Art/Lit Living Innovation Zone


The Art/Lit Living Innovation Zone (LIZ) is a new work of public sculpture on the corner of Fulton and Larkin Streets adjacent to the Asian Art Museum. The installation was designed by a team of youth in the Architecture Program at Youth Art Exchange, who were inspired by dragons—mythological creatures found in the art and literature of many different cultures and time periods.

Their dragon is stylized into a blocky, origami-like shape, and is decorated with a myriad of patterns found on artwork in the collections of the Asian Art Museum. The body of the dragon features a thirty-foot long canvas for a changing program of mural art; the first mural will be painted by local artist Ira Watkins.

Art/Lit LIZ is a working title that alludes to the partnership that generated this project—between the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Main Library, the Civic Center CBD, and San Francisco Planning, a co-leading agency of the Living Innovation Zone program.

How did the Art/Lit LIZ come about?   
The Art/Lit LIZ collaboration began in the summer of 2015, aspiring to strengthen a sense of community and collaboration in the Civic Center. The partners invited the students of Youth Art Exchange to create a public art experience that would engage passersby and encourage new interaction.

Through frequent meetings, public events, prototyping, and a series of design-review panels, the youth designed a sculptural installation evoking a stylized dragon form with a changing mural canvas.

Over the next two years, the sculpture and area around it will be programmed with activities and new mural openings intended to:

  • Engage residents in the Civic Center that do not typically attend arts events.
  • Spark interactions with local artists and the community.
  • Demonstrate the potential of the arts to enhance public life.
  • Foster an active, creative, and safe public space in an area that has previously been underutilized.

What is the Living Innovation Zone Program?
The Living Innovation Zone program is a collaboration between the City, creative and cultural organizations, and the communities in which each LIZ is located.

A LIZ activates public spaces with creative, temporary installations that engage and inspire the public. These installations welcome all people, foster social and civic connections, and allow for the testing of new ideas, projects, and technologies.

About Youth Art Exchange
Youth Art Exchange (YAX) sparks a shared creative practice between professional artists and public high school students, furthering youth as leaders, thinkers, and artists in San Francisco. YAX’s Architecture Program, led by faculty artist Craig Hollow, engages young architects from concept to construction of public-art projects, positively shaping the built urban environment.

About Ira Watkins
Ira Watkins has been involved in the arts since he was eight years old. Born in Waco, Texas, in 1941, he has spent most of his adult life in San Francisco, having moved to the Bay Area as a teenager. Ira’s ties to Waco are still strong, however; a day was named after him for his work on a mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Waco’s city center.

As a self-taught artist, Ira takes pride in exhibiting his work with well-known artists in established galleries and art spaces, as well as grass-roots art shows. His work depicts and celebrates the community that he is a part of and shows the diversity of the African American experience—from music, musicians, and everyday life to politics, sports, and religion.