San Francisco and the Tech Backlash

gentrification in the mission

So I haven’t written in a while, but this story about the Google buses being blocked by protesters peaked my interest.
My Facebook news feed became full of debates amongst people wanting to voice their opinion. It seems like the typical argument about tech workers and gentrification goes like this:

Person 1:  “Tech people are ruining San Francisco and the bay area. They are jacking up rent by outbidding each other on rentals and it seems that everyone’s rent has gone up. What’s worse is they are shuttled away from San Francisco to their tech campuses in private buses that utilize MUNI bus stops.”

Person 2: “Tech people are actually helping the bay area, its sad that some people are being evicted and priced out, but that’s just economics. And it’s a good problem to have. Many American cities, like Detroit, would love to have to deal with the repercussions of a booming economy.”

Person 1: “But the rate of change is too much and it’s changing the fabric of San Francisco. Teachers, artists, non-profits workers”

Person 2: “Well cities are always changing, and the current changes are for the better.

In general initial protests of any issue capture a feeling that something isn’t right and people are affected – everything is not okay and people are going to voice their opinion. They may not be protesting the right target, i.e. the person or people that have power to make changes, but sometimes in a movement that is beside the point. They are drawing attention to something that many people feel angry about, even if they don’t have the answers.

As most reasonable people would come to conclude, the causes of these issues are more structural in nature. Gentrification happens because there is an influx of new people to an area that need places to live. First people move where its cheap, then restaurants and services move into to cater to their tastes, the area becomes more desirable to live and people with more money move to those neighborhoods. The neighborhoods end up transformed. This change is caused by simple real estate economics – when there is more demand for housing than there is supply prices go up and landlords evict tenants so they can make more money (and keep up with their rising costs).

In the case of San Francisco, its booming tech sector has meant the rapid hiring of new employees many of whom are in their 20′s and 30′s and hail from different parts of the U.S. (and world). When these people need places to live they seek out places where other people like them live. While that used to mean tech workers were split between San Francisco and The Peninsula, new corporate bus programs have enabled people to live in various part of San Francisco (and the bay area) and to be able to live minutes walking distance from their corporate shuttle stops.

Imagine for a moment your 23 years old. You have just graduated college and landed your dream job at Google. You make 80k a year (the actual starting salary for software engineers two year ago) – most of that is yours to spend since you have 3 free meals, free transportation, and fully paid health benefits. You’d love to actually work in the city that you live in, but Google’s tiny SF office is maxed out and the facilities people have sent nasty company wide emails discouraging you from working from that office. So you fold up your MacBook Air into your company provided backpack and grab a coffee at Tartine before hopping on your climate-controlled bus down to Mountain View. Even if you live at the closest stop, 24th Street and Mission, your commute still averages 1 hour 15 minutes and can take up to 2 hours when it rains. That means your spending 2.5 to 4 hours commuting everyday and you would give anything to get back a little bit sooner. So when people ask Why are all these tech workers living in the Mission? or other neighborhoods on the South/west part of the city – the answer is simply a shorter commute. Of course your competing with everyone else for apartments in these hoods and so you’ll spend as much of your salary as you can on to your rent. I mean, your 23 and you haven’t really figured how money works yet, right? And when the weekend is here and you need to get around you don’t dare take MUNI (I mean you’ve never taken it before, why start now?) so you take a private UBER or Lyft ride.

The whole city is feeling the pain these days as rent is so F-ing expensive. Even Castro icons like Cleve Jones write letters to Scott Weiner about all-time high evictions of LGBT seniors living with HIV.

So back to the Google buses. There was a recent article in the Atlantic about the San Francisco exodus to Oakland and how San Francisco has embarrassingly bad transportation due to the underfunding of public resources. Yeah, no shit. Have you taken MUNI or a rainy morning, or really any morning at rush hour? Trains are completely full and they break constantly causing massive delays. One would think that with the massive infusion of tech wealth into the city that some of this money would trickle down to everyone else helping to improve public transportation. (As a knee jerk liberal I can’t believe I just invoked trickle down theory) But as the article points getting mad at the visual signs of gentrification does little stop the root causes of it:

“Railing against Google buses, fancy restaurants or new condos—the visible signs of gentrification—will do nothing to stop San Francisco from becoming more expensive. These are not causes of the rising rents; they are symptoms. The root cause is that many people have chosen to live in San Francisco, and we are now all competing with one another to bid up the rents. As long as this remains a desirable place to live in a region that is producing a lot of jobs — while at the same time we fail to produce enough housing to accommodate the demand — then housing prices will continue to rise.”

So whose fault is it?

Is it the urban planners in the South Bay for building corporate office parks in remote locations? Is the public for being too NIMBY and discouraging the development of high-rise apartments to help alleviate the housing shortage? Is it the lack of a strong regional urban planning authority to say no you can’t build way out here, but you can build in this dense urban core accessible by public transit and here are some funding and tax breaks? Is it the tech companies’ fault for offering these buses or their employees for taking them?

As you can see the answer isn’t so clear. But bringing the conversation back to how to increase housing in a meaningful way would be the best start. These protesters, while misguided, seem to be sparking the conversation amongst San Franciscans.

SF People Interviews: Christa Hill of “Hey, Cookie!”

This is part of a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco.

"Hey, Cookie!" Dolores ParkI first met Christa the same way many people do while enjoying some sun in Dolores Park. I immediately fell in love with her charming personality and energy she brings to embodying “Hey, Cookie!”. If you have been living under a rock somewhere and somehow haven’t made it out to Dolores Park on a sunny afternoon, then you may not know who she is. Christa visits Dolores Park and several other locations selling her sweet little treats wearing her signature dresses and carrying her antique wicker basket. To note, her baked edibles are “non-medicinal” as in they don’t have any pot in them. This is something you actually have to clarify in San Francisco when selling cookies and brownies.

Christa has become a friend of mine recently and even made a surprise appearance at my birthday party at 500 Club where she brought me a Rice Krispy Treat with a candle and a party hat.

hey cookie kevin's bday

Christa surprised me by showing up at my birthday party at 500 Club and bringing a party hat & rice-krispy treat with a candle to blow out.

Missionhipsters: So for people who don’t know, what is “Hey, Cookie” and where can they tend to find you?

Christa Hill:  “Hey, Cookie!” is a dessert catering service. You can typically find me in Dolores park or bars in The Castro, Mission, or Lower Haight. My cookies are also sold at Claire’s Deli, H Cafe on 17th Street, DRIPD Coffee on 9th Avenue, and Cup of Joe on Sutter.

MH: What did you do before you started selling treats in the park?

CH: I’m originally from Maryland, just outside of DC, a town called Bowie (spelled just like David Bowie, but pronounced Boo-wee). I came out to San Francisco during spring break while in my Junior year of college…When I drove over the bridge into the city it was like Dorothy finding Oz. I Just loved it. I decided to come to California after college, and I served as a Vista volunteer in Monterey County. I  later worked as the Executive Director for the the Albany-Berkeley-Emeryville Chapter of Rebuilding Together and the Major Gifts Officer for the Gorilla Foundation.

Community service and community building are still very important to me.  I try to donate Hey, Cookie’s services at least once a month to different charities.  For example, in the past month, I sold cookies to raise money for Swoony for Muni, where all the profits went toward improving Bay Area transit.

MH:  How did you come up with idea for “Hey, Cookie!”?

I used to offer my help with fundraisers for friends and local organizations because of my nonprofit background. A few years ago, I held a bake sale for a rabbit rescue organization, SaveABunny, on the eve of Easter. I didn’t bake a thing—I just facilitated the event. I mobilized volunteers, coordinated efforts, and set up shop. We raised $1,200 in four hours.

The next year, I quit my job when my mom had a stroke. When Easter was coming up, I thought that I should help SaveABunny again, and then I thought, “Wait a minute—maybe I should help myself!” That’s how it got started. I truly thought it was just going to be a one-day event, but it turned out to be a really fun and rewarding position.

I continued to sell my cookies in the park and was lucky enough to sell out each the time. One day, I didn’t sell out, so I popped into Moby Dick’s in The Castro and ended up selling the rest. I sought out more bars where the bartenders or bouncers said it was okay to come in.  Eventually, I started doing birthday deliveries, and deliveries to companies like Yelp or organizations like SPUR.

hey, cookie! and truffle guy

Dolores Park icons “Hey, Cookie!” and The Truffle Guy.

MH: Where did the name “Hey, Cookie” come from?

CH: People started calling me Alice and Dorothy based off my outfit. Other people called out “Hey Cookie Lady!” or “Cookie”. So, “Hey, Cookie!” seemed to be the perfect fit for this tiny, mobile cookie shop.

MH: I’m trying to think how to describe your outfit – perhaps German Milkmaid Realness?

CH: I wanted something goofy and unique. My first outfit was actually a square dancing dress. I now have over 25 dresses, including dirndls, the female version of lederhosen. Having an outfit allows me to become “Hey, Cookie!”, it’s like having armor when I might be feeling too shy to sell.

MH:  What’s it like to be recognized as a part of the Dolores Park experience?  Why is it important to stand out from the crowd?

CH: I suppose it is basic marketing. It’s important to be visible and recognizable. I have become my very own walking logo, and it is so exciting to know that it is working!

What better compliment than to hear that people have dressed up as “Hey, Cookie!” for Halloween?  It just makes me beam!

During the past two Bay to Breakers, my close buddies were kind enough to don tights, dresses and wigs, and become “Hey, Cookie!” for the race.  It was my friend Tessa Greenwood’s brilliant idea to underscore the brand, and I think it really worked.

"Hey, Cookie!"

“Hey, Cookie!” and friends at Bay to Breakers.

MH: What types of cookies do you sell?

CH: There are many variety of cookies, and the list keeps growing! The current offerings, include: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butterscotch oatmeal, vegan mexican wedding cookies, gluten-free peanut butter with peanut butter cups, bourbon cranberry and white chocolate, chocolate and mint, toffee, triple chocolate cherry, paleo coconut cups, gluten-free rich chocolate morsels, snickerdoodles; as well as some other treats: brownies, Rice Krispie treats, raspberry shortbread bars, spicy pumpkin bites, and caramel chocolate coconut delights.

"Hey, Cookie!" cookie assortmentMH:  Can we find you on Twitter and Facebook?

CH: Yes, I’m on twitter as: @HeyCookieSF and you can ‘like’ my Facebook page to get my updates as well. And of course all my treats are listed on my website:  http://www.heycookiesf.com/

"Hey, Cookie!" tasty treats

A close up of the tasty treats

MH: What do you enjoy about what you do? Anything ever get on your nerves?

CH:  What I really enjoy about what I do is that I can visibly see that I am brightening people’s days. People recognize me when I’m out and they smile. I can feel their warmth and support.  They make me so happy and keep me going, even when I am tired, or feeling discouraged about “pushing” cookies in a goofy dress.

I am a people person, so people don’t tend to get on my nerves, however, I often hear, “You do know you’d make a lot more money if you put pot in these cookies?”. It can be a little taxing to hear it over, and over, and over again.  Some people are even put off to be offered non-medicinal treat, but that’s just not my thing.

MH: What do you like about living in your neighborhood?

CH: I live in the Castro, and have lived in my sleepy little Victorian for 18 years.  I absolutely love my neighbors, local businesses and my community.  It genuinely feels like my extended family.

Maddie, the rabbit

Maddie the rabbit

One example of this sense of community occurred when I lost my pet rabbit named Maddie. Maddie used to hop around in the small garden in front of my house semi-supervised, and was a delight to all that passed by. One day, Maddie was bunny-napped from the front of the house. Somehow, she made her way down to civic center where she was found and brought to the SPCA. This little lost rabbit made quite a splash in our neighborhood.  I received cards, phone calls, flowers from neighbors expressing their support/concern that she was missing and their joy when she returned.  It is that sense of community and care for each other that truly makes the Castro my home.

"Hey, Cookie!" and Author

Christa of “Hey, Cookie!” and me in Dolores Park.

MISTER App Re-launches with Enhanced Technology, Commits to Improving Gay Life

MISTER App Re-launches with Enhanced Technology, Commits to Improving Gay Life

Company Introduces “I Am MISTER” Movement Along with Redesigned App Focused on Getting Users to Spend Less Energy Online and More Time Meeting People

mister cover photo for FB

NEW YORK – July 16, 2013 – MISTER, the mobile app and online community for gay and bisexual men, today announced the re-launch of its mobile app designed to totally change the way gay men interact with each other on their smartphones. MISTER, which originally launched in December 2011 and now has more than 1 million users, has added new features, including one called MR. Right, that will help men find the right connections more quickly and efficiently so that they can spend less time searching through profiles and more time actually meeting one another and enjoying their lives. In tandem with the app launch, the company kicked off the community-focused “I Am MISTER” movement (#iamMISTER), which encourages men to be themselves, use their app with pride, and work to build stronger, better and more respectful relationships.

Gay men are some of the most active smartphone users, spending as much as 1.5 hours a day on gay “meet-up” apps. Unfortunately, a lot of that logged-in time is wasted time because only a small fraction of interactions turn into real meetings and even fewer into future connections. With today’s launch, MISTER is looking to change that.

“MISTER is a truly different experience for anyone who is sick of perusing endless photos of faceless bare chests or judgmental profiles,” said Carl Sandler, founder and CEO of MISTER. “With the new MISTER, we’re encouraging users to show their faces, and we’re also providing them with new features to help facilitate real conversations. We want to make finding what you’re looking for a lot easier so that you can actually meet new people.”

One fresh feature on the new MISTER that promises to deliver better connections to users is the technologically advanced MR. Right, which provides users new introductions daily based on the types of men they normally interact with. If a user, for instance, often talks to tall men in their early 30s, MR. Right will show that user other men nearby with similar traits. MR. Right works in the background as a personal wingman, always on the lookout for new, compatible men.

MISTER aims to do more than just get men together for fun and dating. The “I Am MISTER” movement asks users to behave differently in their interactions both on the app and offline and to be proud to be MISTER men. They’re encouraged to show their faces, be authentic, and opt in to the MISTER Code, an agreement urging users to treat one another with respect and honesty.

“Gay relationships have evolved, yet gay men are often still ashamed of using gay dating or hookup apps,” said Serge Gojkovich, marketing specialist for MISTER. “Some apps bill themselves as being better or catering to a certain niche within the gay market, but MISTER wants to move beyond that. MISTER encourages users to follow the MISTER Code, to be themselves, and to not be embarrassed about using an app to meet other gay men.”

i5_browse

MISTER is available for iOS and Android and on the Web. To download MISTER or to learn more, please visit misterapp.com.

MISTER will be celebrating its re-launch with parties allowing users to meet other users in the following cities:

  • Washington, D.C.: JR’s 7/18
  • West Hollywood: Revolver 7/19
  • New York: Boxers (Chelsea) 7/19
  • New York: Boxers (Hell’s Kitchen) 7/20
  • Boston: Guilt 7/26
  • Dallas: Victory Park 7/26
  • San Francisco: Hi Tops 7/27
  • Fort Lauderdale: Village Pub 7/28
  • Atlanta: Heretic 8/2
  • Chicago: Sofo Tap 8/3

About MISTER

MISTER is a leader in gay app technology. It’s a location-based app that helps gay men who are grown up connect with one another in an easier, more efficient, and more meaningful way. Unlike many other similar apps, MISTER offers access to users not only on mobile platforms like iPhone and Android but also on the Web at misterapp.com. MISTER is designed for diverse men who value integrity, safety, truth, experience, and respect. Members are encouraged to follow the MISTER Code, a shared set of values designed to make the MISTER community feel welcome, healthy, and safe. To download MISTER or to learn more, visit misterapp.com, follow us @theMISTERapp or #iamMISTER.

SF People Interviews: Wilson Jones of CoffeeShop

This is the third in a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco. 

Wilson Jones is the owner of CoffeeShop located on 3139 Mission Street in Bernal Heights. In addition to opening and running this coffee shop he is also a talented graphic and web designer. I met Wilson after finishing a short hike up Bernal Heights and stumbled upon his cosy little shop. He poured me some cold-processed iced coffee and I was instantly convinced that this was my new favorite coffee shop in San Francisco.

Wilson Jones of Coffee Shop_3139 Mission

Wilson in his coffee shop

MissionHipsters: How did you become interested in opening a coffee shop and what did you do before?

Wilson Jones: I was and still am a designer. Graphic designer, UX designer, web designer…and then the opportunity arose via a call from one of my freelance web clients, the new Bernal Heights-based cannabis club Herbal Mission,

“Dude, we need help, want to come take over and run the coffee shop in front of our building?”

I had just been laid off from a silicon valley job, we had lost our health insurance, and my wife had just broken the news that we were expecting a child. So I said ‘Heck,Yes!’ All this happened over the course of three bizarre days.

Iced Coffee

Wilson adds a dash of milk to some cold-brewed iced coffee. The ice is made from cold-pressed coffee and can take up to 12 hours to freeze.

I have always loved the idea of a coffee house. Back in Austin, TX, I had a 24-hour digital service bureau and we had an espresso machine on our front counter for customers to whip up a drink with if they knew how.

My parents, even after they were both retired last year, dove back in and started a coffee shop in our grandmother’s town of Clarksville, Arkansas. We both, it turns out, didn’t really mention it to the other and simultaneously built Coffee Shops. Theirs had a radio station in it broadcasting the town’s sport talk radio…well played…

I decided to call ours the deceptively simple, and unused name, ‘CoffeeShop’. 11 months in, folks seem to appreciate what we are doing, enjoying the daily offerings of the Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative and now we are in the planning stages of a second spot on Folsom Street!

A customer just wrote this about us on our Yelp page: Holy cow.

London’s Soho 1960 … On a Saturday there was a ritual when I was 8 years old …

“Steppin out to Angelucci’s”

Mark Knofler  penned  it in the opening line of Dire Straits song “Walking in the Wild West End” from their first album about this iconic roaster.
http://angeluccicoffee.c…
We’d buy a couple of pounds of my mom’s special blend

Then …walk up the street to Bar Italia  and have an espresso and a salami sandwich
http://www.baritaliasoho…
Great website with some cool video’s here

So why mention all this stuff in a review of the CoffeeShop in San Francisco ?

Took me 52 years to emulate that magical experience…

Thanks Wilson….

You made an espresso that transcended time and space mate !

That about makes my entire year.  Now I just need to keep it up. That makes 23 5-star reviews in a row so far: http://www.yelp.com/biz/coffeeshop-san-francisco

Coffee Shop, Bernal Heights

Outside CoffeeShop 3139

MH: What are some of the challenges to opening a small business in a city like San Francisco? You mentioned there was a $500 permit you had to apply and pay for to have a small table outside.

WJ: SF is rather like Oz. Everything is fantastically more expensive than I have ever experienced. But truthfully, once you get past that and learn to be patient, the folks I have dealt with are actually super cool and we are having a lot of fun getting to know folks in our neighborhood. The city got us lined up for bike parking out front in less than two weeks. Any day now, we’ll have that!

Coffee Shop Mission

Local pastries for sale. Wilson made the wood kiosk for the iPad/ Square check out reader himself.

MH: I see you have some interesting drinks and food. What are some of the unique things you try to do in your store?

WJ: I have always gravitated towards making coffee in between design work over the years. First, Starbucks. Then, La Boulange. Then the Brickhouse Cafe in the SOMA. Kim and Fred there taught me so much about running a truly low-impact, sustainable operation, reducing our physical output of trash to the absolute bare minimum. I also started to get creative there with what I was making.

Coffee Shop in The Mission

Wilson behind the counter

Our first original creation was the Espresso Pour. It’s simply espresso beans through a burr grinder and then single-poured through a filter. The good grinder brings out a whole spectrum of flavor that was hidden by the finer grind and high-pressure delivery of the espresso machine. This quickly became our top-selling pour. It’s strange, I’ll walk around town and ask other shops to make me one and rarely do I find someone who will do it.

Next came our Iced Coffee. I love cold coffee. I love cold, extremely low-acid coffee that I can sip slowly for hours. This means the ice cubes should optimally be made out of 18-hour chilled and filtered cold process Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative Sumatra. That way, it actually tastes exactly the same, awesome way an hour later. Boom. We are serious about this one. The only man I know who has viewed more YouTube videos /and/ poured more Lattés then me, Séan Wilson, pulled me aside one evening and introduced me to the idea of substituting time for temperature in the preparation of coffee.  Did you know it sometimes takes coffee over 12 hours to freeze? I learned it by trying it out and definitely is a time consuming process, but so worth it.

And then, last month during the latest heat wave, came the newest addition to our offerings. Iced Yerba Mate.

A nice, orange blossom honey poured onto a cleaned filter, a little fresh lime squeezed in next, and then quickly steeped Yerba Mate poured into a waiting cup of ice. Voila! Folks love it.

But the most important thing I’ve learned these past 11 months is the importance of the role of the barista. We got to stay friendly and warm and kind. It’s important to care about the quality of everything deeply, but not get all pretentious about it. I watched ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ again. I want us to deliver something out of this world good, but quick. Not slow. Philz Coffee understands that people are in a hurry, despite their best intentions.

We are particularly blessed to have stumbled across the roaster Rick Soenksen of Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative in Emeryville and Emily Guzzardi of BATCH Baking here in Bernal Heights.

These are two people working at the height of their respective crafts.

Coffee Shop, Wilson Jones, Chalkboard wall

Patrons chatting, behind them is the chalkboard wall.

MH: Your also a talented wood worker. What sort of things did you build in your shop?

WJ: My business partner and wife Olga Boiko and I live out by Outerlands Restaurant and Trouble Coffee in the outer sunset. That corridor is an inspiration to walk down on a sunny Sunday morning towards the ocean. I’m from Arkansas and 20 years in Austin, Texas. The folks from this part of the world really know and appreciate wood working. Every other storefront has something cool going on inside. I’m a big believer in using Everything I have to produce the desired function. A wall of Alhambra giant water bottles makes a great base for an Espresso Bar, an upside-down clear glass Ikea plate makes a great lid. I asked all my neighbors and friends for all their extra wood and I’m slicing it all into 1 inch strips and covering as many square inches of our Mission space as I can. It makes things feel comfortable and woodsy and encourages hanging out and chatting. Then, a smarty-pants customer, Robert Leshner from SafeShepherd walked in one day and handed me a can of chalkboard paint, now a few of the walls are giant chalk boards.

Coffee Shop 319 Mission

Wilson made this wall and shelves out of recycled wood pieces.

MH: Anything else exciting going on for you?

WJ: Well I have all my design stuff that I still am active with.  In addition to that I recently became a father. Waking up to my 3 month old daughter this morning, pointing at a giraffe on the side of her crib and her cracking up laughing about sums it up. Doesn’t get much better than that. I have to agree with her, the overall design of the giraffe with little fluffy horns is hilarious.

Foundry, Inc.
CoffeeShop_3139 Mission

SF People Interviews: James Jarrett

This is the second in a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco. 

James is a talented artist with an intriguing background and deep roots in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has been exhibited in San Francisco, Napa, and other locations across the U.S. I’ve known James for a few years and enjoy his unique approach to art, painting and life. For more on James’ work, see the links at the bottom of the article.

James Jarrett Photo

James in front of one of his paintings

Missionhipsters blog: Before you became a full-time artist you did theater in New York and worked in tech in the Bay Area. Tell me about what you did before selling your artwork.

James Jarrett: Well actually I started painting before I went to New York to study acting. My mother was an art major and so i was exposed to a lot of art, books, and museums. By the time I was 4, I was able to draw realistic images. I was obsessed with drawing witches on flying brooms. But I was also fascinated by abstract art, especially the work of Jackson Pollack. In Kindergarden I remember an art assignment where we had to depict Holiday images for each season. While other kids were drawing Santa Claus and Christmas trees, I splattered and dripped multiple colors of paint and dabbed bits of glitter here and there. When my horrified teacher asked me what it was that I painted I replied, “Jingle, Jingle”!  The teacher recommended holding me back a year and because of her reaction I knew right then and there I wanted to be an artist.

I continued to study art and graphic design, but I also had the theater bug and was accepted into the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. When I finished school, we were in the middle of a bad recession and I decided that life as a starving artist would be much more glamorous in California, so I returned to the West Coast. I must say, New York remains my favorite city on Earth!
When I returned to California the first wave of the high tech boom was in full swing with the rollout of the newly invented PC. When they came out with the 5MB hard drive, there was a huge demand, and I somehow landed a job as a computer technician, and project manager. I was making tons of money in a time when minimum wage was only $3 an hour, if that. I never acted again, except for an occasional voice over, but I did continue to paint, and I was selling through word of mouth. That lasted for about 16 years and then in 2000 I gave my 2 week notice one day to Corporate life and took my project management skills and hard earned money and launched my business making and selling my art.

James Jarrett Red Painting

Bellezza Rosa

MH: How did you learn to paint and what was it like to first have your work exhibited?

JJ: I’m not so sure how one learns how to paint. I was handed tubes of water colors paint, paper, and several brushes. I observed adults painting and if they painted something I liked, I would ask them to show me the technique.

I have to say, I had some amazing art teachers in school. I went to 8 different schools and moved 18 times before I turned 18. Each new school exposed me to different teachings. i not only learned about different genres and movements, but some amazing techniques and skills, like silk screening, sculpture, oil painting, construction, deconstruction, murals, tagging.

You know, the first thing a child is given in school is a big fat pencil and a box of crayons. I loved that about school. By junior high, art becomes an elective with very little serious attention. By high school you are lucky if they even offer an art class or program. Often art is cut from school budgets. When it was time to meet with a counselor to discuss career path and college education I told my counselor I wanted to be an artist. I was asked “Why?There is no money with that career choice.” I thought what a big mind fuck! They tease you for years by shoving a crayon in your hand, and then take it away years later and tell you that you can’t have it!

Fuck You, Bitches….I paint…and I make a living doing it now!!

I always have exhibited, so I was used to showing my art. I’ve had a lot of art stolen from display cases in school. I don’t know if it was because they hated it or loved it. Nor do I care. I used to get nervous exhibiting my work, but I have to say it is similar to stage fright from my theater days- I’m more nervous pre-show wondering what people are going to think and how it will be received. I think it’s healthy to still experience those nerves, but it is important no matter what to have a lot of fun in the process, and I do.

Blue James Jarrett Painting

Scissors

MH: Is there an overall theme to your work? How has your style evolved over time?

JJ: Yes, I have always kept my current body of work “theme” oriented.
I tend to paint people, places, or things. So when I pick a subject or topic that I want to create, I suppose I approach it the way a musician/song writer approaches creating a new CD.

I go with and follow My passion. Iask myself what message do I want to convey, but more importantly, what conversation do I want to spark? That is certainly the objective and it is a challenge.In the mid 90′s I was painting a lot if portraits and impressionistic landscapes. Until recently I created a large body of bold blocks of color inspired by a sail boat cruise through the Mediterranean. Although that work is non representational I can’t help but believe that my experiences and senses are blueprinted onto canvasIn the mid 90′s I was painting a lot if portraits and impressionistic landscapes. Until recently I created a large body of bold blocks of color inspired by a sail boat cruise through the Mediterranean. Although that work is non representational I can’t help but believe that my experiences and senses are blueprinted onto canvasI’ve always been intrigued with pop culture. Much of it I despise, but some of it I find myself loving. I suppose it is morbid curiosity. Who doesn’t like watching a train wreck, especially if there is beauty involved. I am currently working on a series based on my observation of social media. In particular I am journaling things that stand out in Adult “dating” aps and websites. It amazes me what people put in their profiles that will lead them to either getting laid, married, or staying at home waiting for nothing.So my work is moving in a direction of incorporating text, fonts, collages images, stencil, spray paints, and silk screening.

So my work is moving in a direction of incorporating text, fonts, collages images, stencil, spray paints, and silk screening.

MH: You’ve had some big receptions over the last few years: at Robert Mondavi, and a couple of art galleries. Tell me about those.

JJ: Yes, I indeed have had a few large receptions over the years. My first solo exhibit was back in 2001. It was in an alternative space and very similar to the popularity of pop-up galleries that are happening now. It was during the California Energy Crisis when we were having constant rolling blackouts across the state and within the power grid. All my work was done in black and white stripes, and black on black textures,  some of it inspired by the popularity of the Op Art movement in the 1960′s.

I titled the show, “Rolling Black…Out”.

It was a huge success and a large crowd turned out for the opening reception. I sold nearly every piece, and my fan base quickly grew.  I then placed my work in a furniture store that showcased on Union Street and Market just across from Zuni Cafe.

It was while exhibiting in these two locations that my work was seen and purchased by many, including author Danielle Steel. Danielle is one of my biggest collectors. She opened a gallery on Sacramento Street in 2003 where she represented my work for 3 years in San Francisco. Steel’s receptions were over the top, and she was gracious and generous with promoting, marketing and advertising the gallery and artists. That I must say was an amazing run.

One of my recent exhibitions was 3 years in the making after being invited by Margrit Mondavi to solo exhibit my work at Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville, CA.

Architecturally the space is quite spacious and divided in sections so it was an exciting challenge to bring my work to what felt like a museum space. All in all I think we curated 34 paintings in that show, even though I initially had slated only 15. Margrit was mesmerized with my bold color glazes inspired by my Mediterranean travels, so that is mostly what I created. I was really pleased with how it turned out, and I was grateful for the reception. Napa always has an interesting and eclectic crowd. Some of the paintings sold are now hanging next to a Picasso, a Frankenhaler, and a Diebenkorn. That makes me smile.

In 2012 I was invited to participate in a 6 month visiting artist program with 12G Gallery in SOMA art district, in San Francisco. The space was absolutely spectacular, once an old gymnasium that supposedly had a Keith Harring mural from the 1980′s. The space has since been converted to a grand salon that to me felt Parisian, with its red walls, Chrystal chandeliers, and antique grand piano. Essentially it was an event space that showcased art. The opening reception for my event was well received with record attendance.

Because I was simultaneously launching a solo exhibit at Mondavi I had to quickly produce 15 new works for the 12G introduction show. I returned to working with black and whites, black on black textured works, and dark browns inspired by fashion belts, and dark chocolate.

Uh, Yum!

Italian Nights, James Jarrett Painting

Italian Nights

MH: What else is new for you? Any big plans in the upcoming years?

JJ: I am currently splitting my time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. San Francisco is home for me, but I do have a love affair with Southern California.

I continue to work on my social media project and hope to launch my next show exhibiting those works this coming summer.

I love to keep dialogue open and welcome feedback, discussion, interaction or collaboration on my projects. I can be followed on:

Twitter: @JimmyWAShere
Facebook: Facebook.com/JamesJarrett.Art

Www.jamesjarrett.com

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