Clarion Alley has been an enchanted site of bohemian culture at least as far back as the early sixties when artists like the Cockettes and Terry Riley performed in the same warehouse that the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) was based in until its demolition in 2001. CAMP was established in October 1992 by a volunteer collective of six North Mission residents: Aaron Noble, Michael O’Connor, Sebastiana Pastor, Rigo 92, Mary Gail Snyder, and Aracely Soriano. Photographer Fiona O’Connor documented CAMP from the beginning. Other members of CAMP over the years include Carolyn Castano, Diego Diaz, Kate Ellis, Permi Gill, Maya Hayuk and Vincent Oresman. From 2000 to 2004 I served as co-director with Aaron Noble. Today CAMP is run by a loosely-knit group of volunteers that includes founding members Rigo 23 and Pastor, Megan Wilson, and artists Brad K. Alder, Antonio, Andrew Schoultz, Ricardo Richey, Jet Martinez, Alvaro, Mary Scott, Erin Ruch, Tauba Auerbach, Daniel Doherty, Ethan Allen Davis, Chad Savage.
CAMP was directly inspired by the mural cluster in Balmy Alley focused on Central American social struggles. CAMP did not choose a single theme however, instead focusing on the two goals of social inclusiveness and aesthetic variety. As a result CAMP has produced more than 100 murals on and around Clarion Alley by Latino, Caucasian, African-American, Native American, Asian, Indian, Queer and disabled artists of all ages and all levels of experience, with an emphasis on emerging artists and new styles. CAMP has contributed to the tradition of labor muralism with offsite projects at ILWU Local 6, at 9th and Clementina, and inside the Redstone Building at 16th and Capp (the latter, a cluster of its own, includes twelve murals). CAMP has also presented major gallery installations at the San Francisco Art Institute, New Langton Arts, and Intersection for the Arts.
Over the years CAMP has worked with many talented artists, most of whom are just starting their careers and looking for opportunities to publicly display their work – some would identify themselves as primarily muralists or public artists, for others it’s a chance to create public work for the first time. The styles have ranged from folk influenced to spray-can works to conceptual projects. In addition, CAMP has provided space for collaborative youth initiatives, such as Oasis For Girls, Horizons Unlimited and the American Indian Movement Youth Council. Many of the artists who CAMP has worked with have gone on to become highly regarded locally, nationally, and internationally.
In addition to a direct community, CAMP also draws thousands of visitors annually to the Alley to view the works of its highly acclaimed artists. CAMP also hosts an annual Block Party (2006 was the 8th annual) that has consistently brought over 1,000 people to the celebration, which features new murals, live and DJ music, film and video projections, and more.