How Public Art Exposed Class Tensions in San Francisco — a series of conversations about art, class and race that emerged from “Block by Block,” a public art project.

The Entrepreneur in the Midst of a Changing Neighborhood

Reflections by D’Mond Hill, business owner of Full of Sweets Made With Lots of Love

D’Mond Hill in front of the The Hall. Credit: Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Hill’s Role: Hill grew up in San Francisco housing projects and has seen Market Street change. Now living in Oakland, he says he BARTed back to Market Street and “Block by Block” to sell cupcakes, a business he runs with his wife.

Read the series intro: How Public Art Exposed Class Tensions in San Francisco

D’Mond Hill’s Perspective

We started a cupcake business so I don’t have to take chances out here. It’s called Full of Sweets Made With Lots of Love. We had 96 flavors: Snickers, cotton candy, chocolate M&Ms, piña colada…a dollar a cupcake. Every time I came here, I sold out.

But you know, the bench [“Block by Block”] had good days and bad days. Sometimes the cops wouldn’t harass people. Sometimes that was the main focus: harass people from sitting on it. There wasn’t a lot of good of activity at the bench. But at the same time, some people just wanted to stop and have a seat.

The morning “Block by Block”was taken away, May 2016. Credit: Darryl Smith, Luggage Store Gallery

There was one young lady who’d come out to the bench and cry, and I asked, “What’s wrong?” She said that her husband tried to beat up on her and stuff, but he wouldn’t come to Market Street. It was a safe haven [for her] to come up on the bench. I saw her every day. When they took the bench, she was really hurt, and when they were moving, she said, “This is my safe haven!” It was kind of sad to see her in tears about them taking the bench away from us. They came and took it at 6:30 that morning.

When I was growing up, half these places weren’t here on Market Street. Now it’s art galleries and Zendesk.

Some of these stores that can come in should give people of the city — the people down here all the time — the opportunity to try to work in some of these establishments. That would keep some people satisfied…How could you build in somebody’s community and not try to have no one work there from that community?

They need to be more open [to hiring locals]: some of these people out here really need jobs.

From sitting on the bench, I met the people at The Hall, [the food court incubator next to the sculpture]. I asked, “Are you hiring?”

The Hall in San Francisco. Credit: Kenneth Rainin Foundation

[The Hall manager] Jay asked me a couple weeks before Pride to do security. Then he said that he’s going to open a new booth in a couple days, and is going to try us out and see how we work with it. It’s called Presto’s Pasta and Pizza. It’s a full-time job.

As for the bench, it was good that we had it; it’s good it’s not here now. Some people know how to appreciate things, and some people just want to tear things up.

This post is part of a series of conversations about art, class and race that emerged from “Block by Block,” a public art project.

Keep exploring and hear from the next stakeholder…

The Changemaker: Ilana Lipsett
The Gatekeeper:
Simon Bertrang
The Funder:
Shelley Trott
The Neighbor:
Wayne Shaw
The Guardian:
Darryl Smith
The Artist:
Marisha Farnsworth
The City Planners:
Paul Chasan and Neil Hrushowy

Where does the story begin?

How Public Art Exposed Class Tensions in San Francisco

What did we learn?

Insights From Our First Public Art Collaboration

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