Lola Chavez of Mission Local reports that the 24th and Mission BART station area in San Francisco is getting a new cafe with a walk-up window. Chavez writes, “The place will be run by two brothers, according to their father who was at the site recently.”
One minor problem: the walk up window construction cut through one of the many vibrant murals in the Mission. The mural is called “Heart of the Mission” by Dagon, TMC, and TRS, painted in 2013. For more info we reached out to Susan Cervantes, an accomplished artist and the founding director at Precita Eyes Muralists, “an inner city, community-based mural arts organization” based in the Mission District.
“This is kind of a surprise to everyone,” Cervantes told Sprudge. “A walk-up cafe window isn’t a bad idea for that site, but it is cutting through a mural…and the bottom of the mural, to the right side of the portrait, has been damaged.”
We asked Cervantes if this issue–new construction that threatens public art–was a major problem for the preservation of the Mission District’s iconic murals, and she gave us a big dose of realism in response. “This is a private building with a new owner,” Cervantes said, “and the artists probably had permission from the previous owner to put up art in the first place. There aren’t any real protections for this art…unless the artist has a copyright, [the building owner] doesn’t have to get permission from the city. There’s nothing a city can do about what an owner does to their building.”
Susan Cervantes elaborated: “You have to get a permit to cut a hole into the building—that’s a major structural change—so I’m sure that that took a long time, it just didn’t happen over night, and everybody had to know what was going on. The artist must have known, or have been given notice, but if there wasn’t anything in place to protect himself, that’s the risk that you take when you’re a public artist.”
That’s all well and good, taking risks as a public artist, but does a walk-up cafe window make for a fair trade? We love coffee and all, but destroying a Mission mural for a cafe walk-up window, leaving just enough of it for some edgy framing…well, you couldn’t write a better metaphor for the changing Mission.
We’ll be following along as this story develops.
(h/t Ben Wurgraft)
Learn more about San Francisco’s vibrant, threatened mural culture via Precita Eyes Muralists.