This is a must-do.
It started in the 70's with a small group of muralists and has grown into a thriving community arts program dedicated to the beautification of inner-city environments, providing a creative outlet for emotional expression and nurturing positive collaborative experiences. Of an estimated 600 murals around the central San Francisco area, the lion's share are here along the streets and alleys of this vibrant, largely Latino neighborhood.
This is not graffiti.
Most of the works are commissioned pieces with the balance painted by youth and civic groups. Styles range from skilled artisans' nearly photographic detail to the wobbly brushstrokes of a child, with themes addressing everything from cultural pride to socio-economic oppression to bright, visionary dreams of the future. They are powerful, spiritual, angry, sorrowful, uplifting, joyful, peaceful, complex: impossible to view impassively.
The program, Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, offers organized tours on the weekends, or just stop by their office (2981 24th St) and purchase a self-guided map. See the website for hours, tour info, history of the project, and great photos of some of the art.
After looking at Mission Dolores, we walked to Clarion Alley to look at the murals there.
I had read that the Mission District was an area where you had to be careful and use street smarts. I must admit I did not feel too comfortable in that alleyway just as the sun was beginning to go down. There was a big group of young guys hanging around the centre of the alley. They were doing no harm, but we decided not to pass them and to get out of the area before darkness fell, so we looked at just some of the murals and left.
The murals themselves were mainly political in nature and quite interesting. Some of them were really very beautiful.
This is just amazing. The Women's Building's MaestraPeace Mural was the collaborative effort of seven artists and is a tribute to the wisdom, nurturing and healing powers of women throughout the world. Appropriately enough, it covers a community center that provides a diverse range of non-profit services for the women and girls of the San Francisco area.
The center provides a guide that highlights the symbolism and images of notable women incorporated into the work. You can also purchase T-shirts, postcards and other mural-related items at the reception area: better than cheap, dime-a-dozen tchotchkes of cable cars and a great way to support a worthy cause.
This is also a good place to make a potty stop during your exploration of the Mission district.
Additional note: visit the murals in Clarion Alley while in the area - it's just a couple of blocks east.
If you have wee folk along on your mural walk (see previous tips), this is a great place to let them out of the stroller and run wild for a bit. This little gem of a playground has been an oasis for Mission district tots since the 70's and was rescued from several decades of decline by determined and enterprising local residents and businesses. Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center (see murals tip) volunteers created stunning tile mosaics and painted murals to decorate the outer walls and unique, serpent-shaped play structure, and over a million dollars in bond money provided new benches, swings, sand box, cushioned flooring, landscaping and other improvements.
I had to be careful not to make the little ones (and moms) nervous with my camera so see the attached web URL for more pictures, reviews and some history.
The Mission District is an outdoor art gallery full of vibrant murals. Throughout the neighborhood, hundreds of walls and fences are adorned with colorful works of art featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social political statements. We walked around, down alleys and corners.
Between 24th St. and 25th St., and Treat St. and Harrison St.
Murals first appeared along Balmy Alley in the mid-1980s as an expression of outrage over human rights and political abuse in central America. Today, themes have expanded to include human rights violations, gentrification and Hurricane Katrina.
Between 17th St. and 18th St., and Mission St. and Valencia St.
Inspired by Balmy Alley and other murals around the neighborhood, Clarion Alley is known for community and arts activities. This collection of murals reflect a variety of art styles and often depict themes of social inclusiveness.
The Women’s Building Maestra Peace Mural
3543 18th St., San Francisco
The Women’s Building is internationally recognized for its Maestra Peace Mural, which honors women’s contributions from around the world. Painted in 1994 across two walls, this mural is the result of multi-cultural, multi-generational collaboration between seven women artists.
24th St., and South Van Ness Ave.
Known as “Golden Dreams of the Mission,” the Carnaval Mural located above the House of Breaks on the corner of 24th St., and South Van Ness Ave., recently completed its restoration, giving the 24-foot-high, 75-foot-wide mural a needed face-lift. Originally painted in 1983 by muralist Daniel Galvez with the help of local artists Dan Fontes, Keith Sklar, Jaime Morgan, Eduardo Pineda and Jan Sheild, the painting depicts the energy and spirit from the first Carnaval event in 1979.
Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitor Center
2981 24th St., San Francisco
Many people looking to explore the area murals come to the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitor Center, and it’s no wonder why: This community-based non-profit is filled with works by local artists and offers self-guided and guided tours that cover mural history, cultural and historical significance.
One of the best places to go for good inexpensive food is the Mission District. Browse the sidewalk markets, examining tropical fruits and Latin condiments in the many markets here, or hang out at the Spanish, Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, and other Latin Style restaurants (see my restaurant tips). While the neighborhood is a bit on the gritty side, it's quite safe virtually anytime, and the sunny weather in this part of town can be a warm relief from the fog and drip of downtown, Fisherman's Wharf, or anywhere on the west side of town. The center of the Mission District is at 16th and Valencia. One way to get there from downtown is to take BART to Mission and 16th, and then walk a couple blocks east. A few blocks further east, one will find Mission Dolores, the original San Francisco settlement. Several blocks back toward downtown on Mission is the old Mint, a survivor of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. A few blocks south, and the murals of Clarion Street can be found. Another favorite itinerary is to take a Muni trolley or the faster Muni rail line to Castro, at Church and Market. Browse the Castro District for awhile, and then hike down 16th into the Mission. The Roxie Theater is one of several theaters in town to see foreign and culture films at a discount ticket price. There are numerous bars and bookshop cafes to check out in the Mission District.
If you are looking for something truly unique and specifically San Francisco, look no further than taking a tour of the historical San Francisco Armory. Okay, so it doesn't sound all the special (unless you are a military history buff), but there is truly something amazing going on inside those large imposing brick walls. The building is now owned by Kink.com. Yes, the BDSM porn site. The tour will take you through the building, where you get to see impressive sets and props as well as the creek that actually runs through the basement. The fun and knowledgeable tour guide will happily answer any questions you have about what it is like to work for a porn company and yes, a little about the history of the building as well. Even if you aren't familiar with the company, it is a fascinating experience and one you aren't likely to have anywhere else.
Certainly the oldest building in San Francisco is Mission Dolores. Newer Catholic Churches have been built beside and collapsed during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, while the four foot thick adobe mud walls, huge hand split timbers, and lime plaster of Mission Dolores miraculously settled and survived. The tour of the Mission provides the best historical perspective on the peninsula of San Francisco prior to the cramped and congested city for which it is now famous.
A self-guided tour is easy, typically uncrowded, and soulful, about 30 minutes. The donation fee is $3-. Examine closely the Chapel's alter artwork, much of which was imported from Mexico or made by the local Ohlone Indians. The Ohlone Indian Museum helps one to appreciate the indigenous population that lived in the area prior to discovery by the Spanish in 1770's. In the cemetary in the back are buried early mission padres and a governor of Alta California, among other notable historical figures. The bookstore has an excellent collection for the fascinating and turbulent short history of California. Hours and other visiting information is provided in the mission's link below.
I disagree with VT member Karenincalifornia, numero uno among the Top 5 for SF, for her misinformed assignment of Mission Dolores to the Castro District at this website. Her assignment runs counter to both historical and geographical information. Castro District begins at the three way intersection of Castro, Market, and 17th streets. If one walks the 5 blocks east, they will walk downhill until Church Street, where the MUNI tunnel and Dolores Park are located. At that point, the terrain flattens out into the Mission District proper, with another two blocks walk to Dolores Street. Walk left on Dolores for another 2 blocks to Dolores and 16th, and you are at the center of the Inner Mission District, in front of Mission Dolores itself. However, both Castro and Mission Dolores can be appreciated within one afternoon.
I'm so amazed with the many murals all over Mission District. One alley that we stumbled upon has two rows of lively and colorful murals. What a fun way to put your creative talents to good use instead of vandalizing the walls for no reason at all!
On the picture is the Women's Building Mural called Maestrapeace on Lapidge St. You have to see it to believe how much time and effort went into it. This is truly a remarkable labor of love from women artists!
Popularly known as Mission Dolores, it is one of the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco and the only intact Mission Chapel in the chain of 21 established under the direction of Father Serra. The rough-hewn redwood roof timbers are still lashed together with rawhide. The alter is one of the most ornate mission alters. There is a small museum. The photo is taken from behind the towers of the Basilica in the cemetery garden.
The website says: "Mission Dolores is the final resting place of some 5,000 Ohlone, Miwok, and other First Californians who built Mission Dolores and were its earliest members and founders. Other notables include the first Mexican governor, Luis Antonio Arguello, the first commandant of the Presidio, Lieutenant Moraga, and victims of the Committee of Vigilance, Cora, Casey, and Sullivan. Cemetery markers date from 1830 to about 1898.
"The curator of Old Mission San Francisco de Asis is Brother Guire Cleary, S.S.F. His office hours are generally 9:00am-3:00pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays" The mission is open daily 9-4. Admission $2. Over 64 $1.
The basilica is still an active church. It is a combination of Moorish, Mission and Corinthian styles.
Basilica Religions Services:
Saturday Evening Vigil:
5:00pm in the Old Mission Chapel
8:00am, 10:00am, and 12:00pm (Spanish Mass) in the Basilica
7:30am in the Old Mission Chapel, 9:00am in the Basilica
7:30am in the Old Mission , 9:00am and 7:00pm in the Basilica (Bilingual Mass)
Friday 6:00pm in the Old Mission, First Friday includes Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Weekdays before the 9:00am Liturgy in the Basilica
Individual - Saturday 4:00-5:00pm or by appointment
Founded by Spanish settlers in 1776, the Mission district is home to some of the city's oldest structures, as well as some of the hottest young people and places around. Colorful murals celebrate the prominent Latino presence that has long defined the Mission. The area grows increasingly diverse and gentrified along Valencia St. Politically, the Mission is the city's most radical pocket, marked by left-wing bookstores, active labor associations, and bohemian bars and cafes filled with hipsters and hippies.
If Chinatown is Little Asia, then Mission is Little Mexico. My morning mural trek (see previous tips) wandered by shop windows of religious icons, sidewalk displays of clothing and trinkets and past outdoor markets of sunny fruits and jewel-toned vegetables. The smell of enchiladas and tamales and the sound of mariachi music wafted from tiny cafes, and mothers with little ones in tow chatted together over their marketing in soft, staccato Spanish. And everywhere there is color: anything that can be is painted, planted, dyed, tiled or otherwise adorned in vibrant, brilliant color.
I walked both 24th (Church to Hampshire) and a large section of Mission Street, down to Mission Dolores and the Women's Building, and perceived 24th to be the center of a friendly, tight-knit neighborhood. Mission St. is a main thoroughfare and while not lacking in activity, felt much more commercialized and gritty.
This is an area best visited in daylight and is rumored to have some of the best restaurants in the city for travelers on a budget. And do bring the kids - they'll be welcome here and cheerfully entertained with all the bright and shiny things to look at!