The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a huge, outdoor art gallery of larger than life murals. The entire city holds over 1,000 masterpieces displayed by nearly 500 artists. With such a large number, it’s surprising that half of these murals can be found in the Mission District!
Clarion Alley, San Francisco by Jeremy Zilar on Flickr
Just past the Bart station on Mission Street and two blocks South of Medithrive lies a significant contribution to the district’s collection, Clarion Alley Street Art. Once there, you will encounter 560 feet of art packed along every square inch of its walls. Many amateur artists have even covered the ground in hopes of being apart of this fantastic piece of San Francisco culture and history!
It all started in and around Balmy Alley when the first of these incredible works of art cropped up in the 1970s. The movement built momentum throughout the 1980s, filling every brick, fence, and garage door with a rainbow of colors. Every artist strove to give shape and form to the thoughts and emotions of the San Francisco community.
Balmy Alley Starts by dogwelder on Flickr
Now, Balmy Alley holds around 40 major works of art. Two of the most famous on this strip hold tribute to creative legends Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Continuing South down Mission Street, it’s located just 1 mile away between 24th and 25th. Pay attention to your surroundings, there is plenty of eye candy to see on the way.
If the murals of San Francisco were safely tucked inside of a museum, the exhibit would be perfectly preserved and last for centuries. Because they are displayed on the exterior of concrete and wood surfaces, exposed to the elements, it is only a matter of time before weather and circumstance deteriorate their beauty. There have been efforts to restore many famous pieces, but less fortunate works of art are showing signs of their age and will eventually fade away. These artistic expressions of creativity are reminders of how precious and fleeting life is. Nothing lasts forever. We must capture the moment and take opportunities as they come.
Un Pasado Que Aun Vive/A Past that Still Lives (2004), by Joel Bergner in Balmy Alley; Photo by Hari Nandakumar
If you have a chance to visit us and see these spectacular works of art, don’t pass it up. You won’t be disappointed. The murals address a number of subjects including womanhood, beauty, heritage, and the issues of human rights, injustice, political corruption, and gentrification. New pieces are being added to Mission District every year. Each addition illustrates an uncensored picture of our culture and the times we live in. Here in San Francisco, these murals represent the honest story of the struggles and successes of the American people, especially those right here in California.
If you decide to tour the area, get off the BART at 16th on Mission Street. Come visit Medithrive for some snacks, and set off on an exciting exploration to discover the beauty of hundreds of the best San Francisco murals in town.