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Tenderloin Museum offers outlet to quarantined artists with virtual group show

By Carrie Sisto - Published on May 01, 2020.

Closed to the public by the shelter-in-place order, the Tenderloin Museum has had to forestall art shows and art-centric fundraisers for the foreseeable future. 

But while artists and their supporters may not be able to hobnob at an opening, the museum is using the COVID-19 crisis to open some new doors for spotlighting artwork online. 

“I was hearing from many artists how important it was for them to both make and share new work right now," said museum director Katie Conry.

In response, the museum has launched "Shelter in Place," an Instagram gallery that spotlights a new artist every weekday.

The gallery features a variety of disciplines, including video art, dance, music, poetry, photography, illustration, and linocuts. Each post includes links to support the artists individually, as well as to purchase a Tenderloin Museum membership that will offer 18 months of access to the museum's events and shows after the shelter-in-place is lifted. 

The Tenderloin Museum's Eddy Street location is closed, but new content is posted on its social media sites daily | Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

Many of the artists have exhibited work at the Tenderloin Museum in the past, and are part of its “creative community,” Conry said. "The idea for the show really came from the artists themselves."

Singer/songwriter Sarah Wilson, one of the featured artists, was already working on a project with the Tenderloin Museum to collect and present written work from Larkin Street Youth Services' clients.

The digital exhibition was “a natural segue to work with Katie to submit some informal music videos I’ve been posting… to cope with the pandemic,” said Wilson, who's lost much of her income from music-making and museum exhibition development.

Posted on April 7, Wilson's featured video is a cover of Stephen Foster’s song "Hard Times Come Again No More," which centers on considering the needs of the less fortunate.

“As soon as I started singing it during [shelter-in-place], I started crying at the lyrics," Wilson said. "I felt so strongly that I wanted to be singing this song."

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Jazz composer, trumpet player, and singer-songwriter Sarah Wilson usually writes original compositions. But to cope with shelter in place, she's singing a lot of covers. Hard Times Come Again No More, a song written in 1854 by Steven Foster, only felt natural to cover during a period of indefinite isolation. A song she typically sang with her friends, Wilson associates Hard Times Come Again No More with camaraderie—and simpler times. “It’s music that’s played with friends on the porch, it’s about community,” she says. An escape from the current reality, Sarah believes that playing music—and sharing it online—has the capacity to help artists emotionally transcend the current circumstances. Wilson is no stranger to unifying communities through music. For TLM’s fifth annniversary, she’s composing “Tenderloin Voices,” a jazz/pop opera inspired by the Tenderloin neighborhood. Collaborating with Tenderloin residents and clients from Larkin Street Youth, the project brings personal stories to life through writing workshops and public musical performances. Supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the @fleishhacker_foundation, the TLM-produced performance, which was originally scheduled for June, has been postponed due to Covid. Stay tuned for updates on a new performance date. To learn more about Sarah, check out her website, www.sarahwilsonmusic.com; to provide support, you can donate to her via Paypal at [email protected] #supportbayareamusicians #shelterinplace #shelterinplacetlm #sanfrancisco

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Another featured artist, Los Angeles-based Rafael Cardenas, had already committed to taking a photo a day throughout 2020

After learning about the Tenderloin Museum's virtual gallery through a friend, he decided to submit five photos highlighting the uncertainty and loneliness of the pandemic, which were posted on April 15.

“Creating art makes you feel productive and in a peripheral way like you are contributing to the world, even during all this,” Cardenas said. “Sharing art always makes you feel less alone.” 

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For self-taught photographer Rafael Cardenas, 2020 was the year he decided he would take a photo every day for 365 days. Little did he know that he would end up at an unprecedented crossroads once lockdown went into effect. “I asked myself, should I stop doing the photo-of-the-day thing? No, I need to continue. A lot of artists need to continually have the outlet. If we’re not doing what we do, it gets worse.” At first, the street photographer was so frightened by the circumstances, he first started shooting from his window and from the passenger seat of his car. “I’m being cautious,” he says. But he’s still motivated to continue. "In my lifetime, I’ve experienced people dying, and things happening around me, political turmoil, but you have to work through it with your art. Artists, we take our emotions and try to put it into the work that we do.” ▫️ To view more of Rafael’s ongoing photo-a-day project and purchase prints, check him out here: ▫️ Website: www.rafa.la IG: @rafa.la Venmo: rafa-la #contemporaryartists #caphotographers #streetphotography #shelterinplacetlm

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Illustrator Rea Lynn de Guzman held a show at the Tenderloin Museum in 2017, called "TL Dreams." After Conry reached out to her, she submitted a still life to the exhibition. Posted on April 29, it depicts a bouquet of flowers de Guzman purchased to cheer herself up.

De Guzman is also hosting online art classes and curating a virtual exhibition of her own, which she's titled "Wander Woman 2."

"Maintaining ...social connections with friends, family, allies, artists, and the community is important to me" during the pandemic, she said. "[The] art classes have been therapeutic for myself and my students."

Once the pandemic is over, the Tenderloin Museum hopes to host "Shelter in Place" in the real world as an on-site exhibition, or potentially publish the works in a zine or book. On May 26, some of the participating artists will participate in an at-home "open studios" event.

“I think this show has the potential to be a time capsule of this moment in history,” Conry said. 

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