In 2020/21 Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) presented Wall + Response, a project featuring 16 poets responding to the social/ political/ racial/ justice narratives of four murals on Clarion Alley, curated by CAMP artist and organizer Megan Wilson and poet Maw Shein Win. Participants included:
- Poets Heather Bourbeau, Aileen Cassinetto, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Chris Stroffolino responding to the mural Justice for Luís D. Góngora Pat by Marina Perez-Wong and Elaine Chu, working with Justice4Luis
- Poets Karla Brundage, Jennifer Hasegawa, Tureeda Mikell, and Kim Shuck responding to the work What We Want! by Emory Douglas/Black Panther Party / remix by CUBA D8, Mace
- Poets Celeste Chan, MK Chavez, Paul Corman-Roberts, and Tim Xonnelly responding to the mural Affordable Housing/Vivienda Asequible by the SF Print Collective working with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)
- Poets Youssef Alaoui, Jason Bayani, Genny Lim, and Michael Warr responding to the mural The Arab Liberation Mural / Will To Live by Art Forces, Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC), and Arab Youth Organizing (AYO)
Wall + Response was originally conceived to culminate in four quarterly public events to be presented on Clarion Alley. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the poets instead were filmed by videographer Mahima Kotian and sound person Evan Karp, reading their work in front of the murals on Clarion Alley. Kotian created videos for each of the four series presented as online events (November, February, April, and June) hosted in collaboration with the Booksmith. All events were free and open to the public.
- Program One: Justice for Luís D. Góngora Pat
- Program Two: What We Want!
- Program Three: Affordable Housing/Vivienda Asequible
- Program Four: The Arab Liberation Mural / Will To Live
In addition to the events, Wall + Response produced an edition of 50 print portfolios featuring 15” x 26” posters of the murals and the poems, printed by Sun Night Editions, with handmade portfolio cases created by Asa Nakata.
Development & Curation of Wall + Response
In 2019 CAMP artist and organizer Megan Wilson approached poet Maw Shein Win with the idea of co-curating a project that would bring poets together to respond to a selection of CAMP’s murals on Clarion Alley. Wilson and Win had collaborated on numerous projects over the previous 15 years, including the ambitious 2-year collaboration Broadside Attractions | Vanquished Terrains that brought 24 Bay Area poets and artists together to create new works, culminating in a 2-month exhibition at Intersection for the Arts in 2012. Win responded affirmatively, suggesting the title Wall + Response, and the development and curation of the project began.
In selecting the murals for Wall + Response, Wilson reflected on CAMP and its role in the community over the past decade in response to the hyper-gentrification that has plagued the Bay Area. The cultural shift has meant an epidemic of evictions, a significant decrease in Black and Latinx communities; devastating income inequality, an overwhelming number of people who are unhoused, and a disturbing increase in police violence and fatal shootings of citizens by police.
In the midst of this harrowing transformation of a city once known for progressive values, diversity, and affordability, CAMP had become a ‘destination’, or as some have coined it, ‘one of the most Instagramable spaces in San Francisco’, due in part to a myriad of developments in the cultural landscape over the previous 10 years, including increasing sales/use of smartphones with cameras; an acceleration in numbers of social media companies and users, most notably Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube; and rising numbers of tourists every year. This relatively new designation for a project that grew out of the neighborhood for the neighborhood, had meant not just a global audience of more than 200,000 visitors directly on the alley annually, it had also translated to millions of people viewing CAMP’s work through social media platforms, numerous online publications, and appearances in film and video productions, including three Netflix series. In response to the impacts of hyper-gentrification in the Bay Area and throughout the world and to the project’s growing visibility, CAMP made the decision to prioritize projects that gave voice to local and global narratives in support of social, economic, political, racial and environmental justice.
The four murals selected by Wilson for Wall + Response exemplify successful collaborations between artists and larger organizing forces to create public works and messaging that represent this collective effort.
Justice For Luís D. Góngora Pat (2018) by Marina Perez-Wong and Elaine Chu, working with the Gongora Pat family and Justice4Luis, is a memorial to Luís Demetrio Góngora Pat, a 45-year-old man – a father, husband, son, brother, and friend to many – from the Mayan village of Teabo, in the Mexican province of Yucatán. Góngora Pat was killed by two San Francisco police officers in an act of police brutality on April 7, 2016 at the encampment he was living on Shotwell Street following an eviction. Perez-Wong and Chu presented the mural to Luís’ family and their supporters in an emotional ceremony on the two-year anniversary of his death. The Justice4Luís campaign has continued its work towards justice and restoration in the name of Luis Góngora Pat through their advocacy and organizing efforts.
What We Want! (2011) by Emory Douglas/Black Panther Party / remix by CUBA D8, MACE reflects the legacy of the Black Panthers and their core work towards social, political, racial, economic, and food justice. The mural, based on a design by Emory Douglas with elements from the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program is a remix painted by graffiti artists CUBA (Clarence Robbs), Unity (David Petrelli), and MACE (Alex Douhovnikoff). The artists ensure the work is maintained and periodically add messaging based on critical needs of the moment. These gestures of care and thoughtfulness reflect the intent of the original work and support the ongoing movement to secure the demands stated in What We Want Now!.
Affordable Housing/Vivienda Asequible (2016) by the SF Print Collective working with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) represents people working together against the structures of oppression to become a powerful force of nurturance, peace, and justice. The mural speaks to WRAP’s critical work to expose and eliminate the root causes of homelessness and poverty, empower communities to demand protection of civil and human rights, and advocate for restoring federal funding for affordable housing.
The Arab Liberation Mural/ Will To Live (2018) by Art Forces, Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC), and Arab Youth Organizing (AYO) celebrates and honors the lives of six Arab leaders: Rasmea Odeh, Mehdi Ben Barka, Naji Diafullah, Leila Khaled, Basel Al Araj, and Yasser Mortaja. The mural manifests and expresses the resilience and resistance of the Bay Area community to attacks on freedom and liberties of Arab, Muslim, people of color, immigrants, and refugees.
Based on the walls selected, poet Maw Shein Win invited Bay Area poets whose practices include social and political community engagement. Win considered poets with diverse voices whose work speaks to the issues addressed in the murals: police brutality, societal inequities, affordable housing, and resilience in the face of injustice. Their poems honor not only the intent but also the lives depicted in the murals.
Wall + Response Process
Following the selection and pairings of the murals and poets, Wilson and Win created a schedule to present the series quarterly – fall, winter, spring, summer. The process for each program began with an online video meeting between the poets, artists, and creators of the murals (in the case of the murals Affordable Housing / Vivienda Asequible and The Arab Liberation Mural / Will To Live, which had multiple artists working with larger organizations to create the murals, the curators asked if the creators could please select one or two artists and organizers to represent each mural due to the limited capacity to manage/schedule the participants for each series). The meeting allowed for the artists and organizers to share the background and process for the creation of the mural; and for the poets to have the opportunity to ask questions. The poets were then given 6 weeks to write a poem in response to the wall. While there weren’t any limits for the length of the poem(s) to be read in front of the mural for the video; the poems included in the print portfolio were required to be 26 lines or fewer, including spaces. Several poets wrote longer works that were then edited to be included in the print portfolio. A month before the online events, the poets were filmed on Clarion Alley by videographer Mahima Kotian and sound person Evan Karp reading the poems they wrote in response to the wall. The poets were also invited to read additional works (up to 7 minutes). The artists and/or organizers were also filmed discussing the murals works and their work in the communities they serve. Kotian then edited the footage and added music by local Bay Area artists selected by the curators for the introduction and credits to create four short films. Each film was presented at a live online event hosted in collaboration with Booksmith, with an introduction by CAMP co-director Christopher Statton, followed by a Q&A with the poets, artists, organizers, and curators.
Wall + Response Print Portfolio
The Wall + Response print portfolio is comprised of 15” x 26” poster/print broadsides printed by Sun Night Editions, which includes:
- An introduction to the project
- Sixteen signed black and white broadsides featuring a poem (one poem/poet) paired with an image from one of the four murals the poet was paired with to respond
- Four signed broadsides featuring full color images of the four murals painted by artists working in conjunction with larger organizing forces and a description of the work
- The curators’ signed broadside statement, featuring an image of Wall + Response artist/organizer curator Megan Wilson’s “Home/Casa” mural, accompanied by Maw Shein Win’s poem response CLARION CALL
- Biographies of all participants
- Colophon signed by Sun Night Editions and Asa Nakata
- The portfolio box, designed and handmade by printmaker and book artist Asa Nakata
View more about the Print Portfolio HERE.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Megan Wilson is a visual artist, writer, curator, and community organizer based in San Francisco. Wilson has been an artist and core organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) since 2001. In 2018 she co-directed and co-organized (with Christopher Statton and Nano Warsono) CAMP’s second international exchange and residency project, Bangkit /Arise between artists from Yogyakarta, Indonesia and San Francisco/Bay Area in collaboration with the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.
Maw Shein Win’s poetry books include Score and Bone (Nomadic Press) and full-length collection Invisible Gifts: Poems (Manic D Press). Win is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito, California. Her most recent poetry collection is Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn 2020), longlisted for the 2021 PEN America Open Book Award and nominated for the Northern California Book Award for poetry. She often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers and was a Spring 2021 ARC Poetry Fellow at UC Berkeley. mawsheinwin.com
CAMP & Poetry
Since the early days of CAMP, almost 30 years ago, poetry has held a critical place in the project’s history. In 1993 poet Alfonso Texidor selected the poem When We Return by Daisy Zamora for CAMP’s first poetry wall. The work speaks to the importance of home, history, nurturance, and consideration. That same year, CAMP presented WORD UP! at the Women’s Building with “speaking minds performances” by Michael Blake, Michael Franti, QR Hand, Deborah Iyall, Genny Lim, Jack Micheline, Maria Medina Serafin, and Alfonso Texidor. In 1995 QR Hand’s poem Hemisphere was painted over the entire façade of 40 Clarion Alley by Aaron Noble on sections of blue, pink, yellow and brown, with the last line reading: we home here now. Daisy Zamora’s When We Return was restored in 2001 with a translation in Arabic added to the original Spanish and English version as a response to the Islamophobia that rose in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. More recently, Christopher Statton worked with poet Tony Robles and SOMCAN in 2015 to develop the text for the mural In Solidarity with Our Neighbors in SoMa to call attention to the negative impact of the 5M development on low-income communities of color in the South of Market neighborhood. In 2016 CAMP was invited to participate in Litquake’s Lit Crawl, with Home: Narratives of Place & Displacement, featuring Ed Bowers, Raymond Castillo, Shaghayegh Cyrous, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, and Megan Wilson. In 2017 CAMP hosted a 100 Days Action poetry reading curated by Maw Shein Win, featuring Cyrus Armajani, Heather Bourbeau, Yvonne Campbell, MK Chavez, Bonnie Kwong, Raina J. León, Caitlin Myer, Christine No, Andy Sano, Amos White, Josh Wilson, Maw Shein Win, and Jason Wyman.