Publication date: 09/25/2002
Urban folk pop life
Local artist Rik Livingston says he's noticed a fun, new style of art emerge from the ashes of San Francisco's so-called "dot-bomb" -- a rougher, more folksy style that some have dubbed the "Mission school" but Livingston prefers to call "urban folk pop art."
Saturday night, he and four other urban folk pop artists -- AttaBOY, Dave Warnke, Michael-Brian Norris and Mark Z-Man -- will display a collection of their work at the Whitney Young Child Developmental Center's (WYCDC) new Upper Haight campus to help raise much-needed money to support the organization's visual arts program, which Livingston says is in desperate need of funding.
WYCDC has been providing low-cost art instruction and a variety of other services -- including tutoring, day care, sports and computer training, and language, dance and self-defense classes -- to mentally- and physically-challenged children ages 3 through 12 since 1958.
About a year-and-a-half ago, the state of California came to the folks at WYCDC, which at the time was operating out of a small facility in the Hunters Point neighborhood, and asked them to take over and manage a group of similar child development centers on the other side of town which had fallen on hard times.
No small feat
The centers were deep in debt, and the facilities themselves, located in the Upper Haight and Western Addition, were in states of disrepair. The expense of bringing the buildings up to code, coupled with WYCDC's funding struggles as private and corporate donations decrease nationwide, have left WYCDC in what Livingston describes as a "financially precarious position."
Livingston estimates that more than a quarter of WYCDC's programs, several of them arts programs, have had to be cut over the course of the last year-and-a-half because of lack of money. Meanwhile, funding of arts programs at the state and federal levels also are being cut severely.
So the artists participating in Saturday's show will donate a percentage of their sales to WYCDC to help save the organization's arts programs.
"A lot of my kids don't have arts courses in school at all anymore," Livingston says. "The time I spend with them, that's all the arts they get. So it's really important that we get our visual arts program back up and running."
A 44-year-old Kansas native, Livingston moved to The City in 1984 to earn his master's degree and began teaching painting, sculpture and computer graphics part time at WYCDC's Hunters Point facility almost 13 years ago. He's hoping that, in addition to raising much-needed funds, Saturday's show will raise awareness of WYCDC and its programs, and will inspire others to help the organization get through some lean times.
"(WYCDC) has done so much for the community," he says. "I think it's time now that we, the community, give something back."
"We're using pop as this sort of shared language, but not in a cynical manner," he explains. "So much of the stuff I'm seeing these days is cynical, and our stuff is more positive. It's brighter and more uplifting."
Livingston says he and his fellow artists' goal is to make art that's accessible to everyone and doesn't talk down to the general public.
"This is art for the people," he says. "That's really the folk element, the people."
He sees Saturday's show as having a two-fold role: help WYCDC and bring attention to a burgeoning style of art.
"It's sort of a marriage of two things that both mean a lot to me," he says. "Not to be corny, but both of them are my life."
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