On the 15th of every month, from noon to 6pm, performance artist Michael Swaine sets up shop in San Francisco’s blighted Tenderloin District. Pushing a homemade cart mounted with a treadle-operated sewing machine, Swaine offers his services as a street tailor, mending whatever garments the neighborhood’s denizens bring him. In the episode “Street Art,” Spark visits the artist in action as he makes his monthly rounds.
Swaine’s ongoing tailor piece began as part of “The Generosity Project: Strategies for Exchange in Contemporary Art,” held in 2001 at the California College of Art’s Wattis Institute. Originally titled “Reap What You Sew,” the performance consisted of the artist pushing his cart around the city on a predetermined route for an entire week. Swaine considers the project a collaboration between himself and those whose clothes he patches, mends, hems and darns — an opportunity to create social interaction where there would otherwise be none.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Michael Swaine earned a B.F.A. from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University before going on to study advanced ceramics and sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 1999, Swaine has collaborated on numerous projects with Amy Franceschini as part of the artists collective Futurefarmers.