Block Fest Helps Keep Tenderloin Creative

Jazzmene Lizardo

People paint at the Tenderloin Walk Fest in San Francisco Calif., on Saturday Feb 8 2020. (Andrew Leal / Golden Gate Express)

Music and tender soul of Rita Whittaker’s voice spread through Counterpulse while artist’s paint at their stations on the first Friday of the Tenderloin Block Art Festival. Placed in a small well-lit  venue with red painted walls, the community, including children, are able to join in and enjoy their time making art, contributing to Counterpulse and the neighborhood. 

The block festival includes live performances and art making stations inside Counterpulse, displaying  pieces by artists such as Holly Wong, throughout the venue. The Tenderloin neighborhood has allowed the community to participate in art activities every first and third Friday of the month. 

Counterpulse moved to the Tenderloin three years ago and started the Tenderloin Art Block Festival. “It was created to address challenges in the neighborhood, such as lack of hygiene and negative drug activities,” said Justin Ebrahimi, Counterpulses communication directory. 

Local Tenderloin artists contribute to the block festival when needed. “Block fest is a way to disrupt these activities and offer something that is uplifting and creative,” Ebrahimi said.  

The first Friday block fest consisted of a canvas painting station, where attendees are able to paint on small canvases, and have a view of a live performance of Proud Rita from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

Other art stations that are offered are visual painting, crochet jam, silk screening, music boxes, and other creative ways that include art.

Approximately 20 or more people from the neighborhood come every other week when the festival is being held, including regulars according to Ebrahimi.

 Dawn Leigh, one of the original creator activators of the block fest, started painting when she was 3 years old, but did not take her art career seriously until 7 years ago. She sat with two other participants who were painting on small canvases at the art station that were set up. Her and the two other painters were given a visual and had to recreate the paintings onto smaller canvases, and place them together.

Leigh says that the block fest shows people that they can participate in art activities.

“I get one or two people that are from the Tenderloin community that it’s a great way to show that they can actually do art,” Leigh said. “Whether it be fine art, or visual art, or music and they seem to respond really well to it.”

For more on block fest and other Counterpulse events, visit

Sushma Kothari paints at the Tenderloin Walk Fest in San Francisco Calif., on Saturday Feb 8 2020. (Andrew Leal / Golden Gate Express)