Lower Branch celebrated their first and second anniversary at 111 Minna and are officially back— this time for their Sixth Anniversary on Friday March 11th.
The Lower Branch name first set roots in 2010, with Jarrett (JC) Carlston and Paolo Salazar. Lower Branch has worked with hundreds of artists, established a gallery in the Tenderloin, and have helped a number of charities. Six years later, Lower Branch is still focused on the end-goal: keeping art alive and well in San Francisco and support the emerging artists.
In anticipation of the show, we met up with co-founder of Lower Branch Jarrett Carlston (who everyone knows as “JC”,) to talk about Lower Branch’s humble start as a blog, to established website, to nomadic curating group, to its time as a gallery space in the Tenderloin.
First off, can you give some history on Lower Branch?
Yeah. Lower Branch came to fruition in 2010, after my best friend [Timothy Palmer Jr.], had suddenly passed in a car accident. I wanted to spin the negative into a positive. He was an artist and we had so many talented friends that just weren’t getting out there, so I basically started a website/blog, call it what you want, but the purpose was to interview these artists and get them some shine.
That’s when I linked up with Paolo the other half and co-founder of Lower Branch. We wanted to do more than interviews so we started doing pop-ups all over the city. We were everywhere from Amsterdam Cafe to what is now the second floor of Target at the Metreon (brief space) showing art.
Every artist back then, and even now, wanted to show at 111 Minna and within a year I got in touch with the ever-awesome Michelle [Delaney] over there and she gave us the venue to work with—and the rest is history.
How’d you get started with the gallery space in the Tenderloin?
It literally went down in 48 hours no joke. I was sitting at the local bar under my house and I was talking about the two-year anniversary party that was coming up at 111 Minna when one of the semi-regulars overheard me. He asked what was Lower Branch etc. etc.
Before I finished, he basically asked me if I wanted my own gallery and of course I’m like ‘yeah who doesn’t, but this is SF bud’. He gave me a card and told me to arrange a meeting with his secretary. By noon the next day I was meeting with him and his partner. They had a contract. We haggled numbers. We had a gallery within two years of creating the website–kinda bananas when you think about it.
Tourist websites seem to always be warning visitors against going anywhere near the Tenderloin, were there any crazy/memorable stories working in that notoriously rough part of town?
I mean it’s bad, and it isn’t at the same time. I love the TL. Yeah, there are some crazy stories, we were in the guts on Eddy and Taylor, but that neighborhood supported us big time. It was easy to see. especially in the weeks leading up to the closure, that we really meant something to the community. The art brought smiles, laughter, and quotes like ‘oh dear lord is that a penis’—those are the stories that will stick with me. Great people and great community.
Artwork by Spencer Mann
Were there any go-to artists, or key people that helped you get Lower Branch established back in the day?
Man, where do I start this list could end up looking like a ten-fold J-card of an early nineties hip hop tape! Pretty sure half the kids just went ‘what?’ For you youngsters, a J-card is the paper card inserted in the plastic storage case of most audio cassette tapes—where you put the shout outs!
But in all seriousness, my right-hand man Paolo Salazar, obviously. Dudes like Ricky Watts and Robert Bowen have been great to us since day one. Chris Anway out of Antioch…lots of people…even Jenn from Real World Denver and Road Rules Challenge took Lower Branch T-shirts to Prague and wore them during multiple tapings that were shown multiple times on MTV. So yeah, Lower Branch is a total group effort and we wouldn’t be talking to you now without everyone’s help along the way. Much respect.
That’s quite a run. Any future plans?…
I’m in the process of rebuilding the site from gallery form back to blog form for interviews—so look out for that. Back to the roots full circle.
Artwork by Ricky Watts
Artwork by Shayna Yasuhara
Featured artists include Ricky Watts, Robert Bowen, Max Ehrman, Satyr, Issac Pierro, Chris Micro, Spencer Mann, Paolo Salazar, Shayna Yasuhara, Joshua Herbolsheimer, Brian Swimme, Chris Anway, Marina Zila, Mariela Montero, and Stefan Kietzman.