‘Revolution Lane’ by Peter Lawrence Kane, SF Weekly Feature

The fight to keep Clarion Alley’s murals from being loved to death.

Expect dissent in the aftermath of this election. Expect it to be large and frequent. Expect more protest songs. Expect more anger, more fear. Expect an explosion in creative expression as people committed to nonviolence above all else do what they can to channel those emotions and thwart the further progress of America down this dark path.

But more than anything, expect more murals.

San Francisco has, for decades, been a place where progressive politics has met the wall. It draws well-known street artists on the regular: Shepard Fairey, creator of the Obama HOPE poster, was in town this August, commissioned to execute two pieces, one in Hayes Valley and the other in the Mission District. (He’ll be back for 2017’s Noise Pop Festival.) And the city isn’t shy about commissioning large-scale work, either. Bayview Rise, on the western facade of a 187-foot grain elevator near Pier 92, is big enough to be easily discernible from the summit of Twin Peaks, three miles away.

But for almost a quarter-century, the most prominent site for murals has been Clarion Alley. It’s easy to mimic the boosterism of a tourist brochure and call anywhere the “heart” of anywhere else. But if the circa-2016 Mission has an aorta, it’s certainly Valencia Street — and a good candidate for the organ pumping blood into it is this block-long lane running from Valencia to Mission Street, between 17th and 18th streets.

Run by volunteers whose mission is to give a voice to the concerns of largely disenfranchised people in the immediate neighborhood, the Clarion Alley murals constitute a self-policing community, steps from an actual police station, as well as a self-sustaining network in an area where the median rent treats neighborhood ties the way a saber treats the neck of a Champagne bottle. With street art hipper than ever, Clarion Alley draws tourists — and tour buses — like never before. Instagram and other platforms broadcast its shifts worldwide. Condo developers cite it in their prospectuses as proof that the Mission is “edgy” and “vibrant.” Nefarious corporate actors shoot ad campaigns on its asphalt, sometimes without asking permission and sometimes after permission has been denied.

In short, Clarion Alley is in danger of being loved to death. Continue Reading …

Image:  Title Unknown, Crystal Vielula, Clarion Alley, 2013