Artist Alicia Guckenheimer credits her father for inspiring her love of art and environmentalism at a very early age. He planted the seeds of compassion and creativity that propelled her to share that love to influence others – especially children – with a focus on caring for animals.
“I grew up in a very Bohemian family where we made art all the time,” Guckenheimer said. “My father is an artist. Weekends were spent drawing, painting, collecting recycled materials and making things out of those. I’ve seen my father do it since day one.”
Guckenheimer was recently the artist in residence at Playland (at 43rdAvenue and Judah Street). Her paintings and sculptures filled the renovated shipping container and overflowed into the surrounding playground.
The Sunset District resident grew up in Campbell, near San Jose. She met her husband over the phone when she worked at Esprit de Corps in customer service as an in-house liaison to a sales representative at a midwestern shoe company.
Her roommate heard her talking to him on the phone and said, “You know what? I think you’re in love with that guy.” She replied, “No, I’m not!” She soon realized her roommate was right and moved to St. Louis for three years, married him and became the mother to his two boys. They moved back to San Francisco in 1999.
Her two stepsons are now 35 and 38 years old with children of their own. She and her husband also have a 19-year-old daughter who attends San Diego State University and are the grandparents of four with a fifth on the way.
Today, Guckenheimer splits her time between making art and working with her husband.
“We own a business as consultants to a shoe company,” she said. “Before that, my husband was the president of a shoe company and I did all the photography, all the social media, all the design.”
Her experience with her daughter’s school motivated her toward the goal of teaching children art and compassion for animals.
“My daughter went to St. Gabriel’s (parochial school in the Sunset District) where they have a small in-class art program, which I started. All the other kids and parents were saying ‘Why don’t we get this kind of art?’ Then a group of moms got together, we got a grant and the school now has a permanent art program. That’s where I’m headed.
“My goal is to have a traveling art show that would go from school to school, teaching compassion for all living things through art. I want to encourage children to be creative and to empower them to make a difference in this world.”
She said she misses her time at Playland.
“I would have people from the skate park from ages 3 to adults who would wander in and we would talk,” Guckenheimer said. “The conversation would go, ‘Why are you here?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ I would tell them a little bit about my art, that it is based on animal compassion. I would tell them my background and why I do this. I realized that protecting animals has always been an interest of mine. I thought, ‘Why not make my art something special and give my art a purpose?’
“That kept ringing in my head … art with purpose, art with purpose … everything that I was doing, I was not only making art, but it had a message behind it. You’d be amazed at how many little people to older skateboarders would really pay attention and have a conversation. You could see them wanting to talk more about their experience,” she said.
Guckenheimer will be spending the summer teaching art to second and third graders at camp Galileo.
“I’m hoping within the next couple of months to work on the idea of a travelling art show to go to schools. Right now I’m looking into grants and creating a nonprofit that would teach children and people compassion for animals, but strong on the art so children would learn that you can make art out of found objects or newspaper or just painting on anything. I think that’s so important,” she said.
Guckenheimer said she hopes to be an influence on children, like her father was to her.
“I know I’m planting seeds for the future. That’s my whole goal. It’s like leaving breadcrumbs on a path to compassion.”
Guckenheimer sells her ceramic art on etsy and has sold at the Sunset Mercantile show. To see more of her art, click here.
To learn more about her work, visit aliciaguckenheimerharrell.com.