In December 2013 I received an email forwarded from Annice Jacoby that was originally from Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chávez. The email was also sent to Rigo 23, John Jota Leaños, Isis Rodriguez, and Jet Martinez. Lydia was promoting a contest by Mission Local, asking artists to submit designs for the “Google Bus” shuttles:

From Mission Local:
“Yes, Mission Local is still giving a $500 reward for the best entry into our unofficial contest to turn the tech buses into art.

But what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial.

Apart from our prize money — which was more of a gesture to those artists willing to give something unofficial a try — Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”

Today we learned that the Winner was selected (see image above):

http://missionlocal.org/2014/02/entries-wrap-tech-buses-with-humor-anger-art-politics-and-the-winner-is/

The real point for Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and the artists involved here is one of respect – on a number of levels:

1) Several artists from CAMP were engaged in an exchange with Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chavez during the initial promotion of this contest (see the link above). Each of us (three are core organizers for CAMP) expressed our desire to not be included in any way in this contest and articulated why we do not support it – additionally one of the artists (Jet Martinez) was the one who painted Community Thrift. Therefore, the selected entry really seems like the choice was based on spite and retaliation for that expression; and

2) If the idea here is to build community, then the process was anything but that, and rather more about creating greater divides since neither Clarion Alley Mural Project or Community Thrift were approached to weigh in on the winning selection and it was already known that we were opposed to the contest in general. That’s not about community or respect – it’s more about contemporary colonialism and the elite caste system that these private transportation services have created – now, also reflected in Mission Local’s contest and process for selection.

The following is the full email exchange that I and the other artists had with Lydia:

From: Annice Jacoby

To: Jet Martinez ; Rigo 23; Isis Rodriguez; Megan Wilson; John Leanos
Sent: Saturday, December 7, 2013 1:08 PM
Subject: Fwd: Maybe work for Mission Artists

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Lydia L. Chavez <lydiachavez@mac.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 2:24 PM
Subject: Maybe work for Mission Artists
To: Annice Jacoby <annice.jacoby@gmail.com>

Annice: I’d love your help in getting this around to Mission Artists.  We are trying to get Facebook and the others to join in…..if done right, this could be a plus about having tech in the Mission.

http://missionlocal.org/2013/12/genentech-joins-mission-local-to-turn-buses-into-art/

All the best and lets get together soon.

Lydia

Lydia L. Chavez

lydiachavez@mac.com

On Dec 7, 2013, at 7:07 AM, Rigo 23 wrote:

Hell, no!

keep me out of this one – unless they might be inclined to consider paying something remotely
resembling their financial and material rewards for doing what they do.

if Lydia can offer 50 thousand dollars for doing a portrait of Edward Snowden – then maybe.

all the best,

Rigo

From: Megan Wilson <megawilson@aol.com>

To: Rigo 23
Cc: Annice Jacoby; Jet Martinez; Isis Rodriguez; John Leanos
Sent: Saturday, December 7, 2013 4:07 PM
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists

Heeeeeeelllllll Noooooooo! Even if they had $50,000 – they can keep it – integrity doesn’t have a price …

On Dec 8, 2013, at 5:22 PM, Leaños wrote:

Fuck this!

I had many subversive thoughts and brainstorms over breakfast, but none would fly… much to Rigo’s point that subversive, political, social art does not pass corporate scrutiny…

I question Mission Local’s move to promote this and work with FB and others …to exploit artists to beautify their cush-rides while indirectly displacing these same artists… Fijate!

Hell to the NO!

JJ

From: Lydia L. Chavez <lydiachavez@mac.com>

To: Leaños
Cc: Megan Wilson; Rigo 23; Annice Jacoby; Jet Martinez; Isis Rodriguez
Sent: Sun, Dec 8, 2013 7:51 pm
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists

I don’t know.  Why not give it a try?

Best, Lydia

Lydia L. Chavez

lydiachavez@mac.com

On Dec 9, 2013, at 12:06 PM, Megan Wilson <megawilson@aol.com> wrote:

Many journalists have written insightful articles as to why these buses are helping to create a greater disparity/divide between the rich and everyone else in San Francisco; one of my favorites being Rebecca Solnit’s “Diary” from the London Review of Books. I find MissionLocal’s posts about this contest and its deeper implications lacking this same level of thoughtfulness, which is disappointing for a project out of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Sadly, “I don’t know. Why not give it a try” seems more in line with the current direction of pop journalism that focuses more on hype and sound bytes and less on substance. It’s disturbing that a school of journalism at one of the country’s most prestigious universities is grooming its students towards the direction of publications such as the PuffPo, which is driven by its corporate interests.

From: Lydia L. Chavez <lydiachavez@mac.com>

To: Megan Wilson
Sent: Monday, December 9, 2013 5:51 PM
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists

I would love to see some subversive ideas. We have and continue to cover what is happening in the neighborhood at a level far beyond any other publication. Could we be better. Always. We welcome your ideas. Best, Lydia

On Dec 9, 2013, at 10:46 AM, Rigo 23 <virtualrigo@yahoo.com> wrote:

Dear Lydia,

you seem to not be paying attention to what we are all writing – maybe this might make it clearer:

WE DO NOT HAVE SUBVERSIVE IDEAS WHICH WE ARE TRYING TO SELL TO CORPORATE INTERESTS FOR 500 Dollars;
WE ARE NOT HOPING TO HELP THEM BETTER BLEND INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOODS; WE ARE NOT LOOKING TO SELL
“COOL CAMO” FOR CORPORATIONS.

- SO WHY GIVE IT A TRY ?

The redundancy of the text is intentional,

and please spare me future such opportunities,

sincerely,

Rigo 23

On Dec 9, 2013, at 6:20 PM, John Jota Leaños wrote:

Yes, well said Rigo and Megan.

I just met with a PhD candidate in Sociology at UCSC who is doing a documentary film about the buses in relation to community transportation, urban civic engagement and tech culture. She is fascinated by the move to decorate the buses that were consciously designed to be white, nondescript, anonymous. The tech workers she has interviewed — who she described as mostly white male who believe they are “smarter than everyone else” and “doing the world a great service” — are aware that the bus shuttles are contentious in the community (the Mission, Santa Cruz, etc… just look at the comment section to Lydia’s original article).

Why would conscious community artists want to contribute to a dynamic that would only lend itself to corporate co-optation? For $500? FYI for Lydia – the artists in this email chain are all established and have made careers out of giving subversive ideas a try, our work has been censored, we have received death threats because of our art, we realize what we are up against. Maybe Mission Local doesn’t?

I call for a withdraw and/or reconsideration of this project, Lydia, and a recommitment to a journalism that considers and seeks to understand the nuances of such political and aesthetic interventions.

Saludos,

JJ

On Dec 9, 2013, at 6:20 PM, Jet Martinez wrote:

Very well said jjl rigo and Megan.  I think tone deaf covers it all.  Again I get that this is trying to be an olive branch but it’s really coming off as camoed by said branches.  I have done work for tech companies….. Guilty.  But this feels different. This feels like a way to use the same artists who are being displaced to fix the attrition these buses are creating in our communities.  The mission is sucking more and more because it is getting filled up by people who do not participate in the community except to walk around like rich drunk asshes on the weekend.  This is a scarlet letter for any artist involved.

Lydia, retract

Love you all jet

On Dec 9, 2013, at 4:29 PM, Lydia L. Chavez wrote:

John: I respect your views.  I don’t foresee getting a submission from you. I do, however, want to clarify something that was apparently unclear in the announcement.  We offered $500 because it was an unofficial contest and that was at least a gesture for someone willing to submit to a contest that was unlikely to end in a real commission.   I understand that any artist would expect more for a a real commission.

Genentech’s financial arrangement with the artist they select is separate from what we give our winner.
I would imagine that Genentech and any other tech company would pay the artist fairly, but I also understand that you would not participate regardless of the money—that from your point of view, money is not the issue, the client is.
Best, Lydia
Lydia L. Chavez