On a cool, breezy summer evening, music emanates from the middle of the block on 18th Street, steps away from Dolores Park. The lovely voice of a woman summons, rather easily, others to a delightful space. Stepping inside, there are vibrant and colorful drawings of sweet breads and cakes adorning the walls. The music that lured people in is just as intoxicating as the wine and food served. A songstress taps at an upside-down metal bucket fashioned into a stringed instrument while singing with perfect key and timing. Looking around, the tables are filled with people and food. One of the chefs for the event walks over with sushi wrapped in nori with intricate laser-cut patterning. Sitting down on one of the benches and with possibly the freshest ceviche ever made, it was hard not to feel captivated by the warmth and uniqueness of the space—not your average closing art exhibition. Yet, this is the constant environment and ambiance found at nonprofit organization 18 Reasons.
In 2007, Bi-Rite Market took over the space formerly known as Blue Space from founders Cliff Leonardi and Dan DiPasquo. Paying homage to the iconic San Francisco 17 Reasons sign that served as a part of the Mission District skyscape, Bi-Rite decided to rename the event and gallery space to 18 Reasons after its new home on 18th Street. Despite the bustling surroundings and wide array of eateries in the area, 18 Reasons unites an undeniable combination of art, community, and food. With the objective of creating community through food and art, the programming literally and figuratively caters to the diverse San Francisco community.
The multifaceted approach toward community engagement requires programming and interfacing with the public in ways that offer new perspectives to the community through the arts. Eighteen Reasons offers not only an exploration of food and cooking, but also a multitude of approaches that touch upon more complex issues. Art serves as a great vehicle for broaching real-world problems in relation to consumption and our overall relationship to food. Regarding the greater curatorial practice, 18 Reasons curator Casey Carroll elaborates on her vision of the space as a gallery: “Beyond encouraging pleasure and a deeper appreciation of food and those that produce it (both the environment and our farmers), my vision is to push the envelope and encourage open dialogue that addresses some of the rougher sides of food: commodification, labor infringements, animal abuse, poor nutrition, hunger, and beyond.” Carroll adds that “each art show is tailored to the individual artist and the concept or vision that guides their work. What sets our programming and curating at 18 Reasons apart is that the art on the walls never stands alone. The programming that surrounds each display showcases its interconnection and interdependence with the culinary arts and social practice.”
Lastly, the art programming at 18 Reasons entails the Bathroom Residency. Yes, it is exactly what you think. The yearlong artist residency allows for an artist to create artworks for the 18 Reasons restroom. Believe it or not, this takes an incredible amount of innovation and strategic thinking around how to utilize the space. Granted, many restrooms have some sort of decorative artworks, but these residents make using the space an unforgettable experience. Carroll describes the Bathroom Residency as “the second piece in a long-term project entitled The Residencies, which launched in 2009 during Julie Kahn’s stay at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Julie decided to take over our bathroom for the year and install amazing works of art that ranged from Eucalyptus branches springing out of the wall to laser-cut nori. Julie wanted to stay true to our roots and make the residency feel seasonal, which is why each artist has four different installations over the course of the year.”
Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine + Gallery site, please view here