Underskatement Interviews Rik Livingston
David Franklin, Interviewer
DF. Where and when were you born?
Rik. 1958, Anthony, Kansas. (A very small town - think Andy Griffith's Mayberry or Superboy's Smallville. It's still around but getting even smaller as the economy dries up due to the demise of family farms.)
DF. Why did you move here?
Rik. The easy answer is because I got a scholarship to get my Masters degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. But the reason I decided on SF, instead of my original plan of going back to New York, where I lived for awhile, was because my girlfriend-at-the-time had relatives out here and keep feeding me Jack Kerouac novels and getting me to vacation in The City, in order to get me interested in changing my future destination to the Left Coast!
DF. What do you do now?
Rik. Art. Right at the moment, mostly, I currently curate my own art and other artist's work at the Whitney Young Cultural Center and the Anon Salon, but I have primarily made my living off of selling my own art - paintings, sculpture, toy designs, etc. since 1987. I have also taught a bit of art, on the side.
DF. What do you like about San Francisco? What keeps you here?
Rik. When I graduated from sixth grade, my folks took me on one of those huge, "National Lampoon Family Vacation" trips where we saw the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Route 66, Garden of the Gods, Disneyland, Hollywood and San Francisco (not in that order, of course!). Basically every attraction west of Kansas!
Even with all those other awesome destinations to compete with, "'Frisco" always stood out in my mind from that trip: The hills, the views, the ocean (all quite spectacular to a boy from the wide, flat praries.) I also loved the preserved architecture, those strange looking, colorful people I saw when my parents drove down Haight street with their doors locked and all the parks and small businesses with character.
Later I was agreeable to go to school here because of what I had come to appreciate about the progressive politics and the art scene, which has a more human, funkier, less commercial aspect that is, sadly, missing from so much of the art in the financial art capital, New York. Still, I had planned to leave after I got my Master's and teach college elsewhere. I even got as far as being the finalist for a Washington college and winning a residency in Nevada...but when I started selling enough art work through SF galleries and alternative spaces to be able to live off of the income, I decided "why move?" I began to realize I would be hard pressed to find a place I liked better...
DF. What do you dislike about SF?
Rik. Almost every dislike I have is a recent development: Ever since the dot com boom, the additude has become harsher and less human. The disparity between the haves and have-nots more pronounced. The rents sky rocketed. The parking fines revenue became a tax on the poor. Down town began to Manhattanize ever more and neighborhoods gentrified. Over half of all the galleries in San Francisco closed and many of my friends moved on.
DF. Will you ever leave and if so, where to ?
Rik. Despite the above mentioned change in character, much of those problems are a reflection of larger troubles on a national/global level. SF still remains one of the most advanced, progressive, cultural, tolerant centers of civilization on the planet. I have visited a number of small "art towns" around the country, and thought of Santa Fe or New York, but my heart is still in San Francisco...
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