We are four artists who live or work in the Portola District in Southeast San Francisco. Through a lengthy creative process we’ve found a means to mesh narrative, visual components and music to tell the story of our neighborhood. Our collective philosophy could be summarized by the Edwidge Danticat quote “We know people by their stories.”

Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, Visual Artists
"The Portola reminds us of the San Francisco neighborhoods we grew up in, filled with families and children playing in the street. We wanted to engage our neighbors in an interactive portrait of the Portola, so we captured the details of the neighborhood and combined them to make a board game, a book and an image library.  We used the Mexican game of Lotería, a visual bingo, as our inspiration for the game, Porto-Loteria."

Kate Connell and Oscar Melara have collaborated for fifteen years on storytelling projects that take the form of installations, murals, exhibitions and events. Their work makes use of a variety of media, from digital to ceramic. Their most recent collaboration was a labor history mural installed inside public commuter buses. As collaborating artists who are also a bus driver and a librarian, they see their artwork as a kind of public service with the same goal as their day jobs—to work together with their community. Connell and Melara’s roots go back twenty-five years in the arts community of San Francisco’s Mission District and their individual work has been shown at the Alternative Museum, Berkeley Art Museum, Capp Street Project, and the Smithsonian.Their projects have received support from the Creative Work Fund, California Arts Council, Zellerbach Family Fund and Peninsula Community Foundation among others. Website

Gustavo Vazquez, Filmmaker
“In this video documentary portrait on the Portola District in San Francisco, I approached the subject as a poetic mosaic of voices, images and music to share the flavor of the place--through different eras-- in this dynamic working class community that deserves recognition for its unique history. Thank you to all the members of the Portola neighborhood who shared their stories and their personal photographs.”

Gustavo Vazquez, originally from Tijuana and currently residing in San Francisco, is an independent filmmaker who has directed over thirty productions, including documentaries, video installations, and dramas. Some of his work focuses on the Chicano-Latino experience and social and political commentary on the cultural dynamics of the changing American landscape. His latest documentary Que Viva La Lucha delves into the world of Mexican masked wrestling. He is a co-author of Documentary Filmmaking: A Contemporary Field Guide, published by Oxford University Press in February 2009.

Vazquez is an associate professor in the Film and Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz. He is the recipient of several awards, including a Rockefeller Media Fellowship and a Eureka Visual Artist Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation.

John Calloway, Musician and Composer
“I have lots of memories of growing up in the Portola and the Excelsior. I remember Simpson Bible College-no one we knew ever went there-The Nite Life located where El Toro is now, a popular bar for big names in Latin Rock, like Malo, in the 60s and 70s, the Maltese Hall that always had live music, and the greenhouses, which filled me with wonderment for the flowers and those that tilled them. I've also included works in homage to early Jewish residents, a work based on Asian music, a piece for the Ohlone by José "Dr. Loco" Cuellar and a hip hop track by Victor Mencaho from the Bayonics. For many years I've taught music students in the Portola and included their sounds, the newest voices of the Portola on this recording.”
John Calloway is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger who has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America, with “Cachao” Lopez, Max Roach, Omar Sosa and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. In the San Francisco Bay Area, John performed and arranged work with Pete Escovedo, Jesus Diaz, John Santos, and Wayne Wallace. His recording credits as a performer and composer include his debut CD Diaspora and his recently released The Code (Bombo music).


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The Artists