With over 600 murals, San Francisco streets are a parade of vibrant and radiant
murals that are painted on building walls and facades, fences, garage doors and
more. The colorful Mission District is the epicenter of San Francisco murals with the
greatest concentration of murals in San Francisco. Discovering
the murals of the San Francisco Mission District is discovering the hopes and
passions, joys and tribulations of the people.
The San Francisco Mission neighborhood’s love affair with murals stems from the
Mexican roots of the Mission District community. The Latino community began to
move into in the Mission neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s. Early in the 1970s,
resident muralists started following the traditions of the great muralists of the
1920s and 30s, perhaps the most famous of which was Diego Rivera.
The Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center (located at 2981 24th Street) is a
great place to begin your exploration of the murals in the San Francisco Mission
neighborhood. The Precita Eyes visitors center offers three guided mural tours on
Saturday and Sunday for between $10 and $12 for an adult. You can arrange private
group mural tours in advance. In addition, the Precita Eyes Visitors Center has a
Mission mural map of nearly 90 murals that you can use to explore the
neighborhood on your own.
At Precita Eyes, you can purchase mural-themed items, such as post cards, candles,
posters and books. Precita Eyes also sells mural arts supplies in case your are
inspired to paint your own personal mural on your living room wall. For more
information, contact Precita Eyes at http://www.precitaeyes.org/ or (415)
Located a block from Precita Eyes between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street, Balmy
Alley has a concentration of more than 30 vivid murals painted on fences, building
walls and garage doors. In the neighborhood densely packed with murals, Balmy
Alley is at the center of it all. Muralists began working in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley
as early as 1971. Many of the original murals are still there as well as many murals
that have been painted over the intervening years.
The Balmy Alley murals are very diverse both stylistically and in the subject matter.
Some of the murals feature cartoon-like illustrations that playful and juvenile. Other
murals along Balmy Alley grapple with difficult subjects, such as a memorial to
people who have died from AIDS or depictions of political strife and war in Latin
America. Another mural honors the great muralist Diego Rivera and his wife, the
painter Frida Kahlo. And another is a tribute to women muralists of the Mission
District. One colorless mural, depicts two men and a woman jumping through a
barbed-wire fence lined with keys. The woman has her hand held high, making the
Elsewhere in the Mission District on Harrison at 19th Street, mixed among blocks of
warehouses and running along a wall for nearly a block in San Francisco’s Mission
neighborhood is a mural titled “Carnaval.” As the name implies, the Carnaval mural
is a representation of the Carnaval celebration, a multicultural dance and music
festival that has its roots in Latin America and the Caribbean. The San Francisco
Mission District has been hosting a Carnaval Festival since 1978. Created in 1994 by
Joshua Sarantitis, Emmanuel Montoya, Carlos Loarca and others, the radiant
Carnaval mural is as dynamic and colorful as the festival that it portrays.
The Women’s Building (located at 3543 18th Street) boasts two walls of a dramatic
mural that pays homage to women. Created by a team of seven women muralists,
the “Maestrapeace” mural portrays women and feminine archetypes of multiple
world origins. The Goddess of Light and Creativity adorns the top of the 18th Street
facade with the waters of life flowing beneath her and transforming into fabric
designs from around the world.
The mural features such notable women as Georgia O’Keefe (an innovative American
artist) and Rigoberta Menchu (a Guatemalan of Mayan decent and Nobel prize-
winning activist). The names of many more famous women are inscribed in the
mural’s colorful patterns. The mural is meant to be inspiration and educational,
illustrating the contributions women have made to human history and society.
The Women’s Building provides resources and services to organizations that support
women and girls from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural backgrounds. For an
informational key to the mural, step inside the Women’s Building or contact them at
http://www.womensbuilding.org/ or (415) 431-1180.