A plan from hyperlocal neighborhood news source/UC Berkeley J-School project Mission Local to brighten up the district and "solve the beauty problem" by decorating a corporate shuttle bus with the work of a local artist has backfired after the winning contest entry immediately pissed off members of the local community it was meant to honor.
The contest carried a $500 cash prize and the distinction of having one's work displayed on the side of a Genentech shuttle bus as it scoots up and down local freeways. After a month of judging, Mission Local settled on the above entry by Elinor Diamond. It's a Wile E. Coyote-esque perspective on Valencia Street's Community Thrift Store and the vibrant murals that line Clarion Alley outside. The photo, ironically enough, was taken from Google Street View. Mission Local explains the winning choice:
In the end, Diamond’s design appealed to us on multiple layers and it was the simplicity of the idea and the complex response that put it over the top.
It brings “the virtual world to the street,” said Andrea Valencia, our translator and a Mission resident. “The image blends the bus in with the street giving them the camouflage the tech community seems to want. I also like to think of it as a moving mirror of our urban landscape.”
Mark Rabine, a contributor, my husband, and a Mission resident for more than 30 years, added, that in an age of ambiguity “using the Google Earth image conceptually raises both light and dark aspects of digital technology.”
Others liked the layered sense of the entry, but for a different reason. The street view Diamond chose underscores art and giving — both have deep roots in the Mission.
After Mission Local's announcement today, the Clarion Alley Mural Project's Facebook page erupted, doubling down on anti-tech and anti-Mission Local sentiment. According to local artist Megan Wilson, whose own "Tax the Rich" mural decorates Clarion Alley, Mission Local reached out to Wilson and other muralists to participate in the contest back in December. In a colorful email exchange between Wilson and her fellow muralists, however, however, the artists politely told Mission Local — and Big Tech in general — to go fuck off. The chain covers everything from potentially subversive ideas, to the price of artistic integrity, to the death of real journalism. As email chain rants go, this one is pretty good.
According to Wilson, Diamond's entry — which, again, is an image taken from Street View — is "not only disrespectful, but also seems vengeful and tacky." For what it's worth, Mission Local says about 15 of the "more than four-dozen" entries were critical of the tech industry. (One of Diamond's other somewhat humorous submissions asked passersby to imagine pantsless bus riders, for example.) The runners-up were a bus camouflaged as a Muni bus and one that looks like a Greek tragedy.