Over the last three decades, a dead-end alley on the 500 block of Ellis Street that once stored dumpsters has been transformed into a thriving arts space.
The Tenderloin National Forest, nestled between the Aarti and Senator Hotels, was built and sustained by the surrounding community. The space was envisioned by Darryl Smith, who also co-founded the Luggage Store Gallery, a nonprofit arts organization, with Laurie Lazer.
Smith was a photography student at San Francisco Art Institute in 1986 when he learned of an effort seeking to set aside part of the ground floor of the Aarti at 509 Ellis St. for art and community events. . .