History Trumps Art on San Francisco Waterfront

Over the past few years, San Francisco's waterfront has become home to art pieces like an enormous, cartoony bow and arrow and a giant spider. Labor historians have a different idea: A five-story crane built in the early 1970s for loading coconuts.
September 27, 2008, 7am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"Labor historian and folklorist Archie Green just scratches his head and chuckles when it comes to artwork along San Francisco's waterfront, including what he called 'a modern stainless steel skyscraper or some god-damned thing' and 'a gal in a bikini and a little child.'

Green is 91 and sports a stocking cap and a Burgess Meredith glint in his eye. He can warm up a room of government officials like nobody's business. So when the retired shipwright and his pals wanted to get a defunct shipping crane refurbished as a blue-collar addition in the public art and installation column, officials started to listen.

'All of the work on the waterfront is so abstract and so artistic and so representative of high culture,' Green told the Port Commission at its Tuesday meeting in the polished Ferry Building. 'There's nothing on the waterfront today that signifies those of us who built this building, who built this waterfront.'"

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Published on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 in San Francisco Chronicle
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