A gaggle of journalists were given a hard-hat tour two weeks ago of the new home for the CounterPulse cultural organization at 80 Turk Street, on the rough first block spur from Market Street
According to the FAQ handout, "The building has a rich history. It was built in the 1920s as a gambling hall. In the 1960s it became the Gayety burlesque theater, and in the 1980s it became The Dollhouse porn theater. The building was then vacant for a number of years before CAST acquired it in 2014."
CAST stands for The Community Arts Stabilization Trust, which is a group of politically connected heavy hitters who are buying real estate for selected nonprofit arts groups throughout San Francisco with the two-pronged mission of helping artists survive financially while gentrifying neighborhoods like the Tenderloin. There are also seem to be a lot of tax swaps involved. (Pictured above are new CounterPulse Executive Director Tomás Riley, CounterPulse Artistic Director Julie Phelps, and CAST Executive Director Moy Eng.)
According to CAST's website, their mission is "to create stable physical spaces for arts and cultural organizations to facilitate equitable urban transformation."
At the tour, it was interesting to see Randy Shaw above who treats the Tenderloin as his personal poverty provider fiefdom. Shaw is paid close to $100 million annually by Ed Lee's SF City Hall administration for his services, so he isn't delusional in that regard. On the CASE website, there is a blog post from 2013 where Ed Lee is christening the artist/real estate initiative at its birth, and members of his administration are former and current Board members at CounterPulse.
Artistic Director Phelps led the tour which felt enticingly dangerous, as the interior was being demolished and rebuilt all around us.
Phelps noted the building has "great bones," with a rare San Francisco basement that was fully, structurally intact with the kind of construction that was built to last.
In the handout, Phelps has a Curator's Note that is some sort of a grant-writing masterpiece, ticking off just about every funding box imaginable:
"As we launch into this new chapter of [CounterPulse's] legacy the season reflects and interrogates metamorphosis. In this way, the bricks and mortar of our new facility give the context for artistic inquiry into transformation and preservation, becoming and unbecoming, legacy and advancement. Artists from New York, Austin, Manila, Ireland and Berlin investigate immigration, racialized identities, and consumerism. It'll be intellectual, body-based, serious, absurd, relevant and liminal. Our move and this season have the unpredictable and exponential energy of mutation. A wild departure from the narrow path forward. For a moment, CounterPulse becomes a fable, a freedom dream, a zeitgeist in a changing San Francisco."
Phelps is definitely right about one thing. The building has good bones and great vibes. My wish is that it may prosper and be fruitful and be interesting and not be a self-indulgent, politically connected mediocrity.