It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled into The Canvas, paid for a latte and a pastry or ordered a sandwich and salad from the counter, perused the art hanging around the side walls, and camped out at one of their tables under thirty-foot ceilings. I used to love coming to this place because I like their concept. Combine an art gallery (a real one, with lots of art from a mix of local and regional West Coast artists) with a nearly-full-menu cafe, put it in an interesting space away from normal tourist traffic, and you’ll attract a nice range of art enthusiasts, students, laptop-laden geeks, and java-sippers of all ages.
The problem with Canvas was that it never seemed to live up to its full potential. It had all the ingredients of a fantastic recipe. It provided a decent experience and promoted the awareness of art among traditional coffee-shop goers. It had a swell space on a prominent corner with large windows looking across the street into Golden Gate Park. It offered a pleasing menu of salads, pastas, and sandwiches, along with typical cafe edibles and potables. But it stopped at that. It only seemed to pull in local students from nearby UCSF, the tables were isolated from most of the art, the collection of art they featured often seemed random and mis-assembled, they closed at 11pm, and the absence of a wireless network meant working entirely local.
Last night, I drove over to The Canvas around 10pm after being forced out of Maxfield’s, expecting to have just under an hour to sip a cup of coffee (or two) and finish a bit more work before heading home. Not only was Canvas holding an open mic night, but I discovered new hours: now open until midnight from Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2:00am Thursday through Saturday. There were several more welcome changes that upped the ante. Canvas now features live music, regular open mic nights, local DJs, and plans to pull in even more musicians, conceptual and performance artists, authors, and filmmakers. They actively promote their art through themed exhibits. They’ve expanded the menu. They’ve added more tables and spread them throughout the gallery. And a new lounge. Oh, and did I mention, they now have open wifi (The Canvas Network). I love this place. Photos are posted here and here. There are other secrets about Canvas that make it appealing, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you. Besides, I’ve divulged too much about this place already. If you’re ever there on a week night, and see a guy with short hair, a face that looks something like this, nestled in a corner working on a small Vaio laptop (or maybe a TiBook), stop and say hi, because it’s probably me.