Exploring South of Market, you discover a surprising number of fun works of art and architecture in this urban neighborhood. Here’s a walking tour that will let you experience many of the area’s most dynamic art works and tell you a little about local history.
Starting from California Institute of Integral Studies, (CIIS) 1453 Mission Street between 10th and 11th Streets: head west on Mission Street till you come to 11th Street. Make a left on 11th Street and follow that till you come to the corner of 11th Street and Folsom Street. At the southeast corner, you’ll see Basil Canteen Restaurant (a fantastic Thai place, by the way!). Just to the left of that restaurant is a little alley with brick buildings, formerly a brewery. Old brick is a rarity in this city where earthquakes often prevent building with that material. Walk down the alley and enjoy the masonry, signs, and iron fixtures.
Head east on Folsom Street toward 10th Street. At 10th Street, go north, back towards Mission. Stay on the left (west) side of 10th Street till you get to Children’s Village Child Development Center at 250 10th Street. Outside there’s a gorgeous mosaic mural done by the kids at this daycare center under the guidance of Josef Norris. Norris is a skilled mosaicist who is best known for his mural on the Performing Arts Garage on Gough Street. The children’s mosaic uses a similar and striking technique of outlining figures in mirror fragments.
At the corner of 10th Street and Howard is St. Joseph’s Church, a boarded-up structure that still has attractive fixtures and stonework, and gilded domes atop its towers.
Turn right on Howard Street and head east till you get to 8th Street. There, turn north (toward Mission Street) till you get to CIIS’s Minna Center at 695 Minna Street. Make a right on Minna and head east toward 7th Street. On your right you will see a store called General Bead at 637 Minna (closed Mondays). Go in and check out their amazing collection of beads and other items. The store has 30,000 different kinds of beads from all over the world, as well as four classic pinball machines in working order.
Continue east on Minna Street, crossing 7th Street, till you get to the corner of Minna and Russ Street. At 551 Minna you’ll see the South of Market Health Center, decorated with life-size tile figures with words pressed into the tiles, all on the theme of friendship.
Right across Russ Street is Tutubi Children’s Park, a private playground belonging to the housing complex next door. Tutubi means “dragonfly” in Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines, reflecting South of Market’s strong Filipino heritage. The neighborhood was settled primarily by immigrants from Italy and Ireland, but in the 1950s and 60s more and more people arrived from the Philippines. The fence of Tutubi Children’s Park is lovingly decorated with metal figures depicting animals playing music and doing acrobatics. Next door, along the Russ Street side of the park, is a gorgeous rainbow mural of dragonflies made out of tiles by the artist Johanna Poething, who was raised in the Philippines. Each tile is different and a work of art in its own right.
Continue down Russ Street to Folsom Street, where you’ll come to Victoria Manalo Draves Park. This park is named for a local South of Market celebrity, the first Filipina to win a gold medal at the Olympics (1948, springboard and platform diving). The park is the site of an unusual series of metal sculptures by the late Irene Pijoan, a wonderful artist who died at the age of fifty-one shortly after she finished these works. The metal screens depict five nature scenes, beautifully rendered in ways that are surprisingly lush and fin-de-siècle for a monochrome in only two dimensions. The cut-outs cast lovely shadows on the nearby sidewalk when the sun shines through them.
Continue west on Folsom Street. Take Langton Street, a sweet little alley, and head north back toward Howard Street. At the corner of Langton Street and Howard Street is a delicious community garden, where there are actually chickens living South of Market. You can ask anyone inside to open the gate for you. Across Howard Street is another fine example of Art Deco architecture at number 1130.
If you continue on Howard Street to 7th Street and turn north on 7th (head back toward Mission Street, and stay on the east side of the street), you’ll see the Westbay Pilipino Multi-Service Center at 175 7th Street at the corner of Natoma Street. The center provides services to youth, veterans, and families. On the outside of the building is a colorful tile mural, a frieze decorated with words pressed into the artwork.
That’s it. Hope you enjoyed your tour. These are my favorites of the neighborhood’s artworks.