At SF’s HAUM Yoga, Community and Creativity Find a Warm Home

Almost two years in, San Francisco’s queer-owned yoga studio, HAUM — which now has two locations: its original 2973 16th Street wellness hub and the newer studio that took over the former Yoga Tree Stanyan space at 780 Stanyan Street — is cementing its staying power as more than just a workout space.

The intersectionalities of queerness and community exist in the same thought — breath and crossroad of self. To be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is to simultaneously surrender to life outside perceived norms and understand that senses of family and tribe go beyond genetic makeup; the latter-mentioned two collectives can be chosen. Oftentimes, the arts and wellness act as chain links connecting queer people to one another.

Such a display was on full show at HAUM’s “Art of Yoga” event on January 21st, featuring a conversation organized by HAUM-founder Danni Pomplun between multi-disciplinary artist J Manuel Carmona and denizen of SF’s nightlife Juanita MORE! The discussion that ensued was an ode to the queer community’s support for one another and their chosen families.

“Juanita invited me out to dinner at a 24-hour diner not long after I came to San Francisco and was struggling,” Carmona said. “She has a gift for seeing people who need help, even in a crowded nightclub.”

The hours-long event doubled as a showcase for Carmona’s for-sale artwork; many of the canvasses hung up in HAUM’s open, jungle-like Mission District studio featured chromatic portraits of queer visionaries and allies; a warm orange painting of Harvey Milk was placed next to a bright yellow canvass where the Obamas can be noticed snuggling. Carmona also debuted a new style of pieces from him: linear works that outline human bodies with negative space between each soft-sloping line.

MORE!, dressed in a flouncy floral top and holstering a taco purse that could hold a pair of French bulldogs, has been doing drag in San Francisco for just over three decades. In conversation, the serial philanthropist waxed on this mothering characteristic: “No matter where I am, no matter how loud or crowded the room might be, I can see someone who needs help, guidance, or mothering. I take the roles of mother, mentor, and friend seriously. I make sure to hold space and be there for people, and it’s important for me to make sure those who are important to me are doing well. In San Francisco, I have a big chosen family — and many of them are in this room, tonight.”

The remainder of the half-hour conversation oscillated between how queer creative expression is vital to San Francisco and the city’s current state of public art.

“We’re seeing a slow erasure of public queer art erased from our streets and store facades,” MORE! tells an attentive audience. “It’s even more important now to support queer artists and their work, as well as make your voice heard when queer art is in threat of being taken down.”

(This call-to-action hits especially hard for us San Franciscans who found solace and comfort in the expansive queer artwork that once wrapped The Stud. When the 54-year-old bar closed in May 2020, you could hear a collective sigh of sadness across the city. In November of that same year, the landlord of the property allowed the new tenant to paint over the works — an action that went against a former promise to notify the 18-member collective, should the mural be at-risk of being erased. It initiated a lawsuit spearheaded by over six local artists; the case eventually fell apart in court.)

The evening began winding down as complimentary drinks ran dry and plates of pizza emptied. Hugs were given. Phones hovered over QR codes given to each for-sale painting. A pile of shoes outside the doorway leveled. 

But what remained was the notion that San Francisco’s queer community is intertwined with the city’s innate creativity. And HAUM is quickly becoming a nexus for the two.

Carmona’s work is currently on display at HAUM’s Mission District studio; 100% of the sale goes toward Carmona; for more information on Carmona, as well as his pieces and past works, visit his website and follow him on Instagram

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