San Francisco artists’ space wallows in storms, with losses they’ll ‘never recover’

The flood at Islais Creek Studios in Bayview cost the artists irreplaceable work. Photo: Aaron de la Cruz

The artists who occupied spaces at Bayview’s Islais Creek studios were hit Heavy rainstorms last weekend, with flooding causing the tenants of the first floor to lose supplies and equipment along with some irreplaceable artwork. As heavy rains returned on Wednesday, artists and building managers were bracing for more flooding.

Aaron de la Cruz, the muralist, said artists who returned on Tuesday to assess water damage in their studios have been told to vacate the premises, possibly until Friday. Cruz said that building management stacked sandbags around the studio building “like a castle”.

Islais Creek Studios is part of the art colony The Point, which also oversees the artist studios Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. Attempts to reach reps from the point were unsuccessful.

“My studio got hit first,” Cruz said of the flooding last weekend. “Last year the water came in two inches, but this year it was insane. People who have been longer than me have never seen anything like this.”

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The artists were directed to evacuate Bayview’s flooded Islais Creek studios. Photo: Aaron de la Cruz

When he arrived at the studios at 9 am on December 31, Cruz recalled, it was raining hard and water was already pooling outside on Rankin Street. At about 10:30, water began to “creep” into his workplace, he said. An hour later, his studio had taken two inches of water, by his estimation, and he was rising.

He said that the building management called on the tenants to alert those in the building to vacate and advised others to stay away from the area. Heavy flooding closed Rankin and Custer Streets.

Although he lost some furniture, drawings, and prints in the floods, Cruz said he was lucky compared to some of the 45 other artists who occupy the building. Since he was able to move objects in his space as the water rose, he didn’t lose any expensive electronic equipment, but he still worried about more storms.

“Even though we were right next to a creek, the water wasn’t from as high as the creek,” Cruz said. “The water from the street came from the sewer. You can’t expect that.”

While artists with studios on the second floor did not suffer damage, workspaces on the first floor saw up to 8 inches of water, according to Cruz and neighboring artist Cheryl Derricott.

Murals by Aaron de la Cruz in his flooded workspace at Islace Creek Studios. Photo: Submitted by Aaron de la Cruz

Derricotte moved into the building in 2021 after being commissioned to create New Harriet Tubman Monument In the Gateway housing development, next to Millbrae transit station. While the artists in the building are required for insurance, Derricotte said she lost irreplaceable items from her personal archives, including notes, preliminary prints from a 2016 exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora and one of four hand-stamped prints she made of the work “2017 Year at a Glance.” 214 Dead Black Men” which appeared on de Young Open in 2020.

“I’ll cover the art supplies and books I lost,” Derricott said. “But those archival pieces I will never get back.”

Derricott said her most recent print series was not in her studio, and that the glass tiles that are the centerpiece of her Tubman monument were unscathed, though some of the lighting equipment to be used on the statue did get wet.

“Neither of us were ready a few days ago because in the 16 years we’ve been at Islais Creek Studios, we’ve never had our 30,000-square-foot warehouse completely flood,” metal artist Rebecca Fox said in an Instagram post.

Fox said it got everything in its studio off the ground and put out sandbags, as the area is expected to flood again with Wednesday’s storm.

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