The monarch butterfly may be small, but its beautiful colors and unique patterns have earned it a big reputation in the natural world. Now, a new public art project taking shape in the Tenderloin celebrates the famous, fabulous creature in all its glory. One Monarch is a collaboration between Veritas, Ink Dwell, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Lead by artist Jane Kim and writer Thayer Walker, this 11-story, 50-foot high monument to monarchs isn’t just a stunning piece of art – it’s an educational tool promoting awareness of the butterfly and its declining population.
One Monarch is Ink Dwell’s most iconic statement yet. The massive, vibrant mural is the latest and largest entry in the studio’s Migrating Mural project – a series of art installations celebrating nature in urban settings around the United States. When completed, it will cover three sides of 455 Hyde in brilliant color.
Veritas suggested that Ink Dwell use 455 Hyde as the project’s canvas instead of a previously requested, smaller location nearby in the Tenderloin. Ink Dwell has taken full advantage of the larger surface, rendering California poppies and an intricately patterned butterfly on a massive scale, in vivid hues that pop against the building’s white backdrop.
Already visible from the street and surrounding neighborhoods, the work-in-progress mural is inspiring the immediate reaction that Kim and Walker strive to create. Bolstered by cooperative weather, a rotating team of 11 artists – painting six at a time, six days a week – was able to complete the north wall in only 27 days. The spectacular image is attracting attention in the Tenderloin and beyond, eliciting double-takes, pictures, and plenty of positive feedback, reports 455 Hyde Resident Manager Patric Dunbar. “I’ll be on the roof and see people stop and look up [at the mural],” says Dunbar. “It draws people out of the neighborhood and up to the sky!”
The unfinished mural’s influence is extending beyond the walls of 455 Hyde and into other parts of the neighborhood. Veritas is working with the Xerces Society and San Francisco Rec & Parks Department to plant 100% native, pollinator-friendly plants in two Tenderloin parks currently under renovation. These plants will help promote natural pollination and draw awareness to the monarch butterfly population. Meanwhile, work is underway on the south wall, with a completion date estimated for mid-January. The Ink Dwell team will then begin painting a monarch-themed archway for 455 Hyde’s exterior entryway.
One Monarch is not just placing the monarch butterfly at the forefront of people’s minds – it’s becoming a colorful calling card for the neighborhood, bringing warmth, welcome, and love. That it brings smiles to people’s faces while raising awareness for conservation is music to Kim and Walker’s ears. “[Veritas] is changing the skyline of San Francisco…and celebrating that with this epic animal,” says Kim. “For everyone involved, it’s a joy to paint, and a joy to be involved in the project. It’s going to be impossible for people to ignore the monarch butterfly!”