San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week Street Scene N°3 ⟶ Handmade in the Mission

Mission District-bound PJ Gubatina Policarpio (@pjpolicarpio) is an educator, writer, curator, and community organizer. He is currently the manager of youth development at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. PJ has organized exhibitions, publications, and public programs at Southern Exposure, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Public Library, Asian Art Museum, Dixon Place, NURTUREart, and other unnameable spaces. Born in the Philippines, PJ lives and works between San Francisco and New York City.


Artillery AG recently organized a “Power to the People Clay Giveaway” to harness the collective power of creativity in response to California wildfires. Photo: Artillery AG  


9:10 a.m. To start the day, I go for coffee, usually a cappuccino at Atlas Cafe (3049 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @atlascafesf), a beloved neighborhood gathering place since the mid-90s. Another favorite is the ginger lemonade. Then I walk over to Artillery AG (2751 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @artilleryag) on Mission Street, a Latinx-owned creative gallery and studio founded by Iván Lopez (@ivcrk_) & Alexa Treviño (@lexmexart). A shape-shifting space, Artillery AG is currently home to a fully functional ceramics and photo studio (offering classes and access to both), as well as a plant and art shop, showcasing local artists and artisans. At the heart of Artillery AG is a creative community that is rooted and committed to Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and POC solidarity and justice. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed finding unique objects at the shop as well as getting to know the people behind the store. Artillery AG is currently organizing a fundraiser to continue opening its door in the Mission.

Adobe Books is hosting a 31 years in business, $31 pledge, $31K goal fundraiser to ride out the coronavirus shutdown. Photo: Adobe Books


12:30 p.m. For lunch in the Mission, you can’t go wrong with tacos, and for me, the best ones are from Taqueria Vallarta's taco bar (3033 24th. St. San Francisco, CA 93110 @taqueriavallarta), where they prepare the tacos by hand from a hot round plancha right in front of you! At $3 a taco, this is the best deal in the Mission. Across the street, I like to visit Adobe Books (3130 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @adobebookshop) affectionately known as “The Living Room of the Mission” to see what’s new and going on. This beloved Mission Street bookstore, open since 1989, counts local writers Rebecca Solnit and Eisen Tongo-Martin as regular customers. Adobe is also associated with The Mission School, exhibiting artists Chris Johanson (@chrisjohansonart), Alicia McCarthy (@helloforevor), and Barry McGee (@mcgee_archive) and cementing its place as an artistic, literary, and overall cultural hub for San Francisco.

Heyday Books recently published the coffee table book Maestrapeace: San Francisco’s Monumental Feminist Mural with a foreword by Angela Davis about the Maestrapeace mural at The Women’s Building on 18th street. Photo: Women’s Building


1:40 p.m. The best way to enjoy and get to know the Mission is on foot, especially after lunch! I love to walk around aimlessly and discover new sites and senses: a new (to me) mural, restaurant, shop, cafe, grocery, gallery, or whatever the space may be. For a more guided walking tour, I suggest starting at Precita Eyes Muralists (2981 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @precitaeyes) on 24th Street. For over 40 years, Precita Eyes has created and stewarded numerous mural projects and public artworks in the Mission district, making it one of the most vibrant and important spaces for the genre. Precita Eyes murals are celebrated for their strong artistic quality as well as their expressions of social justice. Stop by Precita Eyes to join one of their walking tours to learn more about the history, artists, process, and preservation of mural art in the Mission. If your time is limited, I suggest seeing the Maestrapeace mural at The Women’s Building on 18th street. The mural “serves as a visual testament to the courageous contributions of women through time and around the world.” An important reminder for today!

3:10 p.m. For quick afternoon sweets, I love La Reyna Bakery (@lareynasf), a family-owned bakery which has been in the Mission since the 1970s. The bakery specializes in pan dulce or traditional Mexican pastries made by hand from the same family recipes passed down over generations. My personal favorites are the chocolate chip cookies and the concha. Yum!

Creativity Explored has shifted their exhibitions online this fall. The Good American opens September 11 and runs through November 3. Pictured: Miyuki Tsurukawa, Untitled (Uncle Sam Hat Pig), 2018, glazed ceramic sculpture. Photo: Creativity Explored


6:30 p.m.  Early evenings in the late summer are perfect for seeing art or visiting an artist’s studio. I love visiting Creativity Explored (3245 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 @creativityexplored) on 16th street which provides artists with developmental disabilities studio space and education to explore and make art in a variety of media including printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, textile, and more. Curated exhibitions of the works are featured in the gallery. You can purchase original art through their shop which supports the artists. Another gallery I like to visit is Et al. etc. (2831 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @etalgallerysf) on Mission Street. Et al. etc. has a robust exhibition program that showcases the best visual art in the Bay Area. A show I loved at Et al. etc. was Nicki Green’s (@nickigreenstudio) Splitting/Unifying, which included pieced-together ceramic sculptures made by the artist while in residence at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Kohler, Wisconsin. 

The Mission has long been a home for artists to live and work. The legacy of artist-led coops has ensured that this continues through today’s ongoing rapid gentrification. The vibrant artistic community in the Mission is evident in Mission Artists online directory. Here are just some of the Mission-based artists I’m hoping to visit soon: Kija Lucas, Rodney Ewing, Troung Tran, Chelsea Wong, Craig Calderwood, Rebekah Frank, Kimberly Requesto, Sergio De La Torre, Ramekon O'Arwisters, and Jenifer K Wofford. 

8:00 p.m. For dinner, I love Chef Reem Assil’s San Francisco outpost of Oakland favorite Reem’s California (2901 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 @reemscalifornia). Bringing together fresh California ingredients and the Arabic flavors of Chef Reem’s Palestinian-Syrian upbringing, each meal evokes the comfort of home, heritage, and community. A standout is the man’oushe, a fresh-baked flatbread topped with rich spices and served open faced or wrapped straight from the oven. At Reem’s, the bread is the centerpiece of every meal. Currently, Reem’s California is available for take out or pickup by ordering online.

Prior to the pandemic, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a local nonprofit seeking to create affordable housing in the Mission, purchased El Rio.


10:10 p.m. In pre-pandemic times, a favorite after-hours spot would be El Rio on Mission Street (3158 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 @elriosf). This iconic dive bar has been in the community since 1978 when it started as a leather Brazilian gay bar! On any given night, El Rio and its gorgeous patio is home to live music, drag shows, Salsa Sundays, Queeraoki, and events for social justice causes. In their own words: “We are a LGBTQ+ space who is welcoming to all good people. We actively invest in communities to promote social change. We actively invest in our local arts and music scene to give space for artists. We actively pursue underserved communities in the use of our space.” What’s not to love?

What’s the day-to-day reality of the makers scene in the Bay Area, including both the opportunities and difficulties with selling, marketing, finances, production, and just simply getting work done? 

One of the most important and inspiring realization for me during this moment of a global pandemic, national reckoning on racial justice, and a shuttering economy that has disproportionately impacted those most vulnerable amongst us is the greater need and value of mutual aid, systems of support, and cooperative care rooted in justice and equity. The many artist-led mutual funds, print solidarity sales, and emergency grants that have emerged have become essential lifeline for so many artists and creatives. They have also revealed genuine generosity and care for our communities and each other.
I am inspired by the Mission Meals Coalition (@mission.meals), a mutual aid initiative by community organizers, members, and small businesses working together to deliver much-needed groceries and meals to COVID-19-impacted Mission community members. I recently pledged to support Mission Meals on a monthly basis and encourage those who are able to contribute, especially those who live and work in the Mission. 

If you had one project that would make the Bay Area a better place to live, what would it be?   

It’s hard to think about a single project that would make the Bay Area a better place to live amidst such overwhelming inequities and systemic injustices. To start, I’d like to address the premise of “a place to live with.” I believe strongly that everyone has a right to housing. Recently, I’ve been especially inspired by the work of Moms 4 Housing (@moms4housing) in combating housing insecurity and disparity in the Bay Area. Moms 4 Housing is a collective of homeless and marginally housed mothers reclaiming housing for their families and community.