Art in the alleyways


Emma O'Connor

Balmy alley is filled to the brim with colorful murals for everyone to enjoy. Remember to be aware of cars if you stop to take a picture.

Whether you go to San Francisco for a Giants game, a concert, or just to dinner, it’s inevitable that you will pass by at least a couple of murals before you leave. 

San Francisco has set aside $12.8 million for arts and culture. The city uses some of this money to commission artists to paint murals to brighten up the streets. 

Additionally, the city connects property owners who have received Notices of Violation with StreetSmARTS. StreetSmARTS is a program that paints beautiful works of art to cover up graffiti. Property owners can opt in to the program; instead of paying to clean their walls of the graffiti, they can commission artists to cover it up. 

Recently, artists have taken to the streets of their own accord to paint the boarded-up shops closed from COVID-19. Artists covered the boring plywood in colorful artwork, adding to the numerous murals already lining the street.

The Mission District is one of the best when it comes to colorful and vibrant art. Many of the murals in this area are heavily influenced by indigenous culture, as the Yelamu tribe used to live on this land. Many artists also emphasize Latino culture in their paintings in the Mission because it is currently home to the Latino Culture District. 

It’s no secret that murals are plentiful in San Francisco, but a lesser-known fact is that there are alleyways full of these paintings tucked away in unsuspecting places. Many of these alleyways are nestled in the busy streets of the Mission District, hidden in plain sight.

The murals serve multiple purposes. While they’re pleasing to the eye and add to the liveliness of the streets, they also allow artists to get their work out into the world. 

Balmy Alley, a well-known alley of murals in San Francisco, was created by two women who dubbed themselves the Mujeres Muralistas. They started painting political images on the alley’s houses and garages in 1972. Since then, other muralists have added to the collection and fully covered both walls, surrounding those who walk through the alley with color.

The art serves as a part of San Francisco’s history. All of the murals are beautiful on their own, but knowing the history behind them makes them all the more captivating.

Next time you find yourself in San Francisco, stop and appreciate some of the wonderful murals the city has to offer.

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