City Guides SF gives free (by donation) walking tours of the city every day. I’ve done a bunch of them and always learned something interesting. One of the ones I did awhile back taught me about the historic San Francisco murals inside of the Rincon Center building in the Financial District. I was in that building again recently and snapped some photos of those murals.
There are more than two dozen murals that tell the story of San Francisco’s history. They were painted in the 1940′s as part of the WPA arts program (as were many of San Francisco’s murals). They were painted by a Russian painter and there was some controversy around them related to The Cold War but they are now an important part of San Francisco’s art history.
There are tons and tons of murals and other street art in San Francisco. Here’s a selection of some of the photos I’ve taken over the years of some of those murals, mostly in the Mission District.
I thought I’d share some photos I took of the murals inside of the Beach Chalet restaurant, which is located at the West End of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, right across from the Pacific Ocean.
I was recently petsitting in the Lower Haight neighborhood so I had an opportunity to do a lot of wandering around there. I decided to take a bunch of photos of the murals and street art in the area. They’re located mostly on Haight between Fillmore and Divisadero.
Yesterday I went on a really amazing walking tour of some of the murals in the Mission District here in San Francisco. I mostly went to get outside, see my city and learn something new. I had no idea just how much new stuff I would learn. Turns out that murals are more complex and interesting then I ever knew!
Here’s ten interesting facts about murals that I learned yesterday:
- Murals are so much more than pretty pictures; they have a much deeper meaning. The artwork in a mural is very well thought out. It is designed to represent a specific community at a specific point in history. It is often designed to make a political and / or social statement. The details in the murals add up to a bigger message.
- Murals are not designed by one person; they get input from a whole community. One person might head the project and one artist might even do all of the work but designing a mural usually involves groups of people.
- San Francisco has over 1000 murals. There are 200 – 300 murals in the Mission neighborhood alone. As far as I am able to tell that’s the most number of murals in a single neighborhood anywhere in the world.
- There are many different styles of murals. These styles include cartoons, fine art, mixed media, mosaics, 3d cutouts and graffiti art.
- The main difference between graffiti and murals is that people who do murals have permission from the property owner to do them.
- Graffiti artists almost never tag on murals. This is because the murals are part of the community and they respect that. Tagging on murals does happen of course but the social message of murals and their ties to the community tend to prevent this problem from happening on a grand scale.
- There are three muralists from Mexico who played an important role in bringing murals to the U.S. They were called Los Tres Grandes. They are Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jose Orozco. These are guys to learn more about!
- Many murals change over time. They may represent a specific time in history but they decay and are repainted and change a little bit. There’s actually a community mural in the Mission that features a bunch of portraits of people who live in the neighborhood. It was done in the 1970′s. When it was updated in the 90s there was one man pictured who still lived in the neighborhood and they changed his image so that he looked the way he did twenty years after the original image was painted.
- Murals may be painted indoors or outdoors. They may be big or small.
- Murals date back to the caveman era. Some eras have been particularly important in certain areas. For example there were a lot of San Francisco murals made in the 1930s and again in the 1970s. Murals can be found all around the world today.
What do you know about murals? Share anything that you’d like about them in the comments below because I’d really love to learn more!