Andy René Tran
Apr 14, 2017 · 4 min read

Coming Clean: SF is a pilot program and first time collaboration between Fouladi Projects + Lava Mae. It’s based on a shared belief that art — as a cultural tool — has the capacity to elicit a “visceral, almost cellular reaction in a way information cannot,” challenging us to push beyond the stereotypes that frame our current perceptions.

Did you know?
Lava Mae repurposes retired transportation buses into showers and toilets on wheels to deliver hygiene and restore dignity among homeless in San Francisco.

Our goal with Coming Clean: SF is to experiment with and understand how artistic insight could be a useful tool in shifting the broader community’s relationship with people moving through homelessness — from ‘other’ to empathy, from distant to engaged.

Lava Mae’s work on the streets — with our guests and volunteers — has reinforced that building this bridge is critical to strengthening resilience and creating a more vital city for all,“ said Lava Mae Founder and CEO Doniece Sandoval. “We invite new audiences who may have different perspectives, along with our existing community of supporters, to participate in Coming Clean: SF so we may all learn from each other as we iterate on this pilot program.”


The work of featured artists Amy Wilson Faville, Elizabeth Lo, Danielle Nelson Mourning, Joel Daniel Phillips, Ramekon O’Arwisters, Yon Sim, Kathryn Spence, and SOUND MADE PUBLIC’s Philip Wood and Tania Ketenjian invites us to look a little closer, listen, imagine not having a place to call home — evoking a deeper view and a greater connection to our shared humanity.


It started with one woman, homeless in San Francisco, crying that she would never be clean.

Our founder, Doniece Sandoval heard her cries. Those words, a desire to help those experiencing homelessness, and a crazy obsession with the mobile food truck movement set in motion what eventually became Lava Mae. Started by private citizens who believe that access to showers and toilets shouldn’t be a luxury, Lava Mae seeks to serve those who lack access to what should be basic human rights — showers and sanitation.

Lava Mae launched its mobile hygiene service in June of 2014 and has since provided 14,000+ showers to 2,400 people moving through homelessness, inspired replication of our hygiene services, and dramatically raised awareness about the lack of access to showers and basic hygiene across the U.S. and around the globe.

Brice: It seems that you are using art to bridge the gap between the homeless and people that aren’t so comfortable around the homeless population… What do you think about this kind of art being powerful in communicating these ideas…

Doniece: Yes, art is an incredibly powerful tool. Look at public artists like Banksy, that is making social commentary and placing provactive pieces in our environment and causing people to talk about them. It’s to create a conversation.

Our whole goal is to have a conversation, a different conversation. Like the shopping carts in the exhibit and the artists intending to communicate that
peoples belongings, whether housed or unhoused are truly beautiful. She chose to represent it (the shopping carts) in that way in the exhibit. You’d walk up to a shopping cart, view it’s belongings, and view it and homelessness differently.

Art is an incredible tool. To help shift the conversation and change perceptions. To discuss new ideas, open up conversation, and explore different concepts in a safe environment.

An important question to ask is, can we, as a nonprofit, effectively help shift perceptions and conversations through art?

*Edited for clarity and length

Andy René Tran

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SF Arts and Technology | Contact me:

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