Community Spirit Fuels SoMa Gallery's Post-Halloween Party

On November 3rd, SoMa gallery Heron Arts is throwing a block party to celebrate a post-Halloween art installation.

Dennis McNett (AKA Wolfbat) will take over the gallery with depictions of massive, mythical creatures in psychedelic landscapes. In the alley, metal group High on Fire will perform music that aligns with Wolfbat's "visual conjuring," as the band describes it.

"Once a year or so, we pull street closure permits and host a larger block party, combining art exhibition with musical performance," said Heron Arts owner Mark Slee.

"Hallowolfbat is this year's edition. We are going to have some incredible artwork from Dennis McNett, aka Wolfbat," said Slee. "Dennis makes seriously impressive large-scale installations, with dark thematic elements and an incredible level of detail."

Dennis McNett, aka Wolfbat, and one of his creatures. | Photo: David-Elijah Nahmod

"Wolfbat will pair super-well with a musical lineup headlined by Oakland heavy metal power trio High on Fire, with a full stage build-out in the alley," Slee added. "The whole thing will be an intense aesthetic extravaganza, and the timing with Halloween couldn't be more perfect."

Slee, who in 2015 spoke to Hoodline about his background as a music producer and DJ, doesn't offer artists formal representation like traditional galleries, which provide marketing and consultation services in exchange for a cut of sales.

"Our main offering is the space and the community that we are building around it," said Slee.

"Sometimes we offer additional support on a show-by-show basis, helping with installation or production depending upon what the specific needs are. We don't really have a specific formula for our shows, so we're always open to new ideas on how to work with artists. "

Installing Wolfbat's exhibition at Heron Arts. | Photo: David-Elijah Nahmod/Hoodline

Slee, a former software engineer, founded Heron Arts in 2013 "out of a desire to support the arts and creative communities in San Francisco," he said. "Heavily involved" in producing underground dance parties as a DJ and organizer since 2008, he's long had an interest in "events and transforming spaces."

Co-workers Noah Antieau and Tova Lobatz help Slee manage Heron Arts. Antieau founded New Orleans' Red Truck Gallery and curates major arts shows, while Lobatz is a longtime city resident and former gallery director.

"The two are a dynamic duo with a broad view of lots of different artists and styles, plus a flair for unconventional presentation," said Slee, who described the duo as the brains behind the gallery's Exhibition series. 

Heron Arts' courtyard. | PHOTO: David-Elijah Nahmod/HOODLINE

Exhibition is one of three series offered by Heron Arts.

"The Community series is more focused on the local arts scene, in which we hand over the reins to local artists and curators, hosting pop-up shows that showcase what different groups are doing," Slee said.

"The final component of our programming is the Culture series, in which we collaborate with outside partners to help sponsor or showcase larger productions in SF—typically this is for more rare, special events that happen outside of our venue."

Slee's own dedication to the arts was born out of his life in the tech world, which he feels is stifling creativity in the city. "I think San Francisco has obviously been suffering with the tech-gentrification narrative for quite some time now," he said, adding that he remains hopeful the city can remain a creative hub.

"It's admittedly hard to say whether one space like Heron can make much of a difference, and to be honest, I think the San Francisco tide is still shifting away from the arts," he said.

"But on the flip side, there are many people here that appreciate creativity and have a thirst for different types of experiences. It's very satisfying to see those people get in a room together and experience a show."

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Community spirit fuels soma gallery s post halloween party