In 2021 I had an opportunity to become reacquainted with a longtime ally in San Francisco art and history, Peter Linenthal, of the Potrero Hill Archives Project. I first met Peter, in 2004 when I was fresh out of our alma mater, the San Francisco Art Institute. Back then Peter invited me to share the Mission Dolores mural project at one of his history nights. This year in the midst of his last-ditch, and sadly unlikely effort to save the Potrero Power Gate House, I offered my creative support and our friendship and creativity was reignited. Over the course of a few months we carried out two site engaged projects.
Potrero Hill Archives Project, June 4 - July 18th, 2021
Energized by our new friendship, Peter and I sought to continue our creative path, so we planned another projection – this time at his apartment/HQ of the Potrero Hill Archives Project above Christopher’s Books at Missouri and 18th St. Hundreds of photos from a Potrero Hill basement, lost for 50 years, had recently been found and handed over to Peter – so we projected them onto 4 windows of his house for over a month.
Lost Photos of Potrero Hill!
Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday evening in June, 2021 from 8:30-10pm family photos found in a Potrero basement were displayed in the top story windows at the home of the Potrero History Archive above Christopher Books at 18th and Missouri. The streets are closed to traffic during the weekend and it’s a interesting neighborhood to explore. What old photos do you have laying around in your basement cupboard or attic?
On Friday March 19th, 2021 the Gate House the Potrero Power station was demolished. With Peter Lilienthal of the Potrero History project, we had planned to project onto the Gate House and learned that it had already been demolished so we decided to create a short photo projection commemorating its history. We created an impromptu image projection memorial onto the wall adjacent to the Gate House, showing photos of some of the individuals who had worked at the site 100 years prior on March 21 and 22, 2021. The Gate House, built circa 1915, was first part of Claus Spreckels Western Sugar Refinery. Station A, built to power the refinery, was where PG&E began in 1905.
In doing this photo projection my hope was to help Peter Lilienthal of the Potrero History Archive get the word out about the Gatehouse, its history and possible future. That week as we were planning to project onto the Gate House itself, we learned that the building was demolished on Friday March 20th. As a gesture to honour the history of the Gate House and the people who had worked or been part of the community over the decades, we instead created an impromptu visual memorial, a short projected video loop commemorating the buildings history. On Saturday March 21st we tested the projection and our impromptu projection occurred for about an hour after sundown on Sunday March 22nd as a series of images from the photo collection of the Potrero Hill Archive project. A handful of supporters were invited to witness the last ritual honoring the Gatehouse. The images were projected onto the wall adjacent to the site of the former Gate House. That wall has since also been demolished.
So often we see old buildings like the Gate House and know nothing about or choose to ignore their history and the impact such spaces had on the lives of the people who once inhabited or worked within them. By sharing the faces of past community members in situ, onto the building itself, I hoped to evoke the peoples memory to encourage us to investigate more deeply into the buildings that we inhabit within our neighborhoods and communities. My hope is that as the site is developed, there can be a continued conversation with the Potrero community to engage in deep and meaningful consideration of both the site's history and the memory of those who once inhabited, worked, and built their lives there.
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