“Hunters Point” came from the Hunters family, who lived on the San Francisco Bay in the 1800s. In 1870, the area was established as a commercial shipyard and was acquired by the Navy days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is located on 638 acres of waterfront. In the 1950’s the base employed 8,500 civilians. Prior to decommissioning in 1974, the shipyard was a Navy repair station.
In 1976, a private ship repair contractor leased the yard and began subletting buildings to civilians, including The Point’s founder, Jacques Terzian, whose business fabricated found-object based furniture and wall installations. Jacques’ vision saw the possibility of transforming several of the neglected buildings into affordable workspaces, and in 1983, a handful of artists began renovating and renting their studios at the Shipyard. With co-developers Paula Terzian and David Terzian (daughter and son), The Point was soon home to nearly visual artists, musicians and writers.
In 1985 the City and Navy announced plans to rebuild the base and home port the USS Missouri and other naval ships at Hunters Point, which almost certainly would have displaced the hundreds of artists and other small business tenants. When the Navy did not renew the leases in 1985 in anticipation of the USS Missouri home porting, the artists and other civilian tenants formed an effective alliance to protect their shops and studios. Faced with eviction, shipyard tenants banded together to preserve the unique mixture of arts and small business flourishing there. On numerous occasions, busloads of Point tenants and artists, garbed in bright orange t-shirts with the slogan “What’s the Point”, flooded city hall to show their opposition to the home porting. This group was joined by a broad coalition of community leaders and environmentalists. The coalition stalled evictions from the shipyard for numerous years. Success in delaying evictions was rewarded by cancellation of the home porting in 1988. Artists’ donations of artwork for auction raised thousands of dollars for this effort. Finally in late 1989, the Missouri home porting was canceled and existing tenants were allowed to stay, followed by the closing of the base in 1991.
In recent years, the artists in Building 103 and The Point’s metal sculptors were evicted by the Navy due to extensive and necessary remediation work. The Point landlords found a suitable home for the metal artists located two miles from the Shipyard: Islais Creek Studios. In the future, all the artists will again be reunited at the HPS site, but for now we are two sites connected: Hunters Point Shipyard & Islais Creek Studios, all “Hunters Point Shipyard Artists.”
Today, with a plan for civilian conversion of the former naval base, and the transfer of the Shipyard to the city of San Francisco, there is still work being done to insure Hunters Point Shipyard will become an even more vital part of the City’s fine arts community. Groups such as Hunters Point Citizens Advisory Committee (C.A.C.), Shipyard Trust for the Arts (S.T.A.R.) and Shipyard Artist Alliance (S.Y.A.A.), have worked hard to assure the survival of this fine colony of arts professionals.
The Hunters Point Shipyard Artists acknowledge longtime Shipyard tenants Scott Madison and Linda Hope, whose hard work over the years has helped to assure that artists remain at the Shipyard.
Making the Point
Beth Shannon’s documentary Making the Point gives us a rare look at the largest art colony in the United States. The film tells the story of Jacques Terzian, the Point’s visionary founder and how he kept the Point going in the face of political, financial and environmental obstacles.