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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Graffiti Guru Offers Street Art Tours

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Upper Haight stencil by local artist Get Up
  • Upper Haight stencil by local artist Get Up
No matter how cool you are, there's still a good chance that the only thing you know about street art is sometimes you come across it, and sometimes it's amazing. Who did it? What's behind it? Where can you see more? Who knows?

We do. Or, we know who knows: stencil artist Russell Howze. He's the author of Stencil Nation, and he offers a three-hour, small-group tour Scout for Street Art. Howze started giving these tours two weeks ago, and promises to provide "expert explanations, stories, and background for most of the art that constantly changes on the streets." And he's not joking about the "expert" part.

Russell Howze
  • Russell Howze
Howze has dedicated his life to street art, especially stencils, and he knows a lot about the S.F. street art scene. "I have this particular affinity for San Francisco street art," he says, "especially the Mission district -- there's something really special and magical about it."

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Howze has lived in San Francisco since 1997. Since he saw his first stencil in 1990 in Clemson, S.C., Howze has been photographing the public art in places around the world. In 2002 he created an online stencil archive, which features tens of thousands of photos. Stencil Nation, published in 2008, is the paperback extension of his site, documenting 350 artists in 28 countries.

Howze does not have a fixed schedule -- you can just sign up by yourself or in a group (tickets cost $37 per person) and state your preferred times. The tour is run through Vayable, which draws on locals to give their own tours. Anyone can sign up to offer a tour, and Vayable acts as the conduit, handling bookings and payments. Vayable operates worldwide, and as one might expect, it offers numerous S.F. tours, including horseback riding on Ocean Beach, a used bookstore crawl, and a potentially perilous "Whiskey on Wheels" tour.

Vayable hosts a mixer called "A Vayable Idea" on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Galeria de la Raza, where Howze will start the night with a 10-minute talk, "The Present Future of Street Art." The event is free, but you can register here.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section.

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Caroline Chen

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