the urbanist: san francisco

How to Explore the Dogpatch, San Francisco’s Artsiest Neighborhood

Pier 70 in the Dogpatch Photo: Dale Cruse/CC BY 2.0

The Dogpatch, a former industrial area with ties to the shipping industry and slaughterhouses (packs of wild dogs once roamed the streets, hence the name), is now home to a groundswell of artistic expression. Affordable rents and studio spaces drew writers, metal fabricators, painters, and gallerists to the neighborhood, but rapid development also means those rents are quickly rising. And yet the Dogpatch has (so far) retained its neighborhood feel, says Lisa Ellsworth, the creative manager at the Dogpatch-based Workshop Residence, a studio/shop that works with international artists and designers and Bay Area manufacturers to make and sell functional goods like brooms, candle holders, and furniture. Join us as she guides us through the highlights of her neighborhood and the surrounding areas.

Make the art rounds

Romer Young Gallery Photo: Courtesy of Romer Young Gallery/Art by Pamela Jorden

Romer Young Gallery
“They’ve been here since 2005, but are off the beaten path, just west of the Dogpatch. They have a strong conceptual program, featuring established, midcareer artists as well as emerging artists, both national and international. Joey Piziali and Vanessa Blaikie run it. Joey is a painter’s painter. They are best known for presenting formally strong paintings — recent shows by Pamela Jorden and Evan Nesbit come to mind — though their program isn’t limited to painters. Nesbit’s show included a series of paintings made by digitally printing imagery onto vinyl mesh fabric, painting atop that, and then pressing paint through perforations in the back of the stretched material. Think of garlic [pushed through] a press. It’s always fun to creep down the hall and into the office, where you can see earlier works by some of the represented artists and what Joey has hanging above his desk: artwork-in-process by Joey and Vanessa’s kids, both of whom grew up in the gallery.”

Guerrero Gallery
“This gallery in Bayview, just south of the Dogpatch, is extremely spacious with high ceilings. Andres Guerrero, who runs it, shares the space with a landscape design business. To reach the doorway, you walk down a gravel footpath flanked with terracotta planters and giant crystal clusters. And then when you step inside, you’re surrounded by plants — the experience is quite special. Andres does a good job of balancing group shows and solo shows, introducing artists whose work may be less familiar. He’s been at it for a long time now. He doesn’t shy away from art that engages social, cultural, and political concerns either. Right now there’s a show by painter and sculptor Libby Black. Her work reflects her own experiences as a partner, a mother, and an activist. She made a great little gouache painting of herself, standing alongside her wife and son, based on a photo taken at the Women’s March in New York in 2017.”

Hunt Projects Photo: Courtesy of Hunt Projects

Hunt Projects
“Five or six different fabricators and artists operate here and have space where they present work. Charlie Leese, a metal fabricator, and Kerri Conlon, a sculptor, run it. Hannah Beatrice Quinn, a broom maker with whom we’ve worked, operates out of that space as well. She now has a full line of brooms, hearth brooms, hand brooms, dustpans, upright dust pans. Charlie has work up right now at Southern Exposure in the Mission. He makes steel sculptures suggestive of architectural forms or functional systems. They might be masquerading as fire hydrants or pumps, but they don’t perform utilitarian functions. I truly appreciate his wit.”

UCSF Mission Bay
“The UCSF Medical Center just north [of us] at Mission Bay boasts a collection of commissioned art, most of which is publicly accessible in lobby areas. There’s work by about 20 or so artists, everyone from Jim Isermann, who did a chandelier project, to local artists like Kota Ezawa, who has some light boxes there. You’ve got folks like Jean Lowe, Ari Marcopoulos, and a number of others. There’s some work installed outdoors on campus, too. Richard Serra’s massive, multi-ton steel sculpture [Ballast] is hard not to notice, and fun to ride past on bikes.”

Minnesota Street Project Photo: Phil Bond Photography/Courtesy of Minnesota Street Project

Minnesota Street Project
“I spend a lot of time here. It’s a big building, designed by architect Mark Jensen, that houses multiple galleries. Bass & Reiner operates out of the smallest gallery. They seem to embrace it, inviting exhibiting artists to produce a limited number of small-scale art objects, which they sell in addition to each of the larger works on view. Highlights of the past year, for me, included Sean McFarland’s photography exhibition at Casemore Kirkeby. It included 10 years of Polaroids, cyanotypes, image transfers, and other techniques for visual recording. Minnesota Street Project is fun when there’s an event; it can house hundreds of people. The space is most impressive when teeming, because it was designed for visitors to flow through and see art while others sit on amphitheater seats or lean over the balconies. They host panels, talks, and openings, of course! Southern Exposure, which is a nonprofit art organization in the Mission, just hosted their annual art auction there. I’m especially looking forward to the SF Art Book Fair in July.”

Hit up the shops

Bryr Clogs at the American Industrial Center Photo: Brian Flaherty/Courtesy of Bryr Studio

American Industrial Center
“The American Industrial Center has a bunch of studio spaces that are home to photographers, artists, illustrators, and writers. The California College of the Arts grad studios is moving there in the fall. And then on the street level, there are mostly retail shops [that fall] on the design end of the spectrum. Bryr Clogs, which makes clogs by hand, is there. Baggu, a local bag manufacturer, moved [their headquarters] there. There’s also Small Works, around the corner, run by Andrew Berg. They do custom framing.”

“This is a teeny-tiny shop directly next store to Workshop Residence. Entering the shop feels like entering a private room in someone’s house. Hugomento sells a collection of both vintage and contemporary porcelain and ceramic pieces. You’ll find intricately detailed clamshell boxes by the local ceramic artist Andrew Dewitt, slab ceramic work by French potter David Marchandise, and canisters from San Francisco’s Len Carella lining the shelves. ”

Modern Appealing Clothing
“MAC’s Dogpatch location is in the same building as Workshop Residence. They do an incredible job of buying independent clothing designers, as well as designers such as Comme des Garçons and Walter Van Beirendonck. There’s also art interspersed throughout, like a massive Vincent Jackson painting of a figure, which appears to be peering over a clothes rack. [Owners] Chris and Ben Ospital, a sister-brother duo who have been in business as a family for over 35 years, are extraordinarily generous people and you feel that when you walk in the door. They appreciate craftsmanship and fabrics and they won’t sell you anything unless it looks fabulous on you and is within your budget. I mean it. They’re good that way. One of my favorite purchases from Chris and Ben is a pair of extra large Dries Van Noten men’s knitwear shorts that fit me like pants.”

Take a sugar break

Recchiuti Confections Photo: Courtesy of Recchiuti Confections

Recchiuti Confections
“I love that this chocolate shop partners every year with Creativity Explored, which offers studio space for artists with developmental disabilities. The [current] collaboration involves studio artist Lance Rivers, who makes detailed illustrations of buildings, bridges, tunnels, and trains. Lance rendered different San Francisco landmarks, which are transferred onto burnt-caramel truffles and sold as a boxed set at their cafe in the Dogpatch. [There’s also a location in the Ferry building on the Embarcadero.]”

Leave with an experimental fade

Dogpatch Barber & Shave North Photo: Nathaniel Daví Reyes/Courtesy of Dogpatch Barber & Shave

Dogpatch Barber & Shave North 
“Go here if you want art on the side of your head. They do amazing work with shears. I’ve seen some unique designs, such as San Francisco-specific landscapes and Warriors logos. And certainly I’ve seen some interesting fades. One of the servers at a local restaurant I frequent got a great short crop with an [abstract] pattern shaved into the side that reminded me of Tauba Auerbach’s work.”

Inside the Dogpatch, San Francisco’s Artsiest Neighborhood