Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, collaborating as Book and Wheel, have rooted their practice in Southeast San Francisco since 1996. Native San Franciscans, they met as artists in San Francisco’s Mission District, where Oscar co-founded La Raza Silkscreen Center and Kate worked for the Galería de la Raza. The name of their collaboration, Book and Wheel, comes from their past professions as a librarian and a bus driver. It reflects their interests in artists books, bicycling, and mobile art: art aboard buses and art carts. They collaborate with visual and performing artists, writers, libraries, archives and trade unions. As long-term union members, they consider the community of colleagues and neighbors they collaborate with as their Laborhood.
Book and Wheel employs a variety of strategies– mobile cultural platforms (buses, carts) with tours and live events, participatory maps, games, public murals, artists books and a growing regional print portfolio. Their projects are designed for all ages and backgrounds. Their most recent project, Chispa, is an art cart the size of a parade float, which debuted at the Visitation Valley Greenway and appeared again at the 2019 Chispa Autumn Moon Celebration in McLaren Park, both in San Francisco. Their pandemic pivot project, We Trade continues the Chispa art trade practice, offering contact-free art trading to promote cultural production during shelter-in-place and into the future.
Book and Wheel has been supported by the Creative Work Fund, San Francisco Arts Commission, Southern Exposure/Alternative Exposure, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation and numerous local institutions. They were commissioned artists of the 2012 Havana Biennal. They’ve been in residence at Blue Mountain Center in New York and their work has appeared in Public Art Review, Race, Poverty and the Environment and the San Francisco Chronicle. Between them they have degrees Community Arts Management, Political Science, Library Science and Art History.
“Can we build a collective cultural life in Southeast San Francisco?” This question has guided our work since 2014. We want to hear how all of our voices sound together. We’re building connections with our neighbors, a participatory public and artists working in Southeast San Francisco; our goal is a regional grass roots cultural life. We want to plant seeds and watch them grow. Our public projects help fill the need for formal cultural institutions in our part of the city. We celebrate the creativity of all of our neighbors and engage in collaborations across the four working-class neighborhoods of the Bayview/Hunters Point, the Excelsior District, the Portola District and Visitacion Valley. The vitality of our region is expressed in the new work we commission from a multigenerational roster of local artists and in the work generated through our public projects. It is reflected in our personal studio practices of drawing and sculpture.
We began our careers as community-based artists and continue to embrace many forms of collaboration. We’re committed to community engagement, actively building projects with local residents’ participation. We work cooperatively with organizations like our branch libraries. We aim to promote placekeeping through our work to collectively sustain the distinct traits of Southeast San Francisco. Especially in the face of aggressive gentrification. We love to engineer opportunities to interact with each other in unexpected ways by staging situations. We see our work as part of the larger project of social practice.
We are a member of Intersection for the Arts. Intersection for the Arts is a historic arts nonprofit that provides people working in arts and culture with fiscal sponsorship and resources to grow.
We’re guests on traditional, unceded Ramaytush Ohlone Land.