Just about anything goes at free community space 

click to enlarge Above from left, Hunter Franks, Ilana Lipsett, Mike Zuekerman and Morgan Fitzgibbons are the primary organizers of the [freespace] community center. - CAMILA BERNAL/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Above from left, Hunter Franks, Ilana Lipsett, Mike Zuekerman and Morgan Fitzgibbons are the primary organizers of the [freespace] community center.

The strangest chair you'll ever sit in is tucked into a corner of a reclaimed building on Eighth and Mission streets in The City. A deconstructed "love seat," the plump red chair grumbles, eventually vibrating in time to the beating of your heart.

But you won't want to sit in it for too long, as [freespace] boasts three floors of such deconstructions. The artistic hub began as part of the White House's National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1, a day modeled off similar tech-related events aiming to break problems into parts and address them using creative solutions.

Surviving past its expiration date, [freespace] has turned into something new — a space promoting positive change in one of The City's sketchier areas.

"We kind of hacked the National Day of Hacking," says Hunter Franks, 26, one of [freespace]'s 10 founders, who knew each other casually before beginning the organization. "The space was $1 for the month of June, but we raised $25,000 through Indiegogo to keep transforming it through July. Now our mission is to create longer-term projects that create an impact outside of our walls."

One such project is a "template" of how [freespace] grew, Franks says, which is meant to inspire similar spaces in other cities. Another, the Learning Shelter, aims to train homeless people in skills such as carpentry and 3-D printing.

Portable classrooms are being built and outfitted to accommodate ongoing events. In June, [freespace] hosted 119 events, and the calendar is packed throughout July.

More than 20 murals at [freespace] have been organized and curated by Michael Covington, an impromptu artist in residence, who says he dropped by the space one day, got "more and more connected to it, and just started directing where certain art pieces should go."

"For example, this floor speaks geometry," he says, pointing at a triangle-tessellated mural. "As you go upstairs you'll see more seasonal stuff. One couple came in a couple nights ago at like 9:30 p.m. asking to spray-paint this wall, and we just let them do it, and it came out pretty nice."

The first floor has free arts and crafts supplies, too, and an open mic that is "open all the time," according to one volunteer.

The second and third floors support community contributions of different kinds. Heavenly smells waft from the second-floor kitchen, and a giant Buddha statue welcomes visitors to the Spiritual Room, a simple white room littered with books by Eastern philosophers.

The heart chairs sit next to the Buddha. Franks says he didn't know who donated them, though it might have been guys from Burning Man.

"We activated this space to foster collaboration, creativity and civic innovation. All these people needed were space and permission," he says, gesturing to a budding garden, which was designed and built by volunteers. Barely a month old and already filled with sprouts, it will be ready to farm in time for a celebratory dinner at the end of July.


Where: 1131 Mission St., S.F.

When: Noon to 10 p.m. daily

Admission: Free

Contact: Hunter Franks, (323) 363-4852

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Susie Neilson

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