Meet the Man Injecting Art and Culture Into San Francisco’s Commercial Corridors


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San Francisco is turning to art to support the city’s economic recovery, and frequent community arts events are held to revitalize neighborhoods lagging from the pandemic.

The city would do well to look to the example of Lauro Gonzalez and his organization Artyhood, formed during the pandemic to create opportunities for local artists and musicians to showcase, sell and perform their work.

He has become the go-to resource that neighborhoods turn to to bring color and culture to their business corridors, while also creating new foot traffic for local merchants.

Originally from Mexico, Gonzalez spent most of his career in marketing and communications and found he wanted to use his skills to promote artists. As the pandemic hit and the mood in the city began to turn inward, he saw an opportunity to use art as a way to bring people together.

He began organizing a biannual event called ArtScape in late 2020 as part of the Sunset Mercantile Farmer’s Market.

“I basically did everything from head to toe. I swept the floor, contacted the artists, built the website and designed the ads,” Gonzalez said. “But back then it was basically the only way to have some entertainment because it was outside and in the middle of the day.”

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Lauro Gonzalez, founder of ArtyHood (not pictured), has organized many arts and community events including Easter Eggstravaganza at the Mission. Courtesy of Lauro González

Soon after, he was approached by the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association and the Castro Merchants Association to organize similar events using shared space permits granted by city officials.

Gonzalez now organizes the bimonthly Valencia Street Art Corridor and the monthly Castro Art Mart. Each week, Artyhood’s events feature local painters, craftspeople, musicians and comedians – and last year’s holiday season – a sexy elf contest.

“I particularly appreciate his ability to create a fun environment for families with children and introduce them to the vibrant world of LGBTQ entertainers,” said Dave Karraker, President of the Castro Merchants Association.

To limit competition, Artyhood vendors do not serve food or alcohol and invite existing vendors to collaborate with artists by providing sidewalks or parking space for workshops and performances.

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The group is paid for by the local trade associations which are supported by city funds such as B. An $11.4 million grant program set up by Mayor London Breed and the Office of Economic Workforce Development, dedicated in part to organizing new festivals.

Jonah Buffa, the president of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, said Artyhood is critical to revitalizing the street and supporting existing businesses during the pandemic.

“Activating the streets of Valencia with art and music has made the street a target during the trying times of the last two years,” said Buffa.

Lauro Gonzalez, founder of ArtyHood (not pictured), has organized many arts and community events in San Francisco, including events that include petting zoos for the public. Courtesy of Lauro González

The artists themselves must hold valid sales permits and pay $40 to $75 to attend the event, which helps pay the performing musicians and defray marketing and publicity costs.

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San Francisco artist CJ Haven said attending Artyhood events provided a sense of community that she lacked as someone who launched her art career during the pandemic.

“The events have opened many doors for me in terms of networking and potential orders and clients,” said Haven.

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Gonzalez also works with the SF Council of District Merchants Associations, which includes 34 separate merchant associations, to create Art Walk SF. The program, which launched in Outer Richmond in May, hosts arts and music events in a different neighborhood each month. Art Walk SF events are planned for the next three months at Outer Sunset, Excelsior and Bayview respectively.

If officials want to keep establishing these gatherings, Gonzalez recommended increasing funding and streamlining permits to limit costs, which he says can reach as high as $50,000.

Ultimately, though, he hopes Artyhood’s momentum will continue as neighborhoods and residents continue to see the potential for bringing people together through art.

“At the end of the day, empowering artists makes me happy, we’re trying to build a sense of community but also a sense of pride in the people who live their lives as creative people,” Gonzalez said.

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