A Brush with the Tenderloin

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Watch this entire Truly CA episode: A Brush with the Tenderloin by filmmaker Paige Bierma. (Running Time: 24:36)

The Tenderloin District in San Francisco is rarely recognized for its cultural diversity or rich history, but rather for its prevalence of street crime, drug deals and prostitution. When Swiss-born San Francisco muralist Mona Caron was approached to create a mural there, she had to think twice. "Going into this project, my greatest worry was, God, I'm going into a place where there's so many societal problems. Art is really the last thing that people need," says Caron, who was hired by the Tenderloin Community Development District to paint a three-story mural at the corner of Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue.

The act of painting a mural naturally draws onlookers. In A Brush with the Tenderloin, Caron gets to know a host of memorable characters during the course of the Tenderloin project. Fortunately, Caron's murals constitute true "public art," intentionally engaging residents in a dialogue about their neighborhood. Dozens of locals, like homeless rocker "Indian Joe," kite-maker Jeff Marshall, and former heroin addict Lisa Demb, become integral to the finished piece, which shows the Tenderloin as it was, is, and could be.

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