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By Olivia Boler
The Noe Valley Ministry's 24th Street parking lot between Sanchez and Vicksburg streets, where the ever-popular Noe Valley Farmers' Market is held every Saturday morning, is on its way to becoming a work of art. San Francisco muralist Mona Caron has been tapped to design and execute not one but two murals on the walls of the buildings that border the lot.
You may have seen Caron's work throughout the city, particularly up and down Church Street. The Market Street Railway Mural, at 300 Church Street at 15th, "depicts a 180-degree bird's-eye view of San Francisco's Market Street, through different time periods and historical events," according to Caron's web site, www.monacaron.com. The mural won several awards, including a 2004 San Francisco Beautification Award, a certificate of honor from the Board of Supervisors, and a San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay award. Another of Caron's murals, on the corner of Church and 22nd streets, depicts gigantic butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wildflowers, wild grasses, and even weeds, both native and non-native to California.
"The whole process of creating a mural takes a long time," says Caron, adding that she plans to involve neighbors and community groups in the project. "At this point, we haven't determined the design yet for the [24th Street] site."
Caron is aided by her "indefatigable coordinator," Joel Pomerantz, who helped her coordinate the Duboce Bikeway Mural she created behind the Safeway at Duboce and Church streets, which faces the N and J streetcar tracks. Pomerantz assists Caron with logistical details like community meetings, funding sources, and paperwork. In fact, Pomerantz is the brain behind the proposed Farmers' Market mural.
"I'm a stilt walker," Pomerantz explains. "And I was at the grand opening of the Farmers' Market [in December 2003]. I had such a wonderful time and really connected with the people who run it. So I approached them and asked if they would be interested in publicizing it and promoting it." Paula Benton of the Noe Valley Farmers' Market confirms this. "The Farmers' Market board loves the idea of a mural and Mona's work," says Benton. She notes, however, that the Farmers' Market is not yet an official sponsor of the project.
In March, Caron won a $65,000 Community Challenge grant from the city for the mural, but Pomerantz says at least $5,000 to $10,000 more is needed. He and Caron hope to raise that by soliciting donations from residents and businesses. "It gives people a sense of ownership and education about the project," Pomerantz says.
The Noe Valley Ministry, which manages the parking lot property, and the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association both wrote letters of support for Caron's grant proposal.
So far, Caron and Pomerantz have secured verbal agreements from the owners of the two buildings: Armando Bolanos, who owns the building that houses Pete's Cleaners; and Lavender Krastas and her father George Kouloulias, who own and run Haystack Pizza.
The team has also scheduled the first of what Pomerantz envisions will be three to five community meetings so that those who would like to can make their desires known. The meeting is titled "Community Introductions and Ideas Exchange for the Planned Mural by the Noe Valley Farmers' Market," and will be held Monday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m., at the Noe Valley Ministry Lower Hall, 1021 Sanchez Street. For more information, call Pomerantz at 505-8255. Caron and he will make a short presentation and then welcome ideas and questions from those attending. After that, they plan to hold additional meetings with specific community groups by request.
Pomerantz stresses that designing a community mural is not like "ordering up a pizza. Of course, Mona wants to get the community's input--that's very important to her--and we invite and encourage it. But in the end, Mona herself will decide on the design based on her consultations with the community."
He goes on to describe Caron's process: "Mona is a meticulous painter. She's clued into site-specific challenges. She takes into account the community and the surrounds, and she has a plan, but she leaves it open for what she learns along the way. That's different from most muralists--to leave some elements of the design to the process of painting."
Caron is excited about the project's potential. A native of Switzerland, she has lived in San Francisco for 14 years and used to call Elizabeth Street home. Now residing in the Dolores Park area, Caron relishes the challenges presented by painting on two facing walls.
"The murals could be a sort of call and response," she muses. "If it winds up being on just one wall, then the mural might be much more involved in detail." The possibilities are as endless as Caron's imagination.