Mission's Artillery Apparel Gallery offers a mash-up of fashion, music and poetry
By Darla Nagle
(For El Tecolote)
To the left of the entrance is a display of shoes on the wall and just beyond that a small fitting room; to the right a wood counter covered with jewelry, watches, a display of sunglasses, a sign displaying the Visa and MasterCard symbols and another that reads, “Please no food or drink.” Clothes racks are dispersed throughout, filled with t-shirts, hats, jackets and the like and a customer stands at the counter to purchase a purse. It seems like the average hole-in-the-wall clothing store or is it?
Walking space is at a minimum. People holding mimosas and cupcakes make their way back and forth through the crowd as the loud pulsating music emanating from the back of the shop wafts out onto a windy Mission Street. Most focus their attention on Freddie Genre. He looks like a refugee from the 80’s band Flock of Seagulls with a dark sports coat, tie and a carefully sculpted hairdo, and his 80’s style song only proves to strengthen the possibility. The tiny wooden stage unable to hold him, Genre uses the space in front of it. He bounces to the beat of the music with each step as he moves back and forth in front of the crowd. He doesn’t overuse his voice but lets his natural singing talent speak for itself.
Genre was just one performer at Per[Mission] to Speak, a first event at Artillery Apparel Gallery to be hosted by All Mighty Family, a group that specializes in throwing events for social awareness.
“This is the beginning of a series of events we’re trying to get together,” said gallery owner Ivan Lopez of his new partnership with All Mighty Family.
The Artillery Apparel Gallery was opened last year. After graduating from the Pratt Institute—a design school in Brooklyn, NY—Lopez struggled to find work. He decided to use his experience helping with his family’s business and become an entrepreneur himself. The gallery currently displays the work of 30 fashion designers including Lopez’s own work. He specializes in hand painted t-shirts. Works of local photographers, painters and other artists are also displayed regularly.
The first event saw a small group of open mic and handpicked performers grace the stage with their original poetry and song styling.
Genre, a friend of Lopez, sings one line and then aims the microphone at the audience to encourage participation. Too engulfed in Genre’s performance, they don’t take the hint. Genre sings another line as his backup singers dance around in the background.
Freddie Genre, 23, picked up a microphone for the first time at his preschool graduation and hasn’t put it down since. He took up the keyboard at 13, and now he also plays bass and the drums.
“I’m completely self taught and play by ear,” Genre said. Living with his family in Hunter’s Point, Genre focuses all his energy on his love of music. He’s performed at local venues like Skip’s Tavern and The Rockit Room as well as college venues like San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University.
Getting the event off the ground was not an easy task, according to Lopez. “We had performers cancel on us after we were forced to make a change in the event’s date,” Lopez said.
Twenty-year-old Justin Rodriguez croons a slow ballad. His nappy, shoulder-length locks are streaked with green highlights and brush against the shoulder of his black print sleeveless shirt. Long black sleeves protrude from beneath his t-shirt and cover his arms as he strums his acoustic guitar.
Rodriguez is a music major from San Francisco State University who moved from Inglewood, CA for school. He, like Genre, performs locally.
“I used to be a regular at Brainwash Cafe,” Rodriguez said. He comes from a musical family. His grandfather, also a musician, put Rodriguez’s first guitar in his hands. Rodriguez also cultivates an interest in poetry which originated in middle school. As with this evening’s performance, Rodriguez incorporates his poetry in his act.
As the evening winds to a close, employees of Take the Cake, a Marina neighborhood bakery work the crowd in a last effort to get rid of the last cupcakes while the audience is still engrossed in the performance of the last of the evening’s poets.
“We help other people get feedback,” Lopez said. What Lopez found most exciting was being able to run a business in his old neighborhood.
“It’s a really great environment, a very free environment so you can express yourself,” said 19-year-old Poem Brasga, an attendee at the evening’s event.
For more information on the Artillery Apparel Gallery and its upcoming events visit its website at www.artillery-ag.com. The gallery is at 2751 Mission Street in San Francisco.