Massive mural planned for Tenderloin aims to make Monarch butterflies "impossible to ignore"

Massive mural planned for Tenderloin aims to make Monarch butterflies "impossible to ignore"Rendering of the mural at 455 Hyde St. from O'Farrell Street | Images courtesy of Ink Dwell
Carrie Sisto
Published on October 02, 2019

Bay Area art studio Ink Dwell is installing a new, massive monarch mural in the Tenderloin starting this week.

Jane Kim, Thayer Walker and their Ink Dwell partners have installed similar murals at eight other locations across the country in an effort to raise awareness about the declining monarch butterfly population. Their new work in the Tenderloin, which will span three sides of the building at 455 Hyde St., will be their largest one yet, according to Kim.

Rendering of the mural looking west from Hyde Street 

In 2017 Eric Rodenbeck, founder of Stamen Design, reached out to Ink Dwell about bringing its Migrating Mural project to the corner of 16th and Mission, where Stamen is located.

“We couldn’t find a cooperative building owner” in the area, said Walker, so “the project kind of went into hibernation."  

Upon the news that the monarch population declined more than 85 percent in California during the 2018 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, relative to the same count in 2017, Ink Dwell reached out to Rodenbeck again, who suggested the studio look for a site in the Tenderloin, where he lives.  

Kim said she has a soft spot in her heart for the Tenderloin, having lived near the intersection of Jones and Geary for four years when she first moved to the Bay Area in 2003. 

The team saw a promising wall at 735 O’Farrell St., which was smaller, but visible. Walker tracked down the marketing department of real estate investment firm Veritas, which owns and operates a number of buildings across the city, about potentially installing a mural on that site.

“They surprisingly got back to me in about 36 hours, and loved the idea,” Walker said. But when the Ink Dwell team went to pitch the project to Veritas’ executives, they suggested a much larger canvas for the mural.

Rendering of the 455 Hyde mural looking north from Hyde Street

The 44-unit, 11-story apartment building near the intersection with O’Farrell Street was already in line for some exterior improvements, including a new paint job, so it was a very suitable canvas for the project, Veritas spokesperson Ron Heckmann told us. 

Compared to its neighboring buildings, 455 Hyde is quite tall, and visible from a quite a long distance, he added. 

Ink Dwell’s Migrating Mural project is part of an ongoing effort to increase awareness of wildlife migration corridors, with a current focus on monarch butterflies, which are found throughout the U.S. and have multi-generational migrations from Canada down to Mexico. 

Statistics on monarch migration from the Xerces Society

But the effort doesn’t end at public art. Ink Dwell and its conservation partner, the Xerces Society, work with communities to provide information and educational materials about the butterflies’ migration and the current population declines for pollinators and other invertebrates.

The Xerces Society is partnering with Veritas in its efforts to increase habitat conservation work in some nearby Tenderloin parks, Walker said.   

455 Hyde has a small backyard, and Veritas is exploring some neighborhood partnerships to do one or more community planting projects to attract and provide habitat for butterflies and other pollinators, Heckmann said.  

Ink Dwell will also be painting 455 Hyde St.' s entryway and garage door

Many of Ink Dwell’s other monarch mural locations have installed some sort of planting project nearby to re-develop monarch habitat, Kim said. 

“It really doesn't take much space or planting to create a new habitat,” she said. Spaces as small as roof gardens or corners in a public park have the ability to revive a pollinator habitat. 

Even in urban areas that may not be able to support larger wildlife species, any efforts to increase pollinator habitat helps strengthen the whole ecosystem, Walker added. 

Ink Dwell’s goal is to make “monarchs and other pollinators, which are creatures that are easy to overlook, impossible to ignore,” Walker said. Kim said the team strives to make their art as reflective of true science as possible, receiving guidance from the Xerces Society and modifying their designs when necessary. 

Statistics on monarch population decline from the Xerces Society as illustrated by Ink Dwell

Rodenbeck provided some seed funding for the project through a discretionary grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, where he sits on the board, and Veritas is helping defray some of the costs, as are a couple of other contributing foundations, Walker said. 

Outdoor SF, an annual fundraiser and gathering for the Bay Area's outdoor industry, is also contributing its proceedings this year to the Xerces Society, which will help support the project as well, he added.

Ink Dwell recently completed a Migrating Mural on Howard Street near 5th | Photo: Carrie SIsto/Hoodline

The Ink Dwell team, which will this time consist of ten other female muralists along with Kim, aims to complete the Hyde Street installation before the end of the year. You can see their most recently completed Migrating Mural in San Francisco at Howard and 5th streets in SoMa.