Art Installation 'Castro Street Seen' Showcases Neighborhood's History On Vacant Storefront Windows

Art Installation 'Castro Street Seen' Showcases Neighborhood's History On Vacant Storefront WindowsPhoto: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
Steven Bracco
Published on June 22, 2023

Just in time for Pride, a new art exhibit was installed on the windows outside the former restaurant and bar Harvey's and smoke shop Puff 'n Stuff at 18th and Castro streets.

Castro Street Seen is a photo exhibit highlighting the neighborhood's history through photos on vacant storefront windows. The art exhibit was installed over the weekend.

The project was started by Castro resident and designer Pete Betancourt and realtor Jonathan Deason.

From left to right: Jonathan Deason, David Michaels, Pete Betancourt, Matt Delco, Edward Castellanos, and Patrick Fagan. | Photo courtesy of Jonathan Deason


"Castro Street Seen is a project revitalizing our community with bold installations of our LGBTQ+ history," its website explains. "Powerful visions of the past—researched, restored and curated—into an immersive exhibition of historic street photography from the Castro."

"Each installation is thoughtfully curated with site-specific images celebrating our diverse cultural legacy," the website explains.

The current installation at Harvey's is made up of 11 curated photos by photographer Crawford Barton. Barton was a leading photographer capturing San Francisco's openly gay culture from the 1960s to the 1980s. The photos are licensed through the GLBT Historical Society.

Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline


Photos in the exhibit include former San Francisco Supervisor and LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk, LGBTQ icon and disco legend Sylvester, The Cockettes performer Pristine Condition, the Castro Street Fair in its earliest years, and Barton's iconic image of two men kissing each other on the steps of the former Paperback Traffic Bookstore.

Betancourt says that he's hopeful this project can be expanded to a variety of vacant and active storefronts throughout the neighborhood.

"This is a pilot launch for a pop-up art installation," said Betancourt. "We’re hoping it will grow and receive funding to help us achieve our overall vision."

"The concept for this project is meant to be organic and help fill a gap to help activate our sidewalks," added Betancourt. "We’re just trying to do one small part to help the community."

Betancourt tells Hoodline that the exhibit will be up "until the space is occupied or any renovation is complete."

View of Castro Street Seen from inside the former Harvey's. | Photo courtesy of Pete Betancourt


Listing agent Steven Gerry did not respond to Hoodline's request for comment on the status of the space.

Deason tells Hoodline the project is fiscally sponsored by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District. Deason added that the project is mostly self-funded at this time and is accepting donations.

"When Pete told me about his idea for Castro St. Seen, it sounded cool and an interesting way to activate the neighborhood," said Castro CBD executive director Andrea Aiello. "But, the implementation of his project at the old Harvey’s location is stunning, more incredible than I had imagined."

"I am sure as word spreads, Castro St. Seen will bring people into the neighborhood and help activate the Castro," added Aiello