In the East Bay, hidden in thick trees and brush, lies a portal to another world. It’s down below the streets in a creek bed, where the mouth of a storm sewer opens up like a cavern. Inside, crawdads scuttle in ankle-deep pools, and ominous booming sounds echo throughout the vaulted interior.
A menagerie of fantastic paintings cover almost every inch of wall inside the half-mile tunnel that runs underground. Scott Finsthwait, the unofficial curator of the constantly evolving exhibit, walks the subterranean gallery regularly.
“This place is like a museum to me,” said the 45-year-old Finsthwait, an artist and photographer based in San Francisco, who is on a trek for the best street art. He declines to give up the exact location as the artists prefer that these tunnels remain a secret to the general public, to help ensure that their work is not painted over.
“This is sacred ground for street artists,” he said.
Increasingly, Finsthwait said as he walked along the tunnel, the best street art is found in out-of-the-way places like Orinda or Fairfax. His self-appointed role has been to find the best work and share it with the world; his photos feature street art pieces surrounded by fantastic streaks of light, like neon apparitions.
The tunnel Finsthwait explores on this Monday afternoon is pitch black. He turns a flashlight on and casts it across the paintings in the tunnel to see what has changed.