Evicted Area Musicians Make Home in Giant Guitar Installation
Guest Post by Sara Aboulafia
Popular local folk-pop duo He and Her have devised a characteristically creative solution to their recent eviction woes.
Juan Velasquez and Kerri Johannsen had been living for three years in a rent-controlled Mission one-bedroom apartment when their landlord, Vaughan R. Lee, forced them out to move in his son Casey along with six tech workers, advertising the space as “a boutique cooperative living space” and charging a 67% increase in rent.
Unfortunately for Velasquez and Johannsen, full-time work doing carpentry/sculpture and grant-writing/aromatherapy, respectively, wasn’t enough to cover the price hike.
“The rents for working musicians are cray-cray,” sighed Johannsen as I spoke with the couple outside their new digs.
“Everybody’s moving to Portland, which is horrible because the ratio is like 2:1 adorable artifacts to actual people,” she continued.
“We don’t want to live like that,” said Velasquez.
The couple was sharing a bowl of soup at Pho Real when the solution to their conundrum dawned on them: They could build and live in an oversized sculpture of a steel-stringed acoustic guitar and stay in the neighborhood they loved.
“We live in the sound hole,” Velasquez explained, encouraging me to poke my head in and take a look around. The yurt-like space was bare, but comfortable, including a small pad for a bed and a little stovetop ingeniously protected by a small metal hood to prevent the walls from turning to tinder.
“We almost went with a giant shoe, like in the old nursery rhyme,” he continued as I drew my head out, “but after some discussion, we decided to go in a different direction.”
“We didn’t want to live in a shoe,” said Johannsen, piping in.
“That, too,” agreed Velasquez, remarking that they still needed something with at least a “base amount of whimsy” to preserve their home as a legitimate San Francisco bohemian throwback art piece.
While the SFPD has been cracking down on noise in the area, the couple has received no poor treatment. Instead, locals and even the police themselves seem to ignore and even occasionally appreciate their silent allusion to the arts.
“Once in awhile we’re woken up by tech commuters pretending to pluck the metal strings, which don’t really vibrate. We pop out like Jack-in-the-Boxes and then they kind of laugh awkwardly, give us some change, and hurry away. Eventually we collect enough cash for a raw juice.”
When asked if they still played music in the area, they shook their heads.
“Not so much,” said Johannsen. “But we do live inside the sound hole of a giant public sculpture of a guitar.”
Smiled Velasquez, “We’re about as close as you can get to the dream.”