Over the past two years, the City has hemorrhaged thousands of residents seeking more affordable housing or a break from urban living during a pandemic. But some San Franciscans have used that time to put down deeper roots. They saw that the momentary dip in the real estate market provided a rare opportunity to establish something creative, generous and less baldly capitalistic—the kind of venture that, before COVID, might have had a tough time getting its footing in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Trans artist, curator, activist and writer Sam Carmel was one of these people. Near the start of the pandemic, they heard that a studio complex across from Victoria Manalo Draves Park in SOMA was having trouble filling an open unit. The 7th and Folsom Street location was intriguing: adjacent to both the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District and the Transgender Cultural District, the space could serve as a nexus of the two if programmed intentionally. The studio had good sunlight, and Carmel had the time and will to remodel it so that it would be ready to showcase visual art.