The Tenderloin beats to its own drum. Tucked between the Civic Center’s array of cultural and government institutions and Union Square’s fashionable shopping area, some visitors might miss the one-of-a-kind sights and experiences. Yet, one walk through the neighborhood is enough to make one stop and marvel at its unique history and character.

One beautiful aspect of the Tenderloin you’ll undoubtedly notice is the street art. It’s a testament to the neighborhood’s creativity, resilient nature, and free-spirited people.

As more and more works of art pop up on walls and buildings around the area, residents eagerly look to see what’s new. Even those just passing by are easily taken in by the sights. These are just a few of the more noticeable and treasured pieces painted on and around the Tenderloin streets. The pieces themselves are each linked here-just click on their title to see a picture. However, they’re all best experienced in person!

Golden Brains

Location: 580 Geary Street

Artist: Unknown

Year of Completion: 2017

The 70-foot tall pair of brain flowers were painted along the top seven floors of The Alise, a hotel in the neighborhood. The anonymous street artist who spray painted the piece is known only by the name, ‘Believe in People’ or ‘BiP’ for short. This bit of mystery lends a mysterious air to the Geary Street landscape, a fitting atmosphere for the intriguing neighborhood it resides in.

Humming with Life

Location: Corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street

Artist: Johanna Poethig

Year of Completion: 2011

This post office building mural depicts the vibrant mix of cultures and communities that reside in the Tenderloin and neighboring areas. An aesthetically delightful piece, Johanna Poethig’s mural does more than just please the eyes; it speaks to the strong character of the area.

As Poethig wrote in her blog while painting the piece, “The composition is a layering of a musical score, a garden of cultural architectural motifs and hummingbirds that fly in large to intimate scale throughout the design. A light-hearted greeting to a heavy-hearted site. The hummingbird’s heart is half of its weight. It brings delight, energy and hope when it appears.”

The Breakers Cafe

Location: Corner of Mason Street and Eddy Street

Artists: A group of students at the Academy of Art

Year of Completion: 2013

Head to the Briston Hotel, and you’ll see a mural of a group of musicians playing inside the once-famous Breakers Cafe (it’s sadly gone now). The work is a tribute to the neighborhood’s deep history as a center of jazz music, arts and culture, and entertainment and nightlife.

Without a doubt, this mural is a must-see. After viewing it, you may be in the mood to head to a speakeasy and enjoy a cocktail or two (have a blast!).

Windows into the Tenderloin

Location: Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue

Artist: Mona Caron

Year of Completion: 2010

Mona Caron, a renowned San Francisco-based street mural artist, brilliantly depicts life in the Tenderloin with this masterpiece. The painting brilliantly captures the true daily scene in the neighborhood.

As Mona Caron writes about the mural, “almost every little figure within the painting is based on a real person who regularly frequents that street corner.” The mural depicts not just present realities, but also alludes to memories of the past and visions for the future. Needless to say, you’ll get swept into the scene as soon as you look at Windows into the Tenderloin.

The Woman Who Believes in Magic and Found It

Location: 1485 Bush Street

Artist: Zio Ziegler

Year of Completion: 2015

An incredibly visual painting, Zio Ziegler took inspiration from architecture, literature, and French modernism when working on The Woman Who Believes in Magic and Found It. Ziegler states that each of his paintings, including this one, lack a singular explanation, and “the viewer is faced with self-reflection of his or her own life and internal pursuit.”

This mural fits in perfectly in the Tenderloina neighborhood that’s been one of the few refuges in San Francisco for the down and out. The Woman Who Believes in Magic and Found It speaks to the hope of people who come here.

Experience all of the Tenderloin’s street art

These pieces are just the tip of the iceberg. From creatively painted utility boxes to murals of whales, green fairies, and robots, the Tenderloin neighborhood is truly brimming with street art from every angle.