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Friday, April 10, 2015

As Demolition Looms, One Last Regeneration for CELLspace

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 11:40 AM

click to enlarge DEVIN HOLT
  • Devin Holt
It was the best of times, it was… the best of times. For almost 20 years, the graffiti- and mural-covered building at 2050 Bryant Street has served as a warehouse of wonders for San Francisco’s underground communities. A group of ragtag puppeteers and artists turned the old sweater factory into the kooky, collectively-run and volunteer-driven CELLspace in 1996. It eventually grew into a respected nonprofit and community hub, hosting raves for the Burning Man set, after-school programs, b-boy competitions, tango lessons, and an outdoor flea market. Cell closed its doors due to financial problems in 2013 (first reported on this very arts blog) and the space reopened as the circus and nightlife venue Inner Mission. The new tenants kept the arts flag fluttering with shows like The Soiled Dove from Vau de Vire Society — and the occasional mashed potato fight.

But as with so many things in our Dickensian, Gold Rush-esque San Francisco, it couldn’t last. There was just too much real estate in them thar warehouses. The trapezes were barely hung when a developer bought 2050 Bryant, along with most of the block. It will, of course, be turned into the one thing San Francisco has plenty of: apartments you can’t afford.

As word spread about the building’s impending demise, members of the old CELLspace community (which, full disclosure, includes this writer) pulled together to host one last weekend of art, activism, community, and old school SF get down. Things get started on Friday, April 17 with the two-day event What’s our Mission? — A Cultural Preservation Action. The first day is mostly for remembrances and altar building. The space will open around 11 a.m., with a potluck dinner and contact improv jam scheduled for the evening.

click to enlarge HILARY NICHOLS
  • Hilary Nichols

Saturday is a mix of the somber, serious, and celebratory. Starting at 1 p.m., a panel discussion about how to save the city’s remaining art spaces will hear from Krissy Keefer of Dance Mission, arts advocate Debra Walker, CELLspace co-founder Jonathan Youtt, representatives from the Red Poppy Art House, and Arts for a Better Bay Area. A “funeral procession” and displacement tour leaves at 5 p.m. to meet up with the Earth Day party at 22nd and Bartlett, and then heads back to Inner Mission for a cabaret at 8:00.

After the show, the Yoga Tai Chi Collective and Mystic Family Circus — two of Cell’s resident troupes back in the day — will throw a dance party that begins with a physical and spiritual warm-up, and ends with beats that will absolutely, positively, most-definitely stop at 2 a.m. DJs include Brother, Little John (the one from Raindance), Clay, Moondoggy, and, hopefully, some unconfirmed and unmentionable-by-name “special guests” who got their start at CELLspace before the record deals, the name changes, and the headline shows at Bill Graham.

click to enlarge CELLSPACE PHOTOS
  • CELLspace photos
Things lighten up considerably on Sunday when Dave X, an original CELLspace member who now works for Burning Man, hosts the Pinewood Derby Extravaganza. Pinewood Derby is a type of race for homemade, wooden cars, first held for the Cub Scout’s in 1953. Sunday’s event features two multi-lane tracks, a derby car assembly area, and music from Jerk Church and Forlorn Hope. Kids race from 4-8 p.m. and adults take over until midnight.

And for anyone left standing on Monday, there is the final CELLspace b-boy/b-girl open session. The hip-hop community had their own, utterly epic final event last fall, so this one will be more of a family affair. Just one last chance to break out the kneepads, ruin your shirt spinning on that grimy floor, and drop a little more sweat — or tears — inside the walls of 2050 Bryant Street.

What's our Mission? A Cultural Preservation Action, Friday, April 17 - Monday, April 20, at CELLspace, 2050 Bryant.
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Devin Holt

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