It is said the Mission District has the greatest concentration of street art in the world. It is, in fact, hard to walk more than a block or two without beholding one of hundreds of murals that decorate walls, fences, doors and gates in the neighborhood. They are inspired by noted artists such as Diego Rivera, whose magnificent WPA-era works can still be found in the City, and encouraged by the resurgence of murals as a means of ideological and cultural expression in Mexico in the 1960s and ‘70s. The Mission’s iconic murals illustrate the hopes, dreams, hurts and fears of the diverse peoples who have made the neighborhood home.
Balmy Alley is parallel to Treat Avenue and Harrison Street, between 24th and 25th Streets, and features a treasure trove of mural art of a myriad of styles and subjects from human rights to local gentrification and Hurricane Katrina.
Clarion Alley runs parallel to 17th Street, between Valencia and Mission Streets. Many of the murals are the work of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, an artist collective founded in the early 1990s.
Precita Eyes Muralists is one of three U.S. community mural centers sponsoring ongoing mural projects. It offers maps, merchandise and tours of the districts murals, and provides technical support and mural supplies.
Lilac Alley runs parallel to Mission and Capp Streets, between 24th and 26th Streets, and features dozens of examples of contemporary street art.
The Women’s Building Maestrapeace Mural covers two sides of the first woman-owned and operated community center in the US, located on the corner of 18th and Lapidge Streets. This remarkable and inspiring mural celebrates the courageous accomplishments of women across the years from around the world. Not to be missed.
OTHER VISUAL ARTS
Galería de la Raza is a non-profit community-based arts organization that fosters public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art.
Southern Exposure is an artist-centered non-profit committed to supporting visual artists through extensive and innovative programming.
The Lab supports experimental work in visual, performing, sonic and literary art, from both new and seasoned artists.
Acción Latina produces a free, bilingual newspaper, plus a rich mix of cultural events that reflect the diversity of Latino communities.
ART OF THE DEAD
José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) was a Mexican lithographer and engraver whose images of folk heroes, sensational crimes and disasters were created to illustrate current news stories but, more often than not, stood on their own in such a way that they required no words at all. Evidence of his legacy may be seen on six of seven continents and is influential to generations of today’s artists, providing inspiration to fuel the imagery of today’s movements like Occupy, immigration reform and human rights. To those people who do know his work, his story is shrouded in myth. He is called a revolutionary, artist of the people, the Goya of Mexico and yet to most of the public he is virtually unknown.
However, if one looks with only a slightly educated eye, a rich legacy in Posada’s work may be seen. He lampooned politicians by creating wildly expressive images for his era's equivalent of the tabloid press. He graphically chronicled the Mexican Revolution and, forty years after his death, helped the Cuban Revolution succeed. His art, which commented on Mexican culture of his time, also adorned the concert tickets of the Grateful Dead. Today his art literally leaps to life each year as the skeletal figures seen each November during the Mexican observance of Day of the Dead. It is for those skeletal images (called calaveras in Spanish) that Posada is most well known. The Mission District is filled with images drawn from Posada’s influence including the calaveras on the metal grates on Valencia Street, the calaveras in many of the murals scattered throughout the Mission and many of his images on products carried in Mission district stores, as well as the cover of Mission Guide.
A documentary about Posada entitled Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions was recently completed. It tells the story of Posada and Mexican publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo and how their twenty-three year collaboration inspired and significantly influenced the graphic images of social movements from battling fascism, to protesting wars and crusading for civil rights. [artandrevolutions.com]
In the mid '70s lowriders began to glide along the streets of the Mission barrio. Brightly painted, sleek looking cars, modified by young Latinos and Latinas, ride low on the ground. What you don't see is that they've been fitted with special hydraulics - pumps, dumps and cylinders - to make them bounce up and down to the rhythms of cumbia, salsa, oldies and Latin rock sounds.
The hobby gave birth to lowrider car clubs and the San Francisco Lowrider Council, creating a mass of machines with lowered chassis on hydraulic suspension. Other unique features include custom rims (often with spinners), narrow tires, engravings on the windows and chrome bumpers, multi-layer lacquered paint jobs, lush custom interiors with accessories like chain steering wheels and crushed velvet, and streamlined exteriors decorated with murals.
Lowriding in the Mission is a Latino/Chicano art expression that is not only cool, but a family affair. Aficionados often invest years of work and thousands of dollars in their creations. So as you travel the neighborhood streets, let your hand bow up and down at a lowrider in the Mission and watch the driver hit the switches to make the car dance up and down or side to side just for you. Show your appreciation by yelling, "Oralé!"
San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program facilitates the creation of publicly accessible open pedestrian zones made for all to enjoy. The Parklet Program is one component, providing a path for merchants, community organizations, business owners and residents to take individual actions in the development and beautification of the City’s public realm.
Parklets repurpose part of the street into a public space for people. They are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetscape, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. Parklets provide amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art. Though funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents and community organizations, they are publicly accessible and open to all.
The world’s first formal public parklets were conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010. Over 40 parklets have been installed throughout The City since, a quarter of them in the Mission, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world. Parklets reflect San Francisco’s commitment to encouraging walking and biking, creating great streets and strengthening our communities. Collectively, parklets broaden the potential for the public realm to engage and delight while adding much needed open space to our commercial corridors. Most of the Mission's sites are distributed along Valencia Street.
In the Spring of 2014 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to create the nation’s first “Rescue Row” – a block of Alabama Street that is home to four terrific animal welfare programs. Between 15th and 16th Streets you’ll find:
Animal Care & Control San Francisco: San Francisco's only open door animal shelter that accepts any animal - in any condition - of any temperament, and matches them with loving adoptive families.
The San Francisco SPCA: Founded in 1868, a national leader in saving homeless cats and dogs and working to end animal abandonment.
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue: Changing the way the world thinks about and treats older dogs and creating better lives for them through rescue, foster, adoption and hospice.
Northern California Family Dog Rescue: A grassroots-grown, dog rescue organization founded in 2010 to save 800+ family-friendly dogs a year at risk of euthanasia and place them with loving forever families.
Whether you're looking for a pet or would like to volunteer in the service of shelter animals, Rescue Row is ground zero for the compassionate care and adoption of hundreds of pets of all types.