Celebrating an artist's life, well lived

Tony Long

Anthony Long,
North Beach Examiner

October 16, 2008 -

Among the artists of North Beach, Tony Vaughan stood out for his sheer humanity as much as for his versatility
as a poet, painter and musician.

Vaughan died Sept. 27, after a lengthy battle against a cancer doctors said would kill him in three months.
He was 62.

Vaughan was an artist's artist, a kindly, enthusiastic supporter of his compatriots' creative efforts but also a tireless
advocate for their well being. For years, Vaughan was active in the fight for affordable housing for artists in
San Francisco. For a time, he lived at the Goodman Buildling
on Geary Street, a key 1980s battleground in that fight. Although the Goodman Building itself was lost, the fight
led to the creation of the Goodman II project, an artists' collective on Potrero Hill.
The fight, of course, continues to this day.

Even as he flexed his own artistic muscles, Vaughan's talent was more an expression of his belief in universality and
the collective spirit than on the individual ego. As longtime friend Jerry Ferraz put it:

"With brush, pen and guitar he captured the heart  of the street, gallery and cafe, outwitting the Keystone Kops at
every turn and proving that peace, love and mutual support are possible and, indeed, necessary to our survival in a
world on the brink of -- as another prominent poet has described it -- a nervous breakthrough."

Vaughan, often with Ferraz providing guitar accompaniment, was a longtime fixture at North Beach readings and
open mics.

Vaughan grew up in Chicago and spent time in Colorado before moving to San Francisco in the 1970s. After
decamping for New York to work in graphic design for the Museum of Modern Art, Vaughan returned to S.F. in
the '90s to, as Ferraz put it, "escape the ... game (and) become one of the most original and lyrical voices of the
present rejuvenation of the arts."

For nine years after his return, Vaughan taught art therapy groups and offered general health counseling in various
San Francisco halfway houses.

He took the artist's responsibility to the common good very seriously. In his account of the battle to revive the
Goodman Building as an arts
community, Vaughan wrote:

"The crisis of our times has a lot to do with the social vision. The purpose of a real democracy is to empower
authentic community, promote human rights, and end poverty and slavery. It supports world peace and enterprise
of the best kind. It has an active interest in the welfare of its people and the protection of the free rights of expression
and the natural human impulse to thrive and be happy."

Vaughan is survived by a brother, Michael, and two nieces, Katie Vaughan and Emily Wheeler.

A memorial poetry reading celebrating Tony Vaughan's life was held on a Sunday afternoon, from 2 to 4, at Live Worms Gallery,
1345 Grant Ave., North Beach..