Artist’s Good Deed Inspired New Facebook Group of Volunteers

By Meyer Gorelick

Sunset District artist Entropy working in her garage on one of her pieces. The artwork was commissioned by the city of Danville in the East Bay. It depicts a lion on one side and an oak tree on the other. The lion image is meant to honor the pioneers who started a farming community there in 1891. The image on the other side depicts the 350-year-old oak tree located at the town’s center. Courtesy photo.

After having all of her scheduled events canceled in quick succession, Bianca Nandzik – a Sunset-based artist who goes by the name of Entropy – was feeling the impact of COVID-19, and was upset. Shortly after San Francisco went into lockdown, the artist was on her way to the store and made a Facebook post asking if she could pick anything up for her neighbors. Her post got significant buzz and positive feedback. It planted a seed.

Entropy’s spontaneous act of community service kicked off a chain of events that quickly evolved into the Sunset Neighborhood Help Group (SNHG), a diverse group of volunteers and a network on Facebook numbering more than 1,600 members with more joining every day.

Frank Plughoff, one of the online moderators and organizers, responded to her post suggesting that she start a Facebook group. A flood of requests from Sunset residents eager to volunteer and help followed. People distributed flyers and translated them into different languages for seniors who may not have access to Facebook, giving them the ability to call in or email for assistance. 

SNHG is 100% grassroots and volunteer-based, fielding over 100 calls to action per week, and has connected about 500 residents to the resources that they need during this global pandemic. 

After the initial wave of requests, Entropy said the volume of calls has dropped.

“It’s a good thing, because it shows that people in the neighborhood, they connect and they build relationships. The volunteers and the people who need help, they continue by themselves,” she said. 

Entropy doesn’t know what will happen when this pandemic ends, but she hopes that cultivating mutual aid in the community will build long-term relationships that last beyond this global crisis.

In a harrowing time where so many important factors are out of peoples’ hands, Entropy was able to give the Sunset a measure of control and hope.

“People at the time were obsessing about all the scary news that was out there, and everyone was kind of worrying for themselves,” she said. “I just wanted to, in contrast, point out that people should focus on something else. They should help each other.”

Although Entropy has a background as a social worker, she has focused on community art, among other projects, since earning her PhD in art education from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in collaboration with San Francisco State University 10 years ago. She moved to San Francisco from Germany six years ago and has lived in the Sunset District for the past four years.

“My thesis topic was on community murals, because we don’t have something like that in Germany,” said Entropy, who turned 40 during shelter-in-place. “I was working as a social worker at that time in Germany and kind of trying to combine art and my work.”

“I found in the library a book about community murals in San Francisco, and it was so interesting to me to read that, and I wanted to learn from these people. That’s why I came to San Francisco.”

She fell in love with the Sunset’s vibrant art scene, its strong sense of community and its relaxed aura. She doesn’t think SNHG would be possible without the Sunset’s family-oriented ethos, where people are more inclined to take care of one another.

After painting two large ceramic hearts for San Francisco General Hospital, Entropy was commissioned by the East Bay city of Danville to paint a new one, but due to COVID-19 the piece has been sitting idle in her garage. It depicts a lion on one side and an oak tree on the other, honoring the brave pioneers who started a farming community there in 1891, and the 350-year-old oak tree at the town’s center.

She leaves her garage open at certain hours each day so that people can walk by and admire the piece on their way to the beach or elsewhere. These interactions give Entropy and her neighbors an opportunity to connect, share and nourish one another during these times of isolation. 

Entropy grew up in a small German village of 5,000 people called Gundelfingen, where her father owned a barbershop. Being far from her family during this time has been challenging. It is hard for her to know how her parents are truly doing, with their face-to-face communication limited to Skype calls. Her father is eager to open his business back up, but she is concerned for his health, as an older man. She also understands how important his work is to him, how much joy it brings him. She is torn.

Her personal art has a darker theme, thus the name Entropy. Many of her pieces are apocalyptic, and focus on the life and beauty that grows out of disorder.

“Everything is basically falling apart into chaos. That’s the theme of my artwork,” she said. “Entropy is tearing apart our creations and destroying stuff. What exists is gone. It’s not something bad. That’s not what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on what can develop out of it.”

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