The Point, America’s Largest Artist Colony
“Hunters Point” came from the Hunters family, who lived on the San Francisco Bay in the 1800s. In 1870, the area was established as a commercial shipyard and acquired by the Navy days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is located on 638 acres of waterfront. In the 1950’s the base employed 8,500 civilians. Prior to decommissioning in 1974, the shipyard was a Navy repair station.
In 1976, a private ship repair contractor leased the yard and began subletting buildings to civilians, including The Point’s founder, Jacques Terzian, whose business fabricated found-object based furniture and wall installations. Jacques’ vision saw the possibility of transforming several of the neglected buildings into affordable workspaces, and in 1983, a handful of artists began renovating and renting their studios at the Shipyard. With co-developers Paula Terzian and David Terzian (daughter and son), The Point was soon home to nearly 300 visual artists, musicians and writers.
Jacques Terzian was a sculptor who foresaw the coming San Francisco art-space squeeze and did something about it. In the early 1970s, Mr. Terzian was among a group of artisans forced out of warehouse space to make way for Levi’s Plaza toward the northern waterfront. He knew this was the beginning of the great exodus, and he went south as far as he could get, to the old Hunters Point Shipyard, which was being decommissioned by the U.S. Navy. Mr. Terzian got a sublease on the barracks and remodeled it into an artist colony he called the Point. Opened in 1984, the Point grew to become what was considered to be the largest artist colony operating in the United States. It is still one of the largest, with 250 artists in residence.
Mr. Terzian maintained the place himself, doing plumbing and carpentry while also practicing his own art. He turned one of the buildings into a welding studio where he used found objects to create sculpture in a range of sizes. He founded Patterns Ltd., where he designed and built industrial art and custom furniture.