By Toshio Meronek
Members of the Lower Polk Neighbors association put the kibosh on a proposed LGBT history mural that might've brightened up some of the gray concrete near Hemlock and Polk. Reason being? The mural was too gay.
According to the Bay Area Reporter, last fall local artists Helen Bayly and Aaron Bo Heimlich were tasked by the SF Arts Commission and Lower Polk Neighbors to "design a mural depicting the influence of Polk Street's Beat poet community on the LGBT movement." In January, they unveiled their mock-up, which depicts various pieces of queer SF history: rainbows, O.G. drag queen José Sarria, protesters clashing with cops, Harvey Milk. In the country's gayest city, seemingly uncontroversial stuff. But, describes the Reporter, the response from certain people at the showing was "decidedly hostile."
Some people said they were bothered by the mural's depictions of conflict and poverty, because it might reflect badly on the neighborhood. As for the LGBT content, Lower Polk Neighbors chairman Ron Case explained, "People said, 'That's the Castro, that's not here,'" apparently unaware of Polk Street's gay-as-hell history.
"We were pretty shocked," said one of the artists, Helen Bayly, "thinking we had a positive message and art that spoke to the community and history."