If you've spent any time in San Francisco, chances are you've run into one of Sirron Norris's paintings of bears, bunnies, or Victorian buildings. They give life to roll-up doors, and the interior and exterior walls of local restaurants and stores. His colorful city scenes and cartoony characters are loved by all ages and, in order to eliminate the layers between artist and audience, he recently opened a storefront studio/gallery to showcase his work. It's located in The Mission near Balmy Alley, the famous corridor covered in murals by local artists, including Norris.
Norris's new space is bright and inviting. Visitors can sit on a big orange couch and play a video game the artist designed where you can digitally explore his signature urban landscapes. A pink bubbly mural crawls over the wall where paintings and other items are on display. A little neighborhood is set up along a shelf; its small, sculptural buildings are painted on a set of children's toy blocks. A true upcycler, Norris has also painted the iconic San Francisco-style houses on wood scraps from actual Victorians that have been torn down.
The gallery sells t-shirts featuring Norris's artwork displayed on hangers with his characters' faces on them. There are Sirron Norris light switch plates, toilet brushes, framed posters, and tiny souvenirs everywhere -- if you're a fan of his work, you'll find yourself in handmade gift shop heaven, even if you've got less than $10 in your pocket. And being able to check out the artist's studio right next to the gallery and see his works in progress and his inspirational toy collection is an added bonus.
Norris, his wife, and his interns worked tirelessly to create the new venue, and his larger goal is to turn it into a non-profit organization that helps kids learn innovative, sustainable ways to create art. He is already taking sign-ups for cartooning classes at his studio, and is thinking about ways to expand. He says cartooning is a gateway to creativity, and that freedom of expression is necessary for healthy well-being. Sounds like a great start on a mission statement right there.
Norris was featured in a 2009 Spark/Newshour segment about artists and the economy, saying his business as a painter was slowing down and that he couldn't afford to make murals anymore. This fresh start on the up-and-coming South end of Valencia Street seems to prove that things are looking up.
Sirron Norris Studio/Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday, 11:30 ? 7:00pm with extended hours in the summer.