting attendees opposed the mural, with some saying they were bothered by its depictions of conflict and poverty, which might reflect poorly on the neighborhood. And as for the queer content, Lower Polk Neighbors chairman Ron Case explained, "People said, 'That's the Castro, that's not here,'" a sentiment that the artists refute:
"The Castro has such a monopoly on being 'the gay neighborhood' when really, there are gay and straight people in...neighborhoods throughout the city," said Heimlich. "Polk Street was a hub for people being able to go someplace where they were accepted before the Castro."
"We were pretty shocked," said Bayly, "thinking we had a positive message and art that spoke to the community and history."
Also quoted in the article: local freakshow David Villa-Lobos, the Executive Director (and as far as I can ascertain, the sole staffer) of the Community Leadership Alliance, which lists "public relations in support of liquor license applications" as the top service offered on its website, and supported the criminalizing of homeless people in a ballot measure that passed last fall. Villa-Lobos, who went on a week-long hunger strike to protest former mayor Gavin Newsom's absence at a town hall meeting he had organized, offered his two-cent penny: "The quality of the artwork was very bad... and folks are questioning that it's even art at all."
At this month's meeting, artist Dray presented a proposal for another mural, which concerned some residents for its picturing of graffiti artist Shepard Fairey and a hustler at work. "I'm trying to tell the story truly," said Dray. "Leaving out certain parts would be dishonest."
Unfortunately, it tends to be a handful of people like David Villa-Lobos who decide these kind of things, because most of us are too busy to attend meetings that are usually concerned with stuff like the decibel-level of leaf-blowers or the removal of rainbow flags from lamp posts. You can find out when the Lower Polk Neighbors meetings happen or write to them through their website.
Below, a map of Polk gentrification and queer historical landmarks, c/o anonymous activists from Gay Shame.