event | brett crawford: caravan

It’s 1994 and Brett Crawford is in his element at 2nd and Mission in San Francisco: scribbling characters on a clean, white temporary construction site wall. It’s 2 am. This is one of his favorite areas to get up as it's strategically positioned near his favorite gallery, 111 Minna, and he dreams of them discovering his work this way.

He moves on to a self-portrait—a skinny man in motion, slinking forward, a crazed look on his face. He’s almost finished when a black Crown Victoria parks beside him and a large man emerges from the car. 

“Don’t run. I just want to talk to you. My name is Art Agnos and I used to be the mayor of this city,” the giant calls from the shadows. 

Crawford freezes. 

“I’ve never actually seen anyone doing graffiti and I’ve always wondered… why do you do it?” Agnos asks.

“I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, it’s because it’s art, Art. I never went to school and I don’t have the slightest clue how to get my art into a gallery or a museum, but I still want to share my art with the world.” 

Agnos takes a step back, observing the work. “I guess it is art,” he says, before vanishing into the night.

Crawford’s run-in with Art Agnos foretold a future reality once isolated to his imagination. It only needed time to unfold. 

The creation of art had been Crawford's sole savior during an abusive childhood and early adulthood spent in and out of prison. Despite his creative passion, he was stuck in a cycle that clung to an identity marked by criminal activity and drug addiction. But on his final arrest he was given a choice: spend 12 years in prison, or two at Delancey Street. 

Delancey Street is a rehabilitation program that helps turn peoples lives around by equipping them with valuable skills to break their habits and redefine themselves. Crawford ended up staying there for five years instead of two, during which time he learned that Art Agnos had been a long time supporter of the program. Delancey Street also happens to be a few blocks from 111 Minna Gallery.

When Crawford was released from Delancey Street in 2013, he spearheaded StartVault, a dye-sublimation and direct printing service, before taking to the streets with art like never before. He has painted over 22 murals, had three solo shows, and showcased his art in galleries like Avenue des Arts Hong Kong and Luna Rienne. 

There are coincidences that feel more like fate than sheer chance. Brett Crawford is a walking testament to the subtle signs and full circles of a destiny fulfilled. See his solo show, caravan at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco on Friday, July 6th from 5-11 pm. 

words by carter