Sep 26, 2022 - News

Muralist Juana Alícia speaks truth to power through art

Juana Alicia in front of her mural.

Juana Alícia in front of Para las Rosas. Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

Murals are an integral part of the Mission District's history, artist Juana Alícia told Axios as she stood in front of her "Para las Rosas" mural.

What's happening: Alícia is currently working to repaint and restore the mural, whose name translates to "For the Roses," originally painted in 1985 in the Mission District.

Details: Para las Rosas depicts five plays happening simultaneously on a single stage.

  • Each performance was a real-life production of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, an activist theater group still operating in the building.
  • The illustrations touch on topics including: slavery in the U.S., a miner strike in Colorado, the Rosie the Riveter wave of feminism, movements of resistance in Southeast Asia and more, Alícia explained.
  • As part of the restoration, she's has added roses in each rifle to "counter the idea of gun violence, particularly here in the Mission," she said.

The big picture: San Francisco and the Mission District have a reputation for murals and public street art.

  • The large-scale public art began appearing along Balmy Alley in the Mission in the mid-1980s "as an expression of outrage over human rights violations and political corruption in Central America," per the San Francisco Travel Association.

What she's saying: "Murals are very important for us," Alícia said of the role they play in the Mission, a neighborhood that is about 34.7% Latino, per census data.

  • Murals help reclaim the geography and public square, "taking over buildings that we may not be able to afford to buy," Alícia added.

Between the lines: She has painted several murals throughout the Mission District, including the one on the Women's Building (with help), and she said much of her work is rooted in activism.

  • Alícia's first mural in the Mission, for example, explored the experience of migrant farm workers and the effects of pesticides.
  • "We're in a critical time," Alícia said. "It's an existentially critical time in terms of the planet. [There's a] necessity for art to speak to organizing, to speak to environmental justice, to speak to women's rights and all peoples' gender rights, and the rights of privacy, which are being challenged right now."
  • "I see the role of the artist as to make the comfortable uncomfortable."

What's next: With the help of other artists, Alícia hopes to finish the restoration by the end of October.


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