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A posh SF neighborhood hides city’s Gregangelo Museum

By all practical logic of modern day San Francisco, the Gregangelo Museum should not exist.

As you drive through the posh residential neighborhood of Saint Francis Wood on the way to the 42-year-old “museum,” the natural reaction is to think that Google Maps must be confused. But continue past the Spanish-roofed multimillion-dollar homes, and eventually you’ll arrive at 225 San Leandro Way, a mirage of a house that looks like a cross between a circus and a Burning Man camp.

It’s an unlikely location for what may be one of the last havens for artists in the city, a busy hive mind of costume-makers, interior designers, writers, musicians, visual artists and every variety of misfit theater kid. Together they work around the clock to create a guided immersive experience that instills visitors with a playful sense of wonder. And maybe a little more introspection than they signed up for.


The exterior of the Outer Sunset home which doubles as the Gregangelo Museum, photographed in San Francisco, on Friday June 3, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE


The private home at 225 San Leandro Way in San Francisco, upper left, doubles as the Gregangelo Museum and boasts an intricately crafted artistic interior. (Charles Russo/SFGATE)

The interior of the Gregangelo Museum feels like the trendy art installation Meow Wolf, except made by old-school SF hippies instead of new-school Santa Fe hipsters. The house is a maze of winding corridors and secret rooms with every inch of wall space covered in colorful mosaics, a hoarder’s paradise of trinkets and curious furniture that runs the gamut from baroque to sci-fi. The word “curated” gets thrown around a lot for spaces like this, but the Gregangelo Museum is the opposite — the whole place exists within a reality distortion field of first thought, best thought energy.

The source of that distortion is Gregangelo Herrera, an effervescent ringleader who roller blades as a main mode of transportation. He serves as a pied piper for a group of artists who work in the sprawling home at all hours of the day, toiling away on new elements of the museum as well as for commissioned installations through Herrera’s event production company, Velocity Arts and Entertainment. His history of him with the massive house began in 1980.

Local artist Gregangelo Herrera, owner of the eponymous Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district.

Local artist Gregangelo Herrera, owner of the eponymous Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

When most of his artistic peers were moving into grittier more affordable areas of the city, Herrera did the opposite.

“I came into a rich white neighborhood buying a dump of a property, had no idea what neighborhood I was in, I was just sort of renting it, you know, and then started fixing it up,” said Herrera, who started giving casual tours in the ’90s and private ones in the 2000s.

Unlike Meow Wolf, this isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure, but rather guided tours for small groups (max 6 people, $75 per ticket). Each room in the house has its own story. One cozy den-like room features dozens of pairs of shoes covering the walls, and guests are asked which pair most resonates with them, and whose shoes they’d most like to walk in. These types of prompts are intended as a catalyst for conversation, self-examination and personal growth.

Gregangelo Museum tour guide Nick Brentley guides guests through a tour of the gardens, on Friday, June 3, 2022.

Gregangelo Museum tour guide Nick Brentley guides guests through a tour of the gardens, on Friday, June 3, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

“I call it a connectatorium,” says Herrera. “It’s not a museum at all, the name always makes me cringe, but it’s the only thing we can do to make it an attraction that people can attend.”

Like every entertainment venue, the pandemic — or “pandemonium,” as Gregangelo calls it — forced the museum to adapt. They turned their yard, public easement and driveway into a makeshift artist studio for 30 high school and college students. The museum’s regular tours turned into outdoor experiences, running up to 22 shows a night for small groups of guests. The commotion drew a few complaints from nearby residents, but the protests fell on deaf ears.

“Our neighborhood association immediately said, ‘Oh no no, you do not get to complain about this place. They got a work-at-home order just like you and they’re entertainers, so that’s what they’re doing,’” Herrera recounted, claiming that the neighbors have come to love the museum’s quirky presence.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

Marcelo Defreitas, creative director of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

Marcelo Defreitas, creative director of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

The staff members of the Gregangelo Museum pose for a group photo near the entrance to the building, on Friday June 3, 2022.

The staff members of the Gregangelo Museum pose for a group photo near the entrance to the building, on Friday June 3, 2022.


Charles Russo/SFGATE

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.

A detail shot from the artistic and often intricately-designed interior of the Gregangelo Museum, in San Francisco.


Charles Russo/SFGATE


Views of the Gregangelo Museum in San Francisco, with staff members, lower left, including creative director Marcelo Defreitas, upper right. (Charles Russo/SFGATE)

Although most of the entertainment industry has returned to business as usual at this point, the Gregangelo Museum has leaned into their pivot. They still offer interior tours, but the focus has shifted to transforming the exterior of the house into a new experience based on the riddle of the Sphinx. Three garden areas represent youth and innocence, adulthood and sensuality, and wisdom and death. The narrative is driven by a series of riddles based on the surroundings, which essentially function a little like an escape room — solve the riddle, move on to the next step.

Those challenges evolve naturally into conversation prompts, which lead guests to get to know each other (and themselves) a little better. You’ll be asked to share an experience that felt small initially but had a wider butterfly effect, at a time you misjudged someone based on their appearance, and even bigger questions about the meaning of humanity.

A view of the colorfully decorated gardens outside of the Gregangelo Museum.

A view of the colorfully decorated gardens outside of the Gregangelo Museum.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

It makes for a vulnerable experience that in today’s cynical landscape feels stubbornly vintage — like a collective of artists thriving in a stately suburb of one of the world’s most expensive cities. But for Herrera and the rest of his motley band of creatives, their overall mission isn’t just about their own art, but unlocking a sense of self-expression in their guests.


“Literally your story is emerging as the tour goes,” Herrera says. “The art is really a catalyst for you to tell the story.”

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