October 21, 2015

On San Francisco and Ownership: The 3.9 Art Collective Responds


Click to enlarge. Or download the PDF (1.5MB).

The 3.9 Art Collective is an association of African American artists, curators, and art writers who live in San Francisco, and who came together to draw attention to the city’s dwindling black population. The 3.9 Art Collective bears witness to this phenomenon and seeks to reverse it by drawing attention to the historical and ongoing presence of black artists in the city and creative expression in its black communities. Through multiple forms of presentation and outreach, we create and claim spaces to display our art work; nurture young artists and develop educational programs for students; and write about and curate exhibitions meant to generate productive, cross-cultural dialogues.

For the Open Space “Ownership” issue, the Collective chose to respond individually to the following questions:

How long have you been in San Francisco, and in what neighborhoods do you live and make work?

As an artist and community member, what do you do to stake your claim to San Francisco, to take ownership here?

What does the city mean to you as a home?

Mark Harris


I’ve been in San Francisco since 2004. I live in Lower Nob Hill and my studio is in SoMa.

San Francisco is not only a physical home to me: the place where I lay my head, receive my mail, and buy my groceries. More importantly, San Francisco is where I make my way of life — the place where I feel most comfortable and confident being unique and pursuing a life that enriches and fulfills me.

I contribute to the creative energy and culture of San Francisco by actively exhibiting my work, volunteering and working with youth around the city. I have donated my art to numerous fundraising events for nonprofit organizations including Art for AIDS, The Center for Youth Wellness, and The Coalition on Homelessness, to name a few. I also serve on the ArtSpan 2015 SF Open Studios Planning Committee and am part of ArtSpan’s Mentor Team. I am an active member of the 3.9 Collective and the Work in Progress Collective. I have worked at Tenderloin Community School teaching art to at-risk youth to instill in them an appreciation for art at an early age. I have also served as Program Coordinator for ArtSeed, a San Francisco-based nonprofit with a focus on keeping art education programs in public schools.

Virginia Jourdan


I was born and raised in San Francisco. I lived in the North Beach projects by Fisherman’s Wharf. Those projects no longer exist. Our family moved to Ocean View/Lakeview, which is close to CCSF. I presently am self-employed and have an art studio on Ocean Ave.

San Francisco is my home because this is where I was born and raised.

As a community member and artist, I organized a community garden to prevent the further decline of green spaces in our area. We worked in collaboration with Lick Wilmerding High School’s mosaic class to implement mosaics on the transmitter boxes in our Tara Street Community Garden. The Virginia Jourdan Art Studio offers various services to the community, including workshops, painting parties, and exhibitions.

Kristine Mays


I was born and raised in San Francisco. Most of my work is created in my neighborhood, Visitacion Valley; although I often show my work and have a studio in the Potrero area.

At its core San Francisco has always been a place for free spirits and innovators — people who aren’t afraid to march to the beat of their own drum. My love for San Francisco feels like a marriage, with all of its ups and downs, complexities, and changes. I have watched the city change considerably over the years and while I consider it home, I don’t always feel I recognize it or understand it. However, just when I begin to wonder why I’m still here, something unfolds that reminds me why I fell in love with this place.

Ownership… that is a strange concept. Everyone wants to own San Francisco. Maybe that is why the rents are so ridiculous here. Hmmm… do we really “own” anything? As I get older I find myself wanting to engage in projects that will have a lasting impact. Therefore it feels good to occasionally serve as a grant review panelist with the SF Arts Commission, or to create a large heart for “Hearts in SF” (benefiting SF General Hospital). It feels good to contribute to services that benefit AIDS research as well as help individuals living with AIDS. Taking ownership in San Francisco, for me, involves leaving an impression on the lives of people around me through my actions and artwork, more than possessing land. I collaborate with a variety of creative individuals. I have shared my artwork with people of all ages. I do my best to contribute to society; to make a difference as an individual.

Ramekon O’Arwisters


I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1991; I moved here after five years living and working as an artist in Tokyo. I live and make work near the Civic Center Plaza at Market and Valencia streets.

San Francisco is constantly changing, as I am. I’m not the same person I was fifteen years ago nor am I making the same art, and San Francisco is not the same place it was fifteen years ago. When something stops changing, it dies. The history of the city is the backbone of the change we see now. When one takes a historical look at San Francisco, we see an ongoing pattern of change, namely: gentrification. I understand that the ideal San Francisco — a friendly, beautiful, embracing, carefree San Francisco — exists alongside the reality of the corrupt, greedy, unsavory San Francisco. To accept all sides of the city is to accept reality.

Home is where the body is. Since 1991, I’ve lived in San Francisco; I’ve made it work for me. When I’m no longer able to do that then it is time to leave, and leave on my terms.

I stake my claim, if I truly have one, to a kind of ownership of San Francisco by being a social-practice artist who uses folk-art traditions to foster social interaction, creativity, and liberation. Any positive resistance to the current and persistent trends toward negativity, fear, greed, and anger is a form of liberation.

William Rhodes


I have lived in San Francisco for eight years; I moved here from Baltimore, MD. I live and create art in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.

Once I established a studio space in which I was able to create art, San Francisco began to feel like home. For me, home is largely dependent upon the presence of intangible and abstract qualities of creativity that foster the environment I need to create artwork. I was happy to find that creative verve in San Francisco. Within my first few weeks here, after walking around to drink in the city and meeting the people, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night bursting with creative ideas and the need to create. I knew then that San Francisco could be a home.

I am a mixed media artist and a founder of the 3.9 Art Collective, an organization comprised of Black artists who live in San Francisco and create work that explores the experiences of day-to-day life here. A sense of community and community service is very important to me, so I made an active choice to work in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood as an art educator. I specifically work with children and the elderly of this neighborhood on community-based art projects with the goals of personal and community empowerment and pride.

Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen


I was born in San Francisco, moved to Sunnyvale as a kid, then split time between Daytona Beach, FL, and San Francisco, before moving back full time when I was a teen. Since then, I’ve lived and worked within blocks of Mission Street from Excelsior to downtown. I’m now near Precita Park.

My family is from the East Coast and the Midwest, but San Francisco is my hometown, it’s my life. When I lived outside the city, I felt like I was away from home.

A lot of the things that I identify as my home are missing these days, but a lot does still remain. Home to me is a big city that’s also a small town, an active sense of civics and neighborliness, an openness to challenge and diversity, and opportunity for anyone and everyone to thrive. These values are facing an unbelievable wave of opposition right now, and I fight with myself a lot about what to do — accept the changes and stay here, move on to find a new home that shares my values, or try to bring some balance here by creating new community and resources. It’s an uphill battle, but I’m not ready to uproot myself and my family yet.

I stay here. I stay active in local politics. I visit my local shops to chat and spend my money. I nod hello to folks as I pass (even if they insist on looking at their phones). I try to act as host and neighbor.

In 2012, I started an experimental arts organization and exhibition space to fill the holes I was finding in the local arts industry and to fill in my own community, which was starting to feel pretty slim. Joining 3.9 has been a big part of this as well.

Ron Moultrie Saunders


I am a photographic artist, landscape architect and teacher who has been living in San Francisco for thirty-three years. And I have been residing in the Bayview neighborhood for thirty years. I was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
Currently I create my work in the South of Market area at Rayko Photo Center on Third Street at Harrison Street and, at the Hunter’s Point Shipyard as the artist-in-residence.

I have lived in San Francisco for thirty-three years. However, the level of comfort that I found here when I arrived in 1982 has changed dramatically. Most of my closest friendships, those I cherished in the early 1980’s, have dissolved as friends, died, or relocated. New friendships evolved and close ties were created to sustain my soul. However, there is no place like the “home” where my relatives live.

In 2010, I co-founded the 3.9 Art Collective, and I co-founded Art94124 Gallery in 2008 in the Bayview neighborhood. In 2011, I began to seek a broader audience for my work in San Francisco and looked for opportunities in the public art arena. My work was purchased by the San Francisco Arts Commission for Laguna Honda Hospital in 2011 and the Public Utilities Commission New Headquarters building in 2012. In 2013, I was commissioned to make work for the San Francisco Library’s Linda Brooks-Burton Bayview Branch, work which is now in the San Francisco Arts Commission Civic Art Collection. I was also commissioned to create works for new The San Francisco Travel Association (formerly SF Convention and Visitors Bureau) offices.

Comments (1)

  • This is an amazing effort. Congratulations and kudos for putting together this collective to address and make people aware of what seems to me to be a growing problem of homogeneity in the Bay Area. Great that the collective is also a constructive measure toward building that awareness and championing some of the people who make the art world a positive force in San Francisco.

Leave a comment

Please tell us what you think. We really love conversation, and we’re happy to entertain dissenting opinions. Just no name-calling, personal attacks, slurs, threats, spam, and the like, please. Those ones we reserve the right to remove.

Sign Up

Join our newsletter for infrequent updates on new posts and Open Space events.
  • Required, will not be published

Dear Visitor,
We regret to inform you that Open Space is no longer active. It was retired at the end of 2021. We sincerely appreciate your support and engagement over the years.

For your reference, we encourage you to read past entries or search the site.

To stay informed about future ventures or updates, please follow us at

Thank you for being a part of our journey!