newsom.midmarket.jpgMore than one hundred artists, residents and onlookers gathered around Mayor Gavin Newsom today as he cut a ribbon that signified the official opening of an art supplies store in an area historically considered one of San Francisco’s more creatively challenged spots.

Blick Art Materials, which offers more than 5,000 paints and 150 types of canvases, celebrated its opening at 979 Market St. at about noon today amid a small flurry of street performers, art demonstrations and live music.

While the area around Market and 6th Streets has seen its share of closed and struggling businesses and crime, attendees of today’s store opening remained optimistic.

“This area’s been ripe for revitalization for years,” said Clansa Morales Roberts, executive director of Independent Arts & Media, a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to expanding civic discussion of the arts.

Roberts added that the recession could be an advantage to arts expanding in the city.

“Creativity thrives in harsh economic times,” she said.

Newsom said he thought people would look back and remember today as the day art in the Mid-Market area turned around.

“Four, five, ten years from now, people will look back at this moment as the catalyst of change,” he said.

But some attendees acknowledged previous failed attempts to reinvigorate the area’s art scene.

Supplies store Pearl Art & Craft used to inhabit the unit next door to the new Blick Art Materials and closed in mid-February.

“Blick will probably be able to provide more customer service than Pearl,” said James Stewart, a San Francisco resident of 12 years. “They offer a more corporate feel, whereas Pearl was more mom and pop.”

When asked what Blick Art Materials would bring that Pearl Art & Craft did not, Newsom said, “They have a lot of leverage.”

The arts supply chain is based in Illinois and has about 35 locations across the United States, including several opening this year, according to officials.

The store opening is just one step among many to expand activities around Market and 6th Streets and clean up the area, according to many attendees.

The Central Market Arts Festival, for example, debuts on Sept. 24 with performances by musicians, actors, and dancers.

The event is organized by the Central Market Community Benefit District, a nonprofit started about four years ago that uses city-collected fees from property owners to clean up streets and provide activities.

“We deal with cleaning up needles, feces, and urine,” Executive Director Daniel Hurtado said.

Festival organizers and the mayor see the event as an opportunity to provide a safe space for street performers, the mayor said.

“I don’t feel in any particular danger doing my work in San Francisco,” said Richard Freeman Hartnell, a circus performer who came to the Blick Art Materials store opening today. “I once heard that people might pull a fistful of dollars out of your hat. But if they need it that much, they can have it.”

Another event beginning Thursday at 12 p.m. at Market and Hyde streets will give independent artists and up-and-comers a chance to feature their work in an open-air market.

The Arts Market at the United Nations Plaza will run from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday through the end of October, said Roberts of Independent Arts & Media.

“I think people are really looking forward to that,” she said. “They call it Central Market, but I think it’s more like Central Creative District.”

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