San Francisco Street Art #3: The Mission District

At 19th and Mission

It’s been a while since I posted anything about street art in San Francisco, or street art in general, for that matter … in fact, it was was back on June 19, 2013 when I posted San Francisco Street Art, Volume 1 and not again until January 31, 2014 when I put up a Volume 2. At the time I promised that there would be more to come quickly, and, well, there ya go … time slips on by.

Que Haria Zapata? on Clarion AlleyBut I’m a man of my word, and in this third edition of San Francisco Street Art the focus is on the the epicenter of the San Francisco street art scene, the Mission District, where street by street you will find the city’s most prolific examples of the genre. Whole alleys are lined with clever, colorful and often controversial works of art and it’s impossible not to wander the lively streets of the Mission and not see some form of  impressive street art. Some are obvious, encompassing the entire length of building sides, while others are small, cleverly placed in a bus enclave or on a door.

The beauty of Mission District street art, like the neighborhood itself, is that it’s always changing. While some murals are mainstays, others change from time to time as artists with something new to say paint over them. In fact, the mural in the gallery’s soccer-themed second shot (“On 19th St. at Mission”) is now the Para La Mission mural seen at the top of the page. So the watchful photographer is consistently rewarded by making repeated visits, as murals often morph into something completely different, seemingly overnight.

The Mission is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods with a deep, rich Latino population of  Central American and Mexican families that have been settling the neighborhood in big numbers since the 1950s. As such, the Mission boasts some of the best and most authentic taquerias, pupuserias, produce markets, and Salvadoran bakeries in the country. This deep proliferation of Latino cultures is also reflected in the area’s street art, and you’ll see Latino influences ranging from modern artists like Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo to the ancient Aztecs.

Tiger on Mission StreetSadly, the area faces the same gentrification that has swept across the entire city in the past few years, and old establishments are being forced out as the new tech boom has caused rents to skyrocket while a new population of cash-flushed techies drain the cultural color from yet another San Francisco neighborhood. Indeed, high-priced “artisan” coffee shops and Asian fusion restaurants are threatening to out-number the family-owned taquerias who have yet to be evicted by a greedy landlord. Because of that, high-tech gentrification has become a growing theme of the neighborhood’s street art, and I’ve included a few examples of that.

Still, like the cultural enclaves of most cities, the Mission takes great pride in its rich cultural heritage and diversified nature, and the fabric of what makes the Mission unique and special will always remain intact. If you’re planning on visiting San Francisco, put exploring the Mission near the top of your to-do list … it’s also a lot less touristy than other parts of the city. But if you’re into seeing the city’s best street art, put the Mission at the top of your list.

Check out more of the street art of the Mission District after the jump.

About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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15 Responses to San Francisco Street Art #3: The Mission District

  1. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Great photos, Stephen. The artwork is fantastic—thanks for sharing it with us. Ω

    • You’re welcome, Allan. I don’t live far from the Mission, so I’m down there a lot (was there just yesterday, as a matter of fact), and there’s always something new to see and photograph. This gallery is but a very small representation of Mission District street art archives that I’ve taken over the past few years.

  2. Angeline M says:

    The Mission is a fantastic place for a photo walk. I’ve seen some of these murals, but not a lot of them. Incredible how many there are. Great photos!

    • Hi Angeline … yes, if you’ve been to the Mission you’ve probably seen some of these. What’s amazing is how much really amazing street art can be found there, not to metion the awesome food!

  3. Sue says:

    What a great place for street art!

  4. There’s some great stuff in this gallery!

  5. I’m so glad you’ve got the photo bug, Stephen! These shots are simply amazing. And to think that the sun mostly cooperated with you, too.

  6. what a nice street!. thanks for sharing.

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