With strict shelter-in-place regulations in San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic, many stores and restaurants had to close, and boarded up windows appeared all over the city. While bleak, they have provided a new canvas for street artists, who have added color and powerful messaging on the new surfaces.
One of the artists taking advantage of the new canvases is San Francisco-based graffiti artist fnnch. fnnch has been challenging feelings around street art for some time with his beautiful and graphic pop art designs. With his current Honeybear project, he wanted to communicate that the medium of street art isn’t the issue: It’s the message that matters. “I wanted to paint something that was positive, inclusive, nostalgic in nature, so that you had this cognitive dissonance where you realize that the piece is illegal and will go away, but you like it, and you want it to stay.”
fnnch has created around 100 different bear designs over the years, with some of the more current donning face masks or doubling for a jar of hand sanitizer. He sees the honey bear as a flexible and universal symbol of happiness. fnnch says, “One of my goals as an artist is to improve people’s lives, to provide a little bit of surprise and delight.” He’s doing just that in San Francisco with his near constant pasting of bears in neighborhoods around the city. He also launched a fundraiser selling masks and paintings to benefit COVID-19 charities and has since raised more than $100,000.
We followed fnnch and his spotter around the streets of San Francisco early one morning to get a glimpse of him in action.
Executive Producer: Summer Wilson
Director of Photography: Andy Black
Editor: Erik Espera