Issue 550 to

Urban Field Notes: Privately Owned Public Painting Spaces

San Francisco through the eyes of 21st-century flaneur.

Urbanist Article

I started making plein air paintings to get out of the studio and into the city. I wanted to visit locations that may not have iconic San Francisco views, but are still recognizable as San Francisco.

The Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOs) were perfect locations for my project. Many of the spaces have art, gardens and/or terrific views that make for interesting compositions, and they are pleasant places to spend a few hours. They’re familiar to those who live or work nearby, and are even occasionally discovered by tourists.

After spending hours drawing and painting in the city’s open spaces, I feel a connection not only to each location but also to San Francisco as it is today. This project has given me a new way to see a city that is in flux. I have seen the changing landscape from rooftop gardens and from street-level courtyards that are light-filled for now but adjacent to new construction.

When I am painting downtown, I feel that I am a part of this evolving city, and have a better understanding of what is happening here.

Words and images by Christine Weibel