San Francisco's Hunters Point is named after the Hunters family who lived on the San Francisco Bay in the 1800s. A commercial shipyard, established there in 1870, was acquired by the Navy days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the 1950's, the 638-acre Hunters Point Naval Shipyard employed 8,500 civilians. Decommissioned in 1974, it was leased in 1976 to a private ship-repair company which sublet buildings to civilians including The Point's founder, sculptor Jacques Terzian, a fabricator of found-object furniture and wall installations.
Jacques' vision of transforming neglected buildings into affordable workspaces became real in 1983 when a handful of artists began renting and renovating Shipyard studios. With co-developers Paula Terzian and David Terzian (Jacqies' daughter and son), The Point was soon home to 300 visual artists, musicians, and writers.
In 1985 the City and Navy announced plans to rebuild the shipyard as homeport for the USS Missouri battle group. When the Navy did not renew leases, artists and small business tenants formed an alliance to preserve the unique, flourishing mixture of arts and small business. Busloads of artists and tenants, garbed in bright orange “What’s the Point?" t-shirts, flooded city hall to oppose home porting, supported by a broad coalition of community leaders and environmentalists. Donations of artwork for auction raised thousands of dollars for this effort.
The tide turned with the 1987 elections, which sent Nancy Pelosi to Congress and Art Agnos to City Hall. Our Congresswoman stalled Navy evictions and legislated setting aside 50% of the property for civilian tenants. Delaying evictions was rewarded- between 1988 & 1991 when the home porting project was canceled and the Shipyard was added to the base closure list. At base closure hearings, Mayor Agnos promoted the unique community of artists and small businesses, testifying "Take our Navy base - PLEASE!"
The official closure of the shipyard in 1991 set in motion long-range planning to reuse the property, with the arts community as the centerpiece. The lengthy process has not been without complications. In recent years the Navy's environmental cleanup displaced metal sculptors and other artists. In response The Point developed Islais Creek Studios nearby, relocating many. About another 100 artists will also soon be displaced by new development, but a custom-designed four-story building, breaking ground in 2017 (adjacent to Building 101, which will be preserved), will accommodate them plus artists displaced earlier.
Between the new studio building and Islais Creek Studios, the entire Shipyard arts community will endure and become an even more vital part of the city's vibrant arts scene. Groups such as Hunters Point Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), Shipyard Trust for the Arts (STAR) and Shipyard Artist Alliance (SYAA), have worked hard to assure the survival of this fine community of arts professionals. On the verge of extinction in the mid-1980s, it has succeeded beyond all expectations .