Black Excellence Continues to Drape the Bayview in Art with Artist Hank Willis Thomas
Art is not received the same by everyone because it is subjective and resonates differently depending on one’s ethnicity, socio, political and geographic location. As it pertains to the Bayview Hunters Point, an historic African American neighborhood in San Francisco, currently experiencing rapid change due to both gentrification and the City’s overall aggressive outmigration of Black people, the type of artistic expression including public art choices and programming in the community is crucial. Bayview is filled with so much love and beauty, which has been a well-kept secret, typically experienced by those who reside in the community. This will most certainly change as the Bayview Hunters Point emerges as a designated African American Cultural District with a myriad of resources to fund the arts. The development of a cultural district is bound to trigger many of the sensitives already flowing through the veins of the neighborhood so, how does one balance attracting residents out and tourists in, in support of local business and community development without disrespecting the history and needs of the long-term stakeholders?
As someone who is proud of my African American heritage, a native Washingtonian but Bayview resident, a middle-class kid, an artist and the founder of Imprint City, I see the world through several lenses; constantly thinking about how to create public art and programming that is both culturally relevant, exciting and meaningful to contribute to Bayview’s cultural district narrative. I want to continue leveraging resources, to not only bring high profile, culturally relevant, powerful artists to the community but in the same stroke, uplift local talent on the same platform. In October, for example, the Remain Creative Billboard project will hit the Third Street commercial corridor in Bayview, lead and inspired by world renowned artist, Hank Willis Thomas.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist with work that focuses on themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. He often incorporates recognizable icons into his work, many from well-known advertising and branding campaigns. On advertising, in an interview with Time, Thomas said, “Part of advertising’s success is based on its ability to reinforce generalizations developed around race, gender and ethnicity which are generally false, but [these generalizations] can sometimes be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying.”
Willis’ art is a form of activism, ugly beauty and not simply arts for art’s sake. It is a powerful tool, created to evoke conversation about pertinent issues, many that deeply resonate with the African American experience in the United States. He is Black excellence personified and the perfect fit for the growing arts landscape in the Bayview. Hank has a robust following from the arts world to grassroots activists and a special combination of classic artistic expression with a progress, modern slant. He headlines the Remain Creative Project, contributing artwork from his own For Freedoms national billboard initiative. This project, in keeping with Imprint City’s paradigm will also include a bevy of local artists of note.
Imprint City and the Bayview Hunters Point community are proud to host Hank Willis Thomas and plan to welcome many more artists with the same level of power….ART IS POWER.
Remain Creative will be on display starting October 15th on Third Street From Cesar Chavez to Egbert Avenue.
To learn more about Hank Willis Thomas, CLICK HERE