TechEquity has a series of “get to know your city” walks. I attended the Mission Walk Tour given by Precita Eyes. Patricia Rose was our guide and an incredible source of information as she’s a muralist herself and has lived in the neighborhood since 1977.
We started inside Precita Eyes HQ with a slideshow. Patricia talked about the history of muralism, including Los Tres Grandes (The Three Great Ones): David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. I liked the slide of a beautiful image by Orozco called “Man of Fire” (1939). I also learned that there are three Diego Rivera murals in San Francisco. I’ve seen the one at the San Francisco Art Institute, but I’ll have to check out the ones at City College and City Club. Patricia mentioned controversy over murals at George Washington High School which I hadn’t been following. Mural advocates want the public to decide the fate Victor Arnautoff’s work of in the form of a measure on the 2020 ballot.
I’m amazed at the precision of some of the spray paint murals I’ve seen and asked Patricia if stencils are commonly used. I learned that this is frowned upon by some graffiti artists who pride themselves on “can control.” I love that phrase. Apparently if you don’t have can control, you’re a “toy.” Patricia told us about a series of “dream” murals at the Alemany Market and the shimmering DREAM sign on the hillside above, honoring artist Mike “Dream” Francisco.
Walking around the neighborhood, Patricia did her best to be heard over dueling skateboarders and cement mixers and finally just laughed and waited for the noise to subside. She shared with us that affordable housing is being built at 24th & Harrison, a project by Mercy Housing and Mission Neighborhood Centers (they own the property). Eventually we made our way to Balmy Alley and spent most of our time admiring the murals there.
Murals are a living breathing art form and the community can (and will) make their feelings known. After the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” aired, an image of Michael Jackson in Balmy Alley was repeatedly defaced until it was decided to paint over it. Now in its place, there is a Banksy-esque portrait of a character from a much loved Mexican sitcom, El Chavo del Ocho. Here’s a great little video of the making of this artwork.