Nov. 19, 2014

Hayes Valley Artists’ pro bono gallerist: Madeline Behrens-Brigham

“Everyone is concerned I’m going to burn out,” laughs Madeline Behrens-Brigham after explaining how the Hayes Valley Artists’ pop-up gallery at 580 Hayes was conceived and implemented all in the span of three days. “And here we have four-and-a-half weeks [at PROXY] when we’ll be open seven days a week. But to have a space to show and sell art in Hayes Valley is a wonderful opportunity.”

Starting on November 26, the Hayes Valley Artists will be hosting their second pop-up gallery, this time in an auxiliary container adjacent to Biergarten at the corner of Linden and Octavia at PROXY. The holiday gallery will be open seven days a week until December 24th. Though Behrens-Brigham would insist it’s a collaborative effort, it’s hard not to identify her gumption and dedication as crucial to carving out a place for art and artists in the dynamic landscape of Hayes Valley.

Behrens-Brigham has been an energetic fixture of the Hayes Valley art community and community at large for over a quarter of a century. Twenty four years ago, she opened a store called Modernology on the 500 block of Hayes Street,  when she met Russell Pritchard, the owner of the shop Zonal. “We were the ‘bad’ block on the bad side of the freeway,” Behrens-Brigham says, referring to the elevated Central Freeway that once ran through Hayes Valley. Rent was cheap, but the shop owners needed a way to convince people to take a chance on their stretch of the street.

They turned to art. Both Behrens-Brigham—an artist herself—and Pritchard showed works from artists in their storefronts and began connecting local artists to form a tight-knit community. They started a  block party that will be celebrating its twenty-third incarnation in December. Eventually she and Pritchard were instrumental in building the neighborhood support to have the freeway taken down after it was damaged in 1989’s Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Though Behrens-Brigham closed her shop to become a design consultant and pursue her own artistic ambitions, she and Pritchard remained close. When funding dried up from the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2007, the pair decided to co-found the Hayes Valley Art Coalition in order to raise money for public art in the newly dedicated Patricia’s Green park. Since then, the organization has been the primary source of funding for all of the sculptures that have been installed in the park.

Behrens-Brigham has been widening her involvement with the artistic community beyond the Hayes Valley Art Coalition. She’s co-chairing the Arts, Culture, and Entertainment (ACE) committee in the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. “ACE is attracting more of the young people moving in,” she notes. “It’s important to welcome all of the new people. They want to participate and play as much as the people who’ve been here a long time. Yes, there are a lot of changes, but we have to welcome them with open arms.”

The recent 580 Hayes pop-up gallery and the forthcoming holiday pop-up gallery at PROXY aren’t explicitly sponsored by any of Behrens-Brigham’s other art organization affiliations; they’re side projects that promote the kind of artistic sharing and unity that have come to characterize Hayes Valley over the past 25 years.