Artist Kate Haug talks about her Summer of Love poster series for SF’s bus shelters—and one very hip poster in particular, featuring Janice Mirikitani and Rev. Cecil Williams
If you happen to be strolling down Market Street this summer, keep an eye out for a series of posters, fashioned as colorful “trading cards,” which are currently decorating the sides of the City’s bus shelters. The eye-catching series, by artists Kate Haug and Ivan Uranga, was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission and is part of a citywide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. There are 12 separate trading-card posters in all, each portraying an influential person—or couple—from the era. We can’t help being partial to the one featuring GLIDE’s Co-Founders, Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani—if the word “groovy” meant anything back then, their trading card captures it. With the title “People’s Prophets” and the phrase “Be the Cross” as part of the design, the poster also underscores the half-century of love Janice and Cecil have mobilized across the Bay Area and beyond.
Kate Haug, who did research in GLIDE’s archives in preparation for the series, was already steeped in Civil Rights Movement and social justice history—her last work, News Today: A History of the Poor People’s Campaign in Real Time, was an exhibition of materials exploring Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final social justice campaign before his murder in 1968. She kindly spoke with us recently about her inspiration for the Summer of Love series and her view of history as an open-ended dialogue. Following is a slightly condensed transcript of the conversation.
Can you explain how the trading card connects to the Summer of Love?
Kate Haug: I came up with this concept of the trading cards because one of the things I was interested in was the commodification of the history of the Summer of Love, how it’s really been commodified by large corporations. We see that even today in organic food or essential oils or yoga pants—all these things that come out of a fantasy of enlightened individualism or enlightened consumerism. I was interested in asking, how does history come to us? How is it influenced by its commercialization? What value do these different ideas [from 1967’s Summer of Love] have today?
The idea behind the trading card is that everything starts out at the same price but different ideas—different players, so to speak—gain or lose value over time. It was also a way I could incorporate a lot of different people. There are so many different voices involved in the Summer of Love. I wanted to think about it in terms of specific characters, rather than just a bunch of people in the park with a big balloon or something. I think when you look at history in a more specific way it becomes deeper and richer in terms of its contemporary value.
How do Janice Mirikitani and Cecil Williams fit into the series for you?
I was really interested in how rich the Bay Area’s history itself was. I wanted to include people who had a strong connection to San Francisco or the Bay Area. Obviously, Janice and Cecil have a huge legacy here. Also, I was very interested in their work on social and political justice. I had spent all this time working with these texts by Martin Luther King. For me, that is one of the most important legacies that the Civil Rights Movement gave us. I really felt that Cecil and Janice’s work, although it’s different from Dr. King’s work, is still part of that continuing legacy. And the fact that they’re still working today is so impressive and so valuable, they were a natural fit for the whole series.
Do you have any personal impressions of GLIDE?
I’ve been in the Bay Area for many years and have witnessed many changes. I think that it’s imperative that we look inward at this moment of great income inequality. We all are witnessing the huge rise of tent cities outside multi-million-dollar homes and million-dollar condos. We have to ask ourselves, what is happening? What is wrong with our current system? I think that is something that a place like GLIDE can provide: this moment of reflection and also possibly action or synthesis.
What do you hope people will take away from this series in general, and from the poster of Janice and Cecil in particular?
With the Janice and Cecil poster, it’s that they’re still here: They represent this ongoing opportunity for engagement, self-reflection, action, community. When I was working in [GLIDE’s] archive, I was impressed with the array of social services that GLIDE provides. It’s basically providing a social safety net, which I think is wonderful.
But we also have to ask ourselves, why aren’t we providing that as a conscious community as a whole, when we live in one of the wealthiest places in the world? The Summer of Love was supposed to represent this consciousness-raising. There’s part of me that feels that in general our consciousness has some work to do if we’re unable to provide basic health care, housing, food, birth control, child care—if we’re unable to provide that in this extremely resource-rich environment—that’s a big question for me. There’s some failure of heart or thought that’s happening.
And for the series as a whole: I’m very interested in history, how history circulates, so my ambition for the series is that when people see all these different individuals together—the different concepts and ideas that they represent—hopefully they’ll get a more varied picture and see history more as a dialogue that has many, many voices in it. And to think about how many voices is much richer than a single voice.
The Summer of Love trading cards series is a project of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Art on Market Street Program, funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. This poster series is part of a citywide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. www.sfartscommission.org/pubartcollection
Kate Haug will be speaking at a free event on July 15, along with the other artists taking part in the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Summer of Love series.