Thursday, July 20, 2006


ART ON SIXTH ST.
'The Art Don't Stop'
Works reflect not just artist's vision but also thoughts of the community

Reyhan Harmanci


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Todd Berman wouldn't say this of himself, but he's certainly a man of action. Without waiting for grants or outside funding, he's taken his online gallery, the Art Don't Stop, to the notorious (but increasingly vital) Sixth Street.

Using a gallery space run by Randy Shaw, "journo-activist" and founder of the Tenderloin Housing Project, the Art Don't Stop takes a collaborative approach to its art. Berman has spent the past month roaming a two- to three-block radius around the corner of Sixth and Minna. (The gallery space itself is a little strange; because it shares a door with a hotel, you can't actually enter the gallery, you can only look at the windows.) He goes into local businesses and sketches them, then invites the business owners to the party for the show, which will be taking place today.

Berman's larger pieces, though, are group efforts.

"I'm trying to find ways to build community," Berman says. He sketches a scene of the street with markers, leaving blank spaces for windows, and asks people on the street to draw self-portraits that get collaged into the work. The effect is interesting; from a distance the drawing looks as if it were done by one hand, but a closer look reveals the variety of styles.

In other instances, even the paintings done by Berman are the work of many minds. In "A More Green Market Street," for instance, Berman asked people to tell him what they thought a "more green" Market Street would look like. He incorporated their ideas -- a canal instead of a paved thoroughfare, palm trees dotting the sidewalks, a rope swing. It looks sort of like the Russian River meets Hawaii.

Berman is committed to making art that doesn't just reflect the vision of the artist -- it reflects the thoughts of the community. If people buy his drawings, he gives a portion of the price to a relevant charity.

And the community appears to appreciate his efforts. When he finished sketching the inside of Donut World at Sixth and Market, he took a piece of paper out of his bag and brought it to the woman behind the glass counter. It was a letter explaining the work, giving the address of the gallery and inviting the owners to the party on today .

There was a moment of confusion as the woman took the piece of paper, but Berman persevered, showing her his drawing. She smiled, gesturing to the woman to her right. "It looks just like my doughnut shop!" Berman smiled back. It was a small, nice moment, in a string of small, nice moments in Berman's interactions with neighborhood folks.

Party at 5:30 p.m. today with live music, art making and pizza. D.A. Arts Gallery, 135 Sixth St., S.F. www.theartdontstop.org.

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