Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Arts & Culture
Published on September 17, 2021
Local artist shows Muni transfer-inspired works in the HaightImage via Optimist Williams/Instagram

San Francisco artist Optimist Williams says he grew up decorating his Trapper Keepers with paper Muni transfers, and using the now defunct tickets to record little memories, like scraps in a diary. Now he has an exhibit of works all based around Muni transfers, called "Ticket to Ride," on view through October 10 at the gallery inside the RVCA store at 1485 Haight Street.

"Muni used to be the ultimate equalizer. Everyone took the bus: businessmen, homeless people, skateboarders, artists, when I was a kid,” says Williams, speaking to The Examiner about the show. “After all, Muni means comMUNIty.”

Like many SF natives and longtime residents, Williams is nostalgic for the "pre-tech" era of the city, and he wants people to remember that era through his work.

The pieces in the show include 56 enlarged renderings of Muni transfers, some several feet tall, inscribed with the handwritten names of notable San Franciscans like Carol Doda, OJ Simpson, and Gavin Newsom — written on dated transfers corresponding with their birthdays. Other works include collage-like pieces, like the one below, which Williams says is "A tribute to some of the people that helped create the vibe that once was San Francisco."

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Optimist 🇮🇪 (@optimistwilliams)


"For San Franciscans there is no more iconic artifact than the MUNI transfer," Williams says in an announcement about the show. "It has been consistent in the life of locals since the inception of MUNI in 1912 and lasted more than a century until its discontinuation in 2017. This collection pays homage to the sons and daughters of San Francisco who built the foundations and the culture of our city by the bay. Each transfer highlights the birthdate of a San Francisco icon."

"As we pay tribute to these trailblazers, let us also feel inspired to leave our own mark on San Francisco. In the words of Herb Caen, 'San Francisco ain’t what it used to be... And it never was.'”

The gallery where you'll see "Ticket to Ride," a four-walled space at the back of the RVCA shop, has been a part of the store since it opened as the company's flagship in 2007.

"The art here — it’s always going to be this crazy, abstract art that says something about California," says gallery and store manager Dylan Moon, speaking the Examiner. Moon says he helped Williams select some of the names featured on the Muni transfers in the show.

The exhibit is sponsored by cannabis company Sunset Connect, along with canned water company Liquid Death, seltzer brand Tolago, and the arts nonprofit Value Culture.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Optimist 🇮🇪 (@optimistwilliams)