It's been a decade since Jessica Silverman opened her first of two Tenderloin art galleries on a somewhat gritty corner of Sutter Street; San Francisco art lovers who remember the neighborhood pre-Liloliho Yacht Club may recall having felt very edgy and in the know (read: scared) arriving (most likely in an actual taxi) at the buzzy gallery du jour.
Ten years later, Silverman has made a name for herself on the arts scene and in the neighborhood—in 2014, she moved into a larger, shinier space at Ellis and Leavenworth; and in her stead have come concept fashion boutiques (Hero Shop), restaurants (Jane on Larkin, which, incidentally, serves a salad named for Silverman), and even a very stylish hotel (the Tilden).
But still, you might be thinking, remembering that time that gun shots rang out from a neighborhood shop, just as you were thinking that this gritty swath of the city was undergoing a renaissance. The TL is San Francisco's cultural underbelly.
It is and it's not. At the base of Nob Hill, coaxed between Union Square's posh shopping district and the opulent Beaux-Arts architecture of Civic Center, the Tenderloin was once a quintessential "old San Francisco" 'hood—a melting pot and hub for people with modest incomes, creative types, and jazz lovers who enjoyed communal-style living.
But in the early '80s, hell kind of broke loose. As tech companies burgeoned—redefining the middle class and driving up the cost of living—many outside the industry flooded the TL in search of affordable housing. As with any creative-hub-turned-impoverished-ghetto, violent crime followed soon afterward, trailed by drug dealing and rampant prostitution. The once charming neighborhood became pretty bleak.
But times they are a-changing—for the healthier, we think—and new development is imminent. We just hope that the area's artistic heritage—including its rich street murals—is there to stay.
Take our slideshow tour of some of the TL's most prominent street art, celebrating the 'hood's communal, creative, resiliant spirit.