In June, after decades in retirement, the Excelsior District’s historic Engine Company No. 43 resumed serving the community. But instead of housing firefighters and equipment, it now hosts artists and neighbors as Engine Art Studio 43.
The 1911-built, two-story Mission Revival-style building on Brazil Avenue served the Excelsior for 75 years until it was sold off in 1976. It’s fondly remembered for its role in “The Princess Diaries” starring Anne Hathaway. Now, neighborhood children and residents will remember the space for art-making events and performances.
In 2007, Carolin Hagenstroem’s family moved from Germany to live in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights. In 2015, Hagenstroem’s family and another family bought the firehouse and the Hagenstroems moved into the building.
“We wrote a letter to the seller and he chose our offer even though there were bigger offers because he liked the idea of an art studio, and he thought it would be great if this place could be a place for artists,” Hagenstroem said.
A graduate of University of Hamburg in Master of Arts in German literature and language science and philosophy, with theater background and cultural programming experience as program coordinator and dramaturgue both in San Francisco and Germany, Hagenstroem brings creative ideas to this studio.
“I would like to have collective members who work together and artists that are interested in doing something with this room, using it for art shows, open studios, movie nights or workshops,” Hagenstroem said.
In June, Hagenstroem hosted the studio’s first open studio. There was a live concert by ZOLA from Bernal Heights, a photo exhibition by Excelsior photographer Rasta Dave, a family art project by Carolin and Konrad Hagenstroem, Alex and Amelie Mazet and Angelina Sidiris, artwork by one of the two resident artists: Jef Biesinger was displayed during the event, the Burning Man documentary “Dust and Illusions” by Excelsior filmmaker Olivier Bonin was shown.
In mid-June, the studio held another event called “The Suitcase Chronicles” by the Paper Tramps, written and performed by Evan Johnson and Michele Menard, a clown and puppet show for the whole family funded by the Excelsior Community Action Grants.
“I’m happy that someone as nice as them got the engine house and they’re using it for some positive stuff,” Rasta Dave said. “I showed them my work and they liked it and they’re like, ‘Yeah do you want put your stuff on the show we have?’ It was like a week away or something. I just sent some photos and then they did it. I’m really happy for the opportunity.”
He hopes for more art spaces in Excelsior neighborhood.
“Growing up there was never nothing like that at all, I wish I had opportunity when I was younger because I didn’t start shooting pictures and doing photography until I was like 35 years old. So, if I knew I had this gift when I was 19 or 20 years old who knows where I’d be now with my work. So instead of running the streets and doing other stuff that I shouldn’t have been doing, now grown up and I found this gift and now how to use it to like everything and just for people to have nice pictures for their family or just whenever I get a feeling or goose bumps and I’ll take the pictures and I see it I’m like, ‘Wow I can’t believe I took that picture,’” Rasta Dave said.
On Friday in August, Hagenstroem co-hosted “Costume/Hat Making Salon!” with costume designer and a hat maker Sue Laurita. Attendees came from all over the city.
“It’s fabulous place to hold events. It’s really big and really cool. And Carolin had great ideas and you know it just all came together,” Laurita said.
A group of adults and kids busily made hats and costumes from colorful fabrics.
“We thought that would be nice to bring some people together that might want to create some hats for different events,” Laurita said. “And so she thought that this would be a great space to do it.”
Steve Goldyak, who lives nearby and brought his own supplied, said that he was invited by a friend.
“I’ve never made a hat before,” Goldyak said. “It’s a lot of fun. Everybody is very welcoming and creative. It is awesome to see the stuff that other people are making and I’m glad I was able to make something too and I like what I made.”
An Excelsior resident Reuben Alvear prepared the material to make his own costume hat and he thought it was fun way to spend a Friday evening making hat.
“I do think it’s a good idea to get persons involved. All ages. It’s a pretty fun relaxed and stress free way to spend Friday evening,” Alvear said as he cut a piece of a beige fabric.
Tanya Waissman, her seven-month-old Frances and her eight-year-old Colette attended the costume and hat making event together for the first time.
“Sue, who invited us to come and make things and my daughter is an artist and she wanted to make hats. We’re having a great time,” Waissman, who lives a mile away from the art studio, said. “It’s really nice to meet people and make things, be creative.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pg/EngineArtStudio43.