Featured Artist: Owen Brown

Restraint & Release was conceived partly as a response to one of the serious problems in American society today, that of the dysfunctional prison system. Over 2.2 million Americans are jailed today, approximately one out of every hundred adults. This population is disproportionately composed of people of color. 


The mural “Urban Nature” was created and installed in the summer of the year 2000 in Halliday Plaza, at Powell and Market, near the cable car turnaround. Its exact location is opposite the San Francisco Visitors Information Center and over the years 4.5 million people have seen the mural!

Urban Nature was commissioned by San Francisco Tourist Convention and San Francisco Grants for the Arts.  Its purpose was to greet visitors to the city colorfully.  The people who worked at the Information Center had an added pleasure— it covered what was once a very dark, gray wall.

The work consists of 2’ x 4’ x 8’ plywood panels, creating a 16’ long by 8’ high mural. It was named by the interns – “Urban Nature” - and depicts the neighborhoods and people of San Francisco. Included are the two icons of the city: the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Also prominent in the presentation is a giraffe feeding off of a tree, representing San Francisco Zoo, which the interns visited just before they painted the mural.

Over the years the mural has been cleaned of graffiti and parts have been repainted. Some of the wood structure has been damaged.  We propose, asking the present group of interns circa 2016, to refurbish and repaint the mural, repair the damaged wood and add another panel devoted to the natural habitat of the city. The third panel will include paintings of butterflies that are natural to the city.  The present “lighted” Bay Bridge will be included, and some of the “dress” of the figures will be “contemporized.”

We love that this mural has had such a strong appearance in the community and hope that the restoration will further increase its impact. As this is still a large project, donations are always helpful and appreciated. If you're able, please go to our donation page. We'll be sending out updates along with posting on our facebook page. Make sure to check back!  



ideasthesia: A multisensory installation by owen brown

August 25 - September 4, 2015
Curated by Pamela Grombacher

Opening Reception: August 27, 2015, 5:00-8:00 PM
SOMArts, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco CA 94103

100% of proceeds of this fundraising pop-up exhibition support Meridian Gallery.

North 3, 2013, 9” x 12”, colored pencil on vellum.

North 3, 2013, 9” x 12”, colored pencil on vellum.

“How do ideas feel?” This is the question driving Danko Nikolic, the neuroscientist famous for theorizing “ideasthesia” - the notion that thoughts and sensations are interconnected and interdependent. Sights, sounds, and smells are not simply interpreted by the brain; rather, the ways in which we experience these stimuli are informed by our understanding of the world. In this special pop-up exhibition, San Francisco artist Owen Brown explores the complexity of perception with a multi-sensory, interactive installation.

Breath 4, 2015, 9" x 12", colored pencil on vellum.

Breath 4, 2015, 9" x 12", colored pencil on vellum.

At each of the four sensory stations that will fill the space of SOMArts’ expansive Bay Gallery, viewers will find an overhead projector with four transparencies, which they can flip, stack, layer, and rearrange to create an endless variation of unique projections on the gallery walls. Featuring delicate but lively biomorphic forms that come alive at the viewer’s touch, the transparencies are evocative of a slide one might find under a microscope. These images will be paired with the unique fragrance accords of local perfume maker MIKMOI and set against the sonic background of an interactive soundtrack comprised of visitors’ recorded comments (edited daily by poet Emily Wolahan).


Conceived by Brown as a fundraising exhibition in support of the nonprofit Meridian Gallery, Ideasthesia is a celebration of tenacity and new beginnings. A mainstay in the San Francisco art world since its establishment in 1989 by Anne Brodzky, Meridian Gallery was uprooted from its longtime home in the fall of 2014, but has continued to operate its thriving music and youth arts education programs from an office in the Presidio’s Thoreau Center for Sustainability. 100% of the proceeds of the exhibition will be used to fund Meridian Gallery and its various programs (including the Meridian Interns Program, Meridian Music: Composers in Performance, and MERIDIAN STUDIO VISITS online) as the organization works to establish a new, permanent home.

Click here to RSVP to the opening reception.


An Evening with MIKMOI
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
6:00-7:00 PM
$15 suggested donation
SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco CA

Local award-winning perfumer Michael “Mik” Coyle brings the worldly and romantic sensibility of his artisanal fragrance line, MIKMOI, to Ideasthesia with five unique personal scent accords inspired by Owen Brown’s distinctive imagery. Discover the art of perfumery as Mik shares his inspiration and creative process as Brown’s collaborator.

All five MIKMOI perfumes featured in Ideasthesia will be available for purchase. 50% of proceeds support Meridian Gallery.


Ideasthesia Exhibition Catalogue
Designed by George Mattingly and edited by Anne Brodzky.
Click here to order.

Featuring contributions by art historian and culture writer Lissa Tyler Renaud, poet Emily Wolahan, and curator Pamela Grombacher, the Ideasthesia exhibition catalog further explores the complex relationships between perception and narration, senses and meaning, and ambiguity and interpretation.


Ideasthesia  is supported by the SOMArts Cultural Center’s Affordable Space Program, which provides subsidized, large-scale affordable space and technical assistance to nonprofits. SOMArts receives support from the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Community Arts and Education Program with funding from Grants for the Arts/The Hotel Tax Fund.

The mission of SOMArts is to promote and nurture art on the community level and foster an appreciation of and respect for all cultures. To find out about SOMArts classes, events and exhibitions, please visit www.somarts.org.


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Meridian Intern Saula Gonzalez

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Meridian is a nonprofit arts organization with strong commitments to diversity and social justice. We believe that art can change the world, and you can too!

By donating to Meridian, you will:

  • Increase the visibility of underrepresented artists  
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