Three men attacked a San Francisco street artist Monday, knocking out several of his teeth while he was selling art under a freeway overpass in SoMa and bringing his dreams of playing the saxophone again to a screeching halt.
College-trained saxophonist Jaz Cameron has been selling art near Second and Harrison streets since 2016, but says he’s now afraid to return to his Downtown sidewalk art gallery. However, he said he is determined to move on from the assault.
Since the beating, community members have come together to raise over $24,000 for Cameron. He told The Standard he plans to use the money to travel the world.
“It did break my spirit. […] I was just getting ready to play the saxophone again,” Cameron said. “But I had to go there the next day just to show them that you ain’t shaking nothing.”
Cameron was also the victim of a near-fatal 2016 taxi crash on Market Street that left him in a coma and with lingering brain fatigue that he said makes it difficult to play woodwind instruments, like the saxophone.
Cameron said the accident left him unable to play music—but pushed him to his new passion of painting—while learning to walk again.
“I’m a small Joe French-fry. I'm new to this,” he said. “Whether you like it or not, it’s for you to enjoy when you’re walking by.”
Cameron has since become a beloved member of the neighborhood for selling his paintings on a metal picket fence near the San Francisco Giant’s Oracle Park stadium. A nearby resident, Shelley Costantini, helps manage Cameron’s finances and, since the attack, has helped him secure a local hotel room.
“He just sits there, sells his paintings, paints and reads,” Costantini said. “He was just so shocked after the attack that he was physically shaking. He just kept saying, ‘I didn’t do anything to deserve that.’”
With the money raised by Costantini’s GoFundMe, Cameron said that he wants to travel across the world selling his art and playing music, but adds that the Bay Area will always be home for him.
“This time around, I’m not going to worry about the housing part,” he said. “But if I go somewhere, I’m always going to come back here.”
The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
David Sjostedt can be reached at email@example.com