Local art and public spaces go hand-in-hand, and we’re glad that Muni will once again serve as a mobile gallery for the citizens of San Francisco.
SFMTA is partnering with San Francisco Beautiful and The Poetry Society of America to showcase the work of five local artists and five local poets on our hella local public transit system. In its sixth year, the Muni Art theme is, appropriately, “San Francisco United.” Look for the works on display inside 100 Muni buses through April.
Here at Muni Diaries HQ, we usually end the year with a fun and lighthearted “Top Most WTF Moments of the Year” type of countdown. But in 2020…where do we even start?
As shelter-in-place became a more permanent fixture of our lives, documenting life in San Francisco, especially via commute tales, took on a different meaning. We saw the uphill battle faced by so many small businesses and venues (like our beloved Rickshaw Stop), and the struggles of essential workers, particularly Muni operators and first responders—many of whom relied on Muni to get around. We’re grateful that we could help share those stories.
So here are some highly memorable moments from your commuter tales, in this Dumpster fire of a year.
If you think San Francisco needs to gripe less and do more, look no further than artists Kurt Schwartzmann and Deirdre Weinberg.
Listeners may remember Schwartzmann from Muni Diaries Live, where he shared his moving story of how Muni drivers provided his only refuge when he was unhoused. Schwartzmann, who lost sight in one eye due to complications from AIDS, dedicated his art series, “Yellow Line,” to the Muni drivers whose empathy helped him survive those difficult times.
He has since paid artistic tribute to other facets of San Francisco life with artist Deirdre Weinberg, who has created public art for more than two decades. The duo first collaborated on beautifying the outdoor dining space for the iconic Buena Vista cafe this summer, and now they’ve partnered on the newest of the Hearts of San Francisco—which have benefited the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation since 2004.
In this week’s podcast episode, we chat with the artists about how they became stewards of a beloved San Francisco tradition.
Listen to Kurt Schwartzmann and Deirdre Weinberg, interviewed by Muni Diaries cofounder Tara Ramroop:
Schwartzmann sent us photos of the heart in progress, from the day that the plain, unadorned, and apparently heavy and rather “voluptuous” heart was delivered to his garage, to the colorful paint drip that the two artists painstakingly created. He sent us photos of the heart in progress:
Bagging on San Francisco is one of our city’s most time-honored traditions. In a time when negativity might reign especially supreme, two chroniclers of San Francisco got together to create a new book that encourages people to see the familiar in a new way.
This week on the podcast, we chat with artist Paul Madonna, who has just illustrated a new book called Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages through the Unknown City, written by Gary Kamiya. The book features vignettes of the history and topography of 16 different locations in the city.
Madonna created drawings of San Francisco ranging from a well-known views spanning over the Embarcadero (above), or more obscure corners of the city like Calhoun Terrace in North Beach on Montgomery and Union (see below). You might know Madonna from his series in the San Francisco Chronicle, “All Over Coffee,” which ran for 12 years. As he draws en plein air—from real life rather than photographs—Madonna had to find just the right time of day to depict his subject. Sometimes, he and Kamiya even found themselves in places they weren’t really supposed to be for the good of their project.
We chat with Madonna about bringing San Francisco to life in his art, his choice of depicting city scenes without people, and why he says San Francisco is “never a jealous friend.”
Listen to the conversation with Paul Madonna and Muni Diaries cofounder Tara Ramroop:
With just a few days until the election, we invite San Francisco Examiner transit reporter Carly Graf to talk about this year’s ballot measures that can change the landscape of public transportation as we know it today.
Sure, the pandemic has severely reduced ridership and budget, but public transit’s woes started way before that. With the proliferation of Lyft and Uber, Muni was no longer the only way everyone can reasonably get around town. And on this year’s ballot, Prop 22 stands to change the operations of these ride share companies in a big way. We chat with Graf about how Prop 22 can impact economic disparity, whether Prop B can fix the toxic workplace that was the Department of Public Works, why you should get to know the BART board of directors, and more.
Reader Kay Karpus Walker found a piece of her family history that’s very relevant to our interests. She shares this photo and family history on the Muni Diaries Facebook page:
A bit of Muni history—a photo of an early Muni driver—Jacob B. Unruh—my grandfather. This is from the early 1900s in SF. Jacob became a driver after he was forced to close his business in the early days of the Depression or right before it hit. An immigrant from the Ukraine and a Mennonite, he was a cousin of Jesse Unruh, the California politician, according to Jesse himself.
Jesse Unruh was also known as “Big Daddy Unruh,” at one point the California State Treasurer. In the early 1900s, the Stockton Street Tunnel opened, and J-Church streetcar line was just starting service. Muni as we know it started to transition from for-profit monopolies to a municipally operated agency around 1912.