On our girls weekend in San Francisco, while sipping coffee at the SFMOMA, my daughter looked at me and said – if you want to really see the essence of San Francisco you need to go to Mission District and spent some time at the Dolores Park. This is not my first time in San Francisco nor will it be my last but for some reason, I always feel like I get to see a different aspect of the city by the Bay every time I visit. Like an onion, the city seems to have its layers. After having spent the last few days in Union Street, enjoying our share of bowls of soup-soaked sourdough bread and watching cable cars with its tourists clinging to the rails, I was ready for seeing the true spirit of the city. And there is an alley that you must see, it has the amazing murals she emphasized knowingly that any mention of street art and I was sold … I was excited to go my private little tour to learn more about the city and see Street Art in San Francisco.
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Best Street Art in San Francisco: Clarion Alley in Mission District
Street art is not hard to find in the city of San Francisco but there is one street in Mission that is filled with some amazing works. The next afternoon we drove to Mission District for a do-it-yourself art walk, starting with the Clarion Alley. Clarion Alley runs one block (560 ft long and 15 ft. wide) in San Francisco’s inner Mission District between 17th & 18th and Mission and Valencia streets. Clarion Alley Mural Project (called CAMP) was established in 1992 by a volunteer collective of six residents and artists, who were inspired by the murals of Balmy Alley.
Next, we got back onto Mission Street and we turned right on 18th Street. About a block past Valencia Street is the Women’s Building. The building’s exterior walls are adorned with the MaestraPeace mural, a massive work that pays homage to famous women. The work was painted in 1994 by seven Bay Area female muralists and was restored in 2012. The building is painted on two of its sides – the front entrance, facing 18th Street, and the side facing Lapidge Street. Its front entrance features a naked, pregnant goddess with butterfly wings, grasping the sun as its rays shine down.
We head back onto 24th Street and walk up to Balmy Alley next. Balmy Alley is another little alley which is famous for murals and many of these pieces have been there for a long, some of them since the 1970s! The murals have a social slant to both their message and the execution. You can find more details on their website. Now, the alley’s art still has a focus on human rights but also includes topics of gentrification and many of the issues commonly addressed in San Francisco’s street art.
An Art Walk among the Murals in San Francisco
Here are a few Murals in Clarion Alley that caught my eye….
Wandering around in Clarion Alley reminded me of Deep Ellum in Dallas. Although a little gritty, the neighborhood was pretty safe for us to walk around and find the different murals. Not confined to the walls of a museum, these murals give us a glimpse into the fabric of the society and its issues. As always use common sense and be aware of the surroundings when trying to find these murals – sometimes the alleyways are deserted. Park at the ends of the street and walk in to explore the art. You can also do a tour that is organized by Precita Eyes Muralists for an in-depth understanding of these murals and mosaics.
This one made me pause – pause and think about the information-saturated world we live in. I didn’t see a title for this work so I’m calling this Are you tuned in or tuned out. We live in an era where everything is snapped, Instagram-ed, socially shared… it is said that we check our phones 700 times a day! I’m caught up in this cycle as well Instagram-ing, writing, posting on my site adding to the Information Overload… but the key is – regardless of the amount of time we spend tuned in to the various online activities and news cycles, do we take time to tune out and spend time with the people we love – fully engaged and present? Or are we constantly distracted by the device?! Do we take time to Tune into our-self and with the people around?
It was time to tune in for us… so we bought some treats from Tartine bakery on Guerrero St and some picnic supplies from Bi-rite on 18th Street and walked over to Mission Dolores Park for a picnic with our bounty of California figs, strawberries, cheese, and some rose.
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