'Living Memory' exhibit offers real-time portraits of Tenderloin people, places and faces

A new interactive exhibit at the Tenderloin Museum, opening this week, will combine portraits of neighborhood residents with cartography and dance to create a living picture of life in the Tenderloin. 

The exhibit, Living Memory in the TL, comes from artist Deirdre Weinberg, who got the idea when she was contributing to a recent Tenderloin-wide community art project, painting the neighborhood’s garbage cans and utility boxes.

As she worked on her installation, a passer-by was so impressed by her art that she stopped and asked if Weinberg could do a portrait for her. Weinberg used the cardboard she was sitting on to quickly sketch an ad-hoc portrait.

The experience influenced her new work, which will incorporate Weinberg's small portraits of neighborhood people, places and scenes into a street map of the Tenderloin.

It will open with a set of portraits she has already created, with others added over the course of a nearly two-month residency at the Tenderloin Museum. 

An art wrap installation at Leavenworth and Eddy streets. | Photo: The Tenderloin Museum

Weinberg has lived and worked in San Francisco for over 25 years; her art portfolio ranges from small sketches to large-scale, intricate murals. 

She said the exhibit and its design has been a truly collaborative effort with the Tenderloin Museum staff, including executive director Katie Conry and communications coordinator Alex Spoto. 

While she notes that “galleries are always very helpful and responsive,” she says that the collaboration she’s had with the museum is more familiar, because she has a history of working on murals with other artists or even community members. “I’d actually rather work that way."

Weinberg installing her map and initial portraits ahead of Thursday's opening event.

Living Memory in the TL will open this Thursday, October 4, in conjunction with the Lower Polk/Tenderloin First Thursday art walk. It will be also be a part of the Tenderloin weekend of ArtSpanSF Open Studios 2018, from October 13-14. The annual event opens galleries across San Francisco over the course of six weekends to showcase emerging artists and their work. 

At both events, Weinberg will be on-site, sketching portraits to add to what she calls an "evolving" exhibit. Anyone whose portrait Weinberg completes and includes in the exhibit will be able to claim it once the exhibit closes in November. 

Although Weinberg has participated in SF Open Studios three times before, this is the first time she has done such an interactive exhibit, she said. 

The existing sketches and portraits that Weinberg will combine with new ones throughout the exhibit.

To complement Weinberg's exhibit, Chlo & Co Dance is developing a complementary community event and performance called The Drove V.

The theme of the performance will be “preservation,” which "serves as the conceptual entry point to Weinberg’s visual investigations of memory and representation as (im)perfect modes of preservation," according to the company. It will be showcased at the Tenderloin Museum on November 2 and 3, with Weinberg's exhibit closing on November 29.

To learn more about the artists, studios and businesses taking part and this Thursday's art walk, visit the First Thursday Art Walk site. For more about the other Tenderloin locations participating in the ArtSpanSF Open Studios 2018 events, go here.

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Living memory exhibit offers real time portraits of tenderloin people places and faces