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article imageOp-Ed: San Francisco Street artists are now settled in Wine Country Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Apr 27, 2013 in Entertainment
Sonoma - Walking along the main thoroughfare in Sonoma - appropriately named Broadway, not far from the town square is a row of shops, to this reporter's surprise and delight, a bead shop is among them.
For any City-dweller such as myself who has traversed a little town like Sonoma back and forth and felt a sense of yearning for city-life, to find a shop or place that understands cultural things outside of rural suburban life is a joy. For even the name of the shop, San Francisco Arts and Crafts Bead Shop, pulled me right in.
The vast array of beads in every color of the rainbow and in almost any hue was a delight. There were not only tiny glass beads, but beads decorative-ceramic beads from all over the world. Czech Seed beads, beads from Bali as well as beads made from semi-precious stones. And, yes, lots of pearls, some expensive and others priced very affordable. Right away I told the owner Peter Wiley, "This reminds me of when I was little in the 1960's, back when beads were popular with hippies and musicians."
He laughed, saying, "they still are popular and I too remember those days, in fact I was a street artist." Wiley said. He and wife Kelly Ladas were street artists in 1974. While cities every where attract people from all over, San Francisco from 1950 to about 1980 became a strong magnet for creativity and the arts. Some of the most significant art and cultural movements happened or were further enhanced in San Francisco. The Beatnik scene, the Hippie movement (with the Summer of Love in the Haight and Ashbury District) to the emerging of the Castro District, these all took root during the 1960's and '70's.
Wiley recalled the days when street artists were a feature at Ghiradelli Square and The Cannery - near Fisherman's Wharf. There were also street performers in those days like "The Automatic Human Jukebox" and the mime team of Shields and Yarnell at Union Square (who later went on to national fame with their own TV show in the late 1970's). San Francisco at that time had a unique creative vibrancy that was like no other place. Certainly, hippies, arts and the styles were everywhere, but San Francisco was the reference point. Like the song, "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair," hippies, beads and peaceful pace were all part of the experience that was to the Baby-boomer generation, San Francisco.
For locals it was simply called, "The City." And, just about everyone has something to say about it, but especially those who embraced the arts and cultural scene there. "It was a fascinating time and me and my wife Kelly were glad we were there," said Wiley. "That Human Jukebox you remember when you were little, his name was Grimes Poznikov. It is sad what happened to him," said Wiley. "He went crazy, very sad," he said.
Poznikov had become so popular at the time, he was invited to perform on the Mike Douglas Show and was featured in the news many times. Yet, like much of what was the 1960's and '70's, Poznikov's brilliance and talent dimmed. He fell victim to alcoholism and mental illness, eventually died on the streets.
Wiley noted that he and his wife, saw the City change as the mellow aspects of that era shifted into the technological wave of the 1980s. As the decade ended so did much of that "flower power" feeling. The age of computers dawned and eventually with the dot com boom the landscape became what we know the City and the world to be today.
Wiley and Ladas kept in focus their craft endeavors. "Part of the creativity was in reinventing my work over the years," said Ladas. She and Marilyn Peters teach beading classes at the shop on Broadway."The evolution from Puka Shell necklaces to craft shows, designing, trade shows to bead store in Sonoma has been a learning experience," Ladas said.
And it is those most dedicated craft-makers and artists that weathered the changes, taking what had been initially a movement and turned it into a business and for some like Wiley, Ladas and others a profession.
The street artists made such an impact that in 1972 the San Francisco Arts Commission established The Street Artists Program, which oversees the sales of original arts and crafts and certifies their authenticity. "The program was really the first one of its kind in the country," noted Wiley. But in those early days, street artists were not always welcome. "We were constantly harassed by SF Police," said Wiley. "I was cited more than half a dozen times for nefarious trumped up violations." "Settling these citations involved appearing at The Hall of Justice," he said.
Gradually, through ballot measures and then legislation and ordinances, the Street Artist Program was established.
"Today, about 400 artists join in an unparalleled City program that champions their efforts as businesspeople and as artists," noted Street Artists Program director Howard Lazar.
Lazar and his staff review all applications for the program and each artist and craftsman must demonstrate in person - on the spot their particular talent or skill. The rules are very strict and competition for some of the choice available spots like outside the Cliff House at Ocean Beach is heavy. Those accepted, approved, licensed and certified must arrive early at their desired location to have their name for a spot chosen by lottery.
"The hours can be long and out in all kinds of weather, it is not easy lugging all the wares to the spot, setting up and then taking down," said Wiley. And, "it's not cheap," said Wiley. The City of San Francisco charges a fee through the Arts Commission program. Currently to participate in the program costs over $600.00 per year.
"When you don't make any sales on a long day, that can be difficult," said Wiley. He and Ladas continued in the Street Artists Program until 1990. "From being street artists we progressed to art and craft shows. And, then farmers markets to trade shows, to the shop we now have in Sonoma," he said.
Even though there are many things he recalls with happy recollection, he does not miss life in the City much. "It has become so expensive, try parking in the City on any given day, parking meters are always hungry," he said.
San Francisco Arts and Crafts Bead and Jewelry Store on Broadway in Sonoma also offers weekly classe...
San Francisco Arts and Crafts Bead and Jewelry Store on Broadway in Sonoma also offers weekly classes in bead stringing, necklace and bracelet making.
Wiley is most happy that something of those mellow times is preserved in his shop as the enthusiasm for beading never dies. It is an ancient and universal craft and its versatility is timeless as it extends to many people.
San Francisco Arts and Crafts Bead and Jewelry Shop is located at 546 Broadway in Sonoma, CA. The schedule for bead classes are listed on the web site. For more information check the web site or call 707-996-2323.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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