Local artists are bringing life, beauty, and most importantly comfort, to our San Francisco neighborhoods during shelter-in-place that went into effect on March 16, 2020. San Francisco Goodwill was excited to work with artist Todd Kurnat to help beautify our shuttered store on Haight Street. Kurnat reached out to San Francisco Goodwill after crossing our boarded up Haight Street location during a walk with his son and offered to paint a mural with the message: “We stand in solidarity with our community.”
We asked him a few questions about his passion project during these challenging times and his hope to inspire people to find uncommon courage through his art.
What initiated your interest in beautifying San Francisco during the COVID-19 closures?
It took about two weeks for the initial shock of shelter-in-place to reduce and our new normal to settle in. The city was surreal, neighborhoods quiet, and storefronts boarded up. I was passing by a boarded-up restaurant near my art studio and had one of those lightbulb moments that here was an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive with my art. I reached out to Nihon Whiskey Bar (my first mural project during this phase in San Francisco) and asked if I could paint a mural on their boarded-up storefront as I had some leftover paint already from my last mural project. I received an immediate yes! Turns out the owner, Khaled, owns two other businesses and I had three storefronts to beautify right away.
What made you interested in working on a Goodwill storefront?
Originally, I had reached out to Goodwill regarding their Fillmore Street location. The outside was in bad shape with lots of boards and unwanted graffiti. I really wanted to brighten up the intersection where it stands and bring joy to people walking around in this once vibrant city. The timing did not work out then. However, then the unfortunate killing of George Floyd happened, triggering protests followed by violence and looting, and the city responded by boarding up again. My son and I were walking down Haight Street after the weekend of uprising and we watched Goodwill install plywood over their storefront and felt this was the time to work together and I reached out again and Goodwill was in full support.
What do you hope people will feel when they see your art?
My intention with the storefront murals is to beautify the neighborhood and communicate support to the community. Words like comfort, connection, strength, hope, love, light, and wonder come to mind, but art means different things to different people. People have been struggling with a lack of social life and normalcy with favorite cafes, stores, and restaurants closed. I wanted to spread some cheer and bring something positive through my art.
What do you hope to do with the art pieces after stores reopen?
My approach to this project, knowing that the business owners were under financial pressure, was to donate my time & design and only asked for money to cover my art supplies. My other ask was to get the boards back when the business was taking them down. The plan is to preserve them and ultimately have an art show and auction where proceeds will cover some of my lost revenue, but more importantly, I want to donate these pieces to a couple of my favorite charities after this phase is over.
It has been important for me personally to stay positive and proactive. I feel very grateful to be an artist right now and to have an outlet to express myself in a helpful way. When shelter-in-place began, I noticed a shift in my motivation and inspiration, like an extra gear of horsepower kicked in! Realizing that I could give my art to the city to help lift neighborhood spirits gave me purpose. In addition, the connections I have had with people—business owners and residents walking by—has helped my mental and emotional state tremendously. The love you get is equal to the love you give.
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