Positive News from the Frontlines of the Tenderloin

Positive News from the Frontlines of the Tenderloin

Three upcoming events tell a rich story about San Francisco’s past, present, and future

SAN FRANCISCO – CounterPulse first opened the doors to its venue in the Tenderloin back in 2016. Ever since, it has been a central hub for avant-garde performing arts and dance in San Francisco as well as a shining light for local communities. This spring, CounterPulse is hosting three events that aim to tell the story about the vibrant neighborhood that it calls home and about the urgency to preserve cultural spaces when so many have been hit hard. 

“The Tenderloin has always been a fertile ground for the city’s artistic, nightlife, and theater communities. This neighborhood deserves to be celebrated for shaping San Francisco’s identity of openness and innovation,” said CounterPulse Artistic & Executive Director Julie Phelps. “We want to be a host for meaningful conversations that highlight the creative spirit of our communities and demonstrate how vital it is to maintain safe spaces for artists and performers to take risks, be experimental, and lead the way for generations to come.”

CounterPulse is currently in the final phase of its capital campaign to purchase its building in July of this year. They are asking for community support and seeking donations to secure their stage in downtown San Francisco. Learn more at www.counterpulse.org/buyourbuilding



How can small nonprofit art organizations afford the cost of living in the Bay Area? Innovators in the field have been working for nearly a decade to solve this problem.

Join CounterPulse’s Artistic & Executive Director Julie Phelps and Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) Executive Director Moy Eng at the Commonwealth Club for a conversation moderated by Michelle Meow, host and producer of “The Michelle Meow Show.” In 2013, CAST purchased the theater currently occupied by CounterPulse. As the nonprofit readies itself to cross the finish line on its fundraising and buy its building in the Tenderloin from CAST at the original purchase price later this year, learn how they’ve worked together in piloting a new real estate model which could be applied throughout the City and around the world to keep artists and creatives rooted in their communities amidst economic upheaval.

WHEN: Thursday, March 31st, 2022 at 12:30 PM

WHERE: Commonwealth Club of California, 110 The Embarcadero


In his best-selling book, Cool Gray City of Love, acclaimed San Francisco historian and raconteur Gary Kamiya described the Tenderloin as “…the only part of San Francisco that remains untamed, its last human wilderness.” In conversation with CounterPulse’s Artistic & Executive Director Julie Phelps, Kamiya will unpack why this neighborhood continues to be both disturbing and beguiling and why San Francisco would not be the same without it. The pair will also talk about why the neighborhood has long been an incubator for emerging creative and social movements that have reverberated beyond our 49 square miles.

Gary Kamiya is an author, journalist and historian of San Francisco. His new book with artist Paul Madonna, published on October 20, 2020 by Bloomsbury, is Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City. He is also the author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, which won a 2013 Northern California Book Award. His award-winning history column “Portals of the Past” appears every other Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

WHEN: Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 7 PM 

WHERE: CounterPulse, 80 Turk Street


The night acts as a binding agent, most of us have felt the warm embrace of the dark. It forges friendships, births collaboration, and is an abrupt burst of creation night after night. The night is a thermometer of the creativity spirit of a city. San Francisco Bay Area nightlife seemingly undergoes ceaseless transformation – most recently during the pandemic – an ongoing path of change, transience, and displacement met with poetic perseverance. Please join us for a panel conversation exploring the wonder, work and whereabouts of nightlife today with some of the most prolific and experimental nighttime characters hosted in one of San Francisco’s most iconic and storied nightlife centers, the Tenderloin.  

With panelists Honey Mahogany, The STUD; D’Arcy Drollinger, OASIS; Josh Cheon, Dark Entries; and Julie Phelps of CounterPulse in a conversation moderated by Victor Cordon. With special guest Monqiue Jenkinson reading from her new book Faux Queen: A Life in Drag.

WHEN: Friday, April 29, 2022 at 7pm

WHERE: CounterPulse, 80 Turk Street


TICKET INFORMATION: counterpulse.org/keeping-nights-bright


Artistic & Executive Director Julie Phelps has been at the helm of CounterPulse since 2014. Working at the intersection of the arts, activism, and community development, Phelps enacts hybridity as a mode of advancing the multi-faceted mission of CounterPulse. Phelps is active in connecting the artistic works of CounterPulse to the community by coordinating panels, symposia, discussion series to promote the power of the arts to catalyze change in our society. Under her leadership CounterPulse has grown from $800,000 to $1.2 million annual budget through funding and launching curated and acclaimed programs positioning CounterPulse as a curatorial leader worldwide. She is herself an internationally touring performer, social practice artists and cultural representative, and is deeply rooted in the queer and dance communities. She was featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy 2019 and 2020, was named a YBCA 100 Honoree in 2017, is a published essayist in Performance Research Journal in 2021, is a contributing author in choreography: strategies (Art Stations Foundation, Poland, 2022) and was recently interviewed by the New York Times on her unique ability to build new sources of philanthropy in the tech sector. Between 2013-2016, Phelps spearheaded the process of acquiring and renovating a new facility for CounterPulse, helping to launch a new model for placing arts at the center of community development as the pilot project of the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), with full acquisition slated for July 2022 after raising over $7 million. Learn more at www.juliephelps.net.

Moy Eng began her career in New York City, fundraising with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and has worked for over three decades as a senior executive in arts and culture, renewable energy, and human rights. At the center of her life is art, supporting artists and making artworks as a poet, songwriter and vocalist. By day, Moy serves as the CEO of Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), a San Francisco-based real estate development nonprofit dedicated to creating permanent affordable housing and workspace for the arts and culture sector in one of the most expensive cities to live and work in the world. Only nine years old, CAST has already been cited as a creative placekeeping model by civic and cultural leaders in Amsterdam, Austin, Denver, London, Paris, Seattle, Sydney, and Vancouver, among many others, and in publications by the World Cities Culture Forum and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Prior to her appointment at CAST, Moy served during the 2000s as the Hewlett Foundation arts program director, making $165 million in grants of which $20 million helped to build over 750,000 square feet in new artspace for small and midsized cultural nonprofits such as Ninth Street Media Consortium, ODC, Freight and Salvage, Los Cenzontles, and Tannery Arts Center. By night, Moy is a writer and vocalist. She recently released her first recording, the blue hour, co-produced with four-time Grammy Award nominee Wayne Wallace, to critical acclaim and international airplay. www.cast-sf.org

Michelle Meow, host and producer of “The Michelle Meow Show,” is your A-Z, covering the LGBT, LMNOP, and everyone in between. She attended San Francisco State University and received a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and shortly after, started her career in radio. Michelle’s

show can be heard in San Francisco and nationally on the Progressive Voices Network. The local TV show can be seen on KBCW TV, Ch 44/ Cable 712 Sunday nights at 1030pm. In late 2017, Michelle began producing programs at the iconic Commonwealth Club of CA- dedicated to conversations around social justice with an intersectional lens. She has interviewed notable thought leaders such as Olympic medalist Adam Rippon, NFL’s first out LGBTQ coach Katie Sowers, first American woman in space, Sally Ride’s widow Tam O’Shaughnessy, actresses Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, and Lily Tomlin and more. Her interviews also include local dignitaries, community advocates, and elected leaders. Michelle has also been a co-host of the San Francisco Pride Parade broadcast since 2006. She served as Board President of the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors from 2015-2018. She is a self-described LGBTQI+ history geek, information sponge, and a lover not a fighter. www.michellemeow.com

Gary Kamiya is an author, journalist and historian of San Francisco. His new book with artist Paul Madonna, published on October 20, 2020 by Bloomsbury, is Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City. He is also the author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, which won a 2013 Northern California Book Award. His award-winning history column “Portals of the Past” appears every other Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Born Oakland, Kamiya grew up in Berkeley and has lived in San Francisco since 1971. He received a BA and MA in English literature from UC Berkeley. He was a co-founder and longtime executive editor of the groundbreaking website Salon.com. Until 2018, he was the executive editor of San Francisco Magazine, where he wrote award-winning features about the tech-driven transformation of San Francisco, homelessness, the Tenderloin, the injection drug crisis, the waterfront, the new Museum of Modern Art, the controversy over the canonization of Father Junipero Serra, and legalized marijuana, among other subjects. His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, ArtForum, Sports Illustrated, Mother Jones, and many other publications and has been widely anthologized, including in The Best African-American Essays 2010, The New Harvard Literary History of the United States, and the Longman Reader. He has also appeared as an expert on-camera source in numerous documentaries, numerous documentaries, including the national 4-hour PBS documentary Citizen Hearst and Moving San Francisco, about the history of transportation in SF. Learn more at www.garykamiya.com


D’Arcy Drollinger is an actor, writer, director, choreographer and producer. His first feature film, Shit and Champagne, debuted in 2021, in which Drollinger wrote, directed and starred. D’Arcy is the creator and host of the hit satirical news youtube series Hot Trash. Works include: Bitch Slap! Champagne White is Disastrous, Champagne White and The Temple of Poon, Mr. Irresistible, Project: Lohan, Scalpel!, The Possession of Mrs. Jones, Pink Elephants, Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls, Suburbia 3000 and The Cereal Killers. Other credits include: The Producers (first Broadway production), Hairspray the Musical (first Broadway production), and VH1’s Divas 2000 featuring RuPaul. Drollinger continues to adapt, direct and co-star in the long-running hit drag parodies Sex and the City LIVE! and Golden Girls LIVE!: The Christmas Episodes. D’Arcy is the creator of the dance-fitness-wellness brand, Sexitude. D’Arcy Drollinger is the owner and Artistic Director of OASIS, San Francisco’s internationally acclaimed nightclub / cabaret. Voted Best of the Bay in multiple categories including: Best Nightclub, Best Drag Show & Best Cabaret Venue. www.darcydrollinger.com |​​ www.sfoasis.com


Honey is co-founder of the Transgender District, the world’s first officially recognized transgender neighborhood located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin; co-owner of the Stud Bar, San Francisco’s oldest LGBTQ establishment and the nation’s first cooperatively owned LGBTQ nightlife venue; one of the founding queens of Drag Queen Story Hour; serves on the board of Manny’s, a cafe, bookstore, and people powered and community focused meeting and learning space; serves on the board of OX, a queer performance art non-profit; currently sits on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee as an appointed member; and also works as a legislative aide in the District 6 Office of San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney.


Dark Entries was born in the spring of 2009 to release out of print and unreleased underground music as well as contemporary bands. A project of Josh Cheon, a vinyl-focused DJ and collector, Dark Entries takes great care in preserving sound quality and respecting the aesthetics of its artists. All of their releases are a carry over from the DIY days of the 1980s independent record labels. Josh grew up 15 minutes outside of New York City, and more specifically The Bank, a goth club that laid the foundations for his obsession with dark synthesizer driven music. Dancing to Q Lazzarus, Cetu Javu and “With Sympathy” era Ministry as well as newer acts like Wolfshiem, Beborn Beton and VNV Nation he eventually got a summer job with Metropolis Records in Philadelphia who released modern EBM and synthpop bands like Wolfshiem, VNV Nation and Covenant as well as classic darkwave band Clan Of Xymox and Bunnydrums. While attending Rutgers University, he became the Music Director for 90.3FM The Core for two years and held internships at Beggars Banquet/4AD/Matador and DFA Records. These internships gave Josh a first hand look at independent record labels and how they operate. Moving to San Francisco in 2006, Josh fell into the disco revival with Honey Soundsystem and secured a weekly show on West Add Radio. He noticed a lack of post punk and dark wave parties in San Francisco, so he started a night called Radio Lines at the Transfer. Sharing the decks with another avid record collector, Phil Mailer who ran the blog A Viable Commercial, Josh learned about the band Eleven Pond, whose debut LP was going for inflated sums on ebay. Luckily Jeff Gallea from Eleven Pond left a comment on the blog post and Josh contacted him. After obtaining a copy of the master tapes, he had the songs remastered for vinyl and released the LP in July 2009 with a silk screened cover like the original LP had. All of our releases are inspired by the DIY nature of independent record labels. Our designer Eloise Leigh is responsible for all reproductions and original concepts. Dark Entries entrusts all of their projects with the best engineer in the state, George Horn at Fantasy Studios, who remasters each release using his 50+ years of knowledge in the industry. With over 100 releases under our belt from Severed Heads, Crash Course In Science, Patrick Cowley to the Dark Entries Editions series focusing on hard to find Italo Disco and Synthpop 12”s. www.darkentriesrecords.com


Monique Jenkinson is an artist, performer, choreographer, and writer. Lauded for a “campy, intellectual juxtaposition of pop culture and high art,” her work considers the performance of femininity as a powerful, vulnerable, and subversive act. She made “herstory” as the first cis-woman to win a major drag queen pageant and subsequently her solo performance works have toured nationally and internationally in wide-ranging contexts from nightclubs to theaters to museums—from Joe’s Pub, New Museum, and the historic Stonewall in New York City, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ODC Theater, The Stud, CounterPulse and de Young Museum in San Francisco, and in Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Provincetown, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Zürich, Paris, Reykjavik, Rome, Catania, and Cork. www.fauxnique.net


Victor Cordon is a social impact professional currently leading employee impact, community impact and philanthropy practices at Okta. He has over a decade of experience working in nonprofit fundraising, corporate partnerships and philanthropy roles for organizations including the American Red Cross and AAA. Victor is passionate about activating individuals and organizations to do their most strategic good, believing that a more just and equitable world requires thoughtful and intentional participation in community. A proud San Francisco native, Victor is committed to protecting and enriching the Bay Area’s artistic and cultural legacy, and believes in the need for spaces like CounterPulse to exist. He holds a BA from UCLA, where he studied dance, performance studies and globalization studies. 

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