Last week, San Francisco lost one of the underground art scene's most dedicated supporters. Most recently, Jack Davis was the director of the SomArts Cultural Center, ran the stage production for the San Francisco Blues Festival, and served on the mayor's Arts Task Force. But for decades, Jack has been an icon of the of Bay Area avant-garde culture. He was one of those people who just made things happen. Last year, my friend John Law, himself a legend in SF's underground scene, wrote a tribute to Jack after he suffered a heart attack. With the news of Jack's passing, Scott Beale of Laughing Squid reposted John's tribute. Here's what John wrote:
In any town, any scene, any time, you can count on the fingers of one hand the largely unheralded folks that facilitate almost everything thing of note that happens. They are there early on, giving quiet, confident encouragement – and, as importantly for starving artists, the occasional big break in event cost or maybe various services provided but somehow unbilled. These two or three princes never expect anything in return other than to watch the blossoming and growth of what they consider to be (and usually are) the most worthy enterprises. Other’s who “make things happen” the individuals, deserving or not who do get the lion’s share of the credit – you know who they are – they’re in the papers, on the radio, these folks know who those two or three are and always owe them a debt.Link
Jack Davis is one of those princes. At crucial points in the life of almost any significant Frisco art endeavor/scene/ organization (underground or established,) Jack has, in some capacity, small or gigantic, been pivotal in its life and growth. As Director of SomArts Gallery in SOMA for the last twenty years, one of the largest, best and most easily accessible art/event/party places in the City, Jack and his wonderful staff have given untold thousands of nascent artists, community groups and provocateurs their first big or pivotal show and a grand forum for promulgating their ideas and spirit in the local scene. Many of these individuals and organizations have moved on to national prominence. Following is a very small sampling of groups that benefited from Jacks involvement and/or support: The Neighborhood Arts Program (one of the founders) this group kicked off most of local Cultural Centers, Intersection for the Arts (past Director,) S.F. Mime Troupe (Board Member,) Burning Man (first big in-town events in the early 90’s were at SOMARTs for extremely low cost,) Day of the Dead, The Farm, Pickle Family Circus, Make a Circus, Dance Mission, Cellspace, S.F. Pride, Survival Research Labs (Jack held the cops off while Mark and crew got away!) The list goes on & on.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.
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