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Good Bar, With Good Art : Blackbird

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If you are looking for a dimly lit, nice cocktail bar with friendly bartenders, and good art, Blackbird Bar, where the old Expansion Room used to be, is a spot you should not miss.  Blackbird opened July 23, 2009 and has been a great place to meet people, have a first date at, and enjoy good art for sale. The drink menu changes often, but the bartenders have worked there for years and typically know your old drink, if you are a regular. The artwork changes every two months and does sell. Currently, the featured artist is Tanya Wischerath, and even though most people know her as a former bartender at The Lex, her art speaks for itself. Recently recognized in London’s National Portrait Gallery, Tanya’s paintings are mixed media and capture many different people from San Francisco, some whom you may recognize, if you are a local. The show’s title is Future Acquaintances and the reception was Saturday, Sept. 12th, but artwork will be shown here for the next 2 months before the next event. Tanya is also a resident tattoo artist at Modern Electric Studio, located at 60 Otis St., San Francisco. More information on the artist can be seen at If you are more prone to Facebook and would like to know about more shows, Blackbird has an artist’s page called Blackbird Bar Art Shows, promoting the bar’s upcoming events. If you are an artist looking to show, this is a great place to do so. Your art most likely will sell, you get great exposure if you are professional and have a good portfolio with a website, and don’t try to cut the curator out of the commission.   Please, don’t try to cut the curator out, eventually they will find out and you are only hurting yourself in the long run. This city talks, and word of mouth is everything, as you may already know.

Blackbird Bar’s current in-house curator is artist and illustrator Ariel Dunitz-Johnson. As an SF resident for the last 12 years, and previous curator for the Lexington Club for 6 years, Ariel loves promoting the arts. Recently I interviewed her in her role at Blackbird Bar and this is her response:

“I love curating at Blackbird and I love having the opportunity to provide a venue for local artists.  The city is changing.  Many artists are having a harder and harder time staying in the city and finding work, and I want to be part of helping local artists show and sell their art.  To me, part of having shows that sell work is having a diverse schedule of artists – a woodworker, oil painter, pop artist, photorealistic illustrator, photographer – mixing it up and keeping the price point mixed in each show.  Since I recently came on in the spring, the current show is the first artist I personally booked.  This limits my knowledge of seeing how things really sell, but the current show sold a few pieces during the opening reception.  Artists, and patrons, seem drawn to the space – the reclaimed wood wall, the beautiful booths and tables and warm lighting and staff.  My goal for the future is to expand the art shows to be fun, free events for locals (and visitors alike) – to show a diverse array of primarily local artists and start adding in other elements, like pop-up events with artists and other local craftspeople and add food to the opening receptions.  For the last opening, I invited the Tamale Lady via Twitter and she showed up and fed the guests at the art opening.  It added an extra element of community, and kept it local, festive and accessible.

Our art schedule is currently booked through spring of 2016, but I’m always interested in finding new artists.  I’ll book as many as I can.  I’m also considering themed group shows, so we can include more artists.”

Blackbird has shown many great Bay Area artists such as David Imlay, Cecilia Welden, Janet Goodman, & Kean Eggett. Most shows sell at least 2 pieces, depending on the artist, price range, and promotional materials. Also, the best part of the process is that Blackbird doesn’t charge the artist anything if the work sells, only the curator will ask for a cut, which is understandable since they are working for you! If you would like to be considered for a show, email, or you can message thru the Facebook Blackbird Bar Art Shows page.

2124 Market Street (@14th Street & Church)
[Duboce Triangle/ Upper Market]

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Marilyn Jones - MarilynSF

Marilyn Jones - MarilynSF

Marilyn Jones is an independent curator and worked for Blackbird Bar for 2 years as their sole curator and at the former Triple Crown Night Club, now called Rebel. Graduated from SFSU in 2001 with BA in Art History, worked at Vorpal Gallery and Weinstein Gallery as an office monkey, and Franklin Bowles Art Gallery as an Art Consultant.