The small office of Galu Realty on 24th Street, where the owner Philip Galu sits, has a large window, and aside from using it to display a stuffed armadillo, it also offers the realtor a view of one of his properties – the parking lot on 24th and Capp streets.
Nowadays, the wall that wraps around to the apartment building at 899 Capp St. has become the site of a silent, but visible feud. In a sense, however, it’s the most recent chapter of a tale that began years ago when Galu struggled with graffiti vandals who used the fence surrounding the parking lot as a canvas. “It was a pain in the neck,” he said recently.
Then, he got smart. He noticed that the taggers who vandalize private property often left murals alone. He found the mural artist Francisco Aquino, known as Twick, who also teaches art to 4th-6th graders through the SF Arts Commission.
“We got a hold of these guys and bought them paint,” said Galu referring to Twick and his team.
That was a year and a half ago and in one section of the mural, Twick painted Spanish conquistadors tipping over a Mayan statue. Behind the conquistadors came friars carrying a cross. Later on “the mural got erased, it got buffed,” said Twick.
The image, he said, might have offended someone. “I took it as a truth hurts kind of a thing and people didn’t want to see that I guess,” said Twick.
He left it but graffiti started to appear and before long, the wall “was back to its normal ugly state,” Twick said.
He wrote the word “Love” on the same spot where the conquistadors had been and it remained untouched for about two months. Then someone erased half of the word, then all of it vanished.
This year – on the very first day of it – Twick began painting a large Virgen de Guadalupe – the largest in the Mission, he said. It remains untouched.
In late April, Twick began adding more images to the mural, west of the Virgen, and eventually the mural covered the corner of the apartment building at 899 Capp St.
At the end of April, the apartment building’s manager painted over the corner leaving – as if he couldn’t reach it – the blue paint along the top.
“I’m the manager, it’s the owner who doesn’t want it,” said the manager who asked that his name not be used. “I like the murals, people are really talented, all I’m doing is what the owner asks me to do.”
Shortly after the buffing, retaliatory tags started to appear.
On the morning of Saturday May 1st, the Uptown Almanac posted photos of the buffed walls with the writing “Stop Hating, We Want our Mural Back”.
That was buffed and then the following morning, Sunday May 2nd, Mission Loc@l’s editor stopped by and saw that the tags had been covered once more.
When she returned that afternoon, the wall had been tagged yet again.
For 14 days, that one plea remained.
“They act like it’s their right to paint it, and honestly, it’s really rude,” said the manager. “I don’t want to get into a fight with them, I’m not calling the police or anything like that…but there are different ways to get your projects done.”
Tomas Camey, a resident of the apartment building, said he likes the mural “I would like them to put up the entire mural, because I like it when so many tourists come by and take photos, it’s a beautiful memory that many people take from San Francisco,” said Camey. “It would be a good idea to put it back up so that the entire wall looks nice and so that it also matches with what they (the artists) want to express.”
Galu, the parking lot owner, would also like the mural extended and said they have tried talking to the building owner. “Might as well talk to a wall,” he said.
Twick understands that as much as it disappoints him to see a part of his mural get covered, it could be worse. The Virgen de Guadalupe, while facing 24th Street, is actually painted on the apartment building’s wall.
Twick understands that it’s the property owner’s right, but insisted that the only solution to a wall that continually gets tagged, is a mural.
In fact, just around the corner, at 3245 23rd St., Twick is working on another, owner-requested mural. That one is part of StreetSmARTS, a joint program of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Public Works to curb tags by adding murals.
Twick says that as long as the owner at 899 Capp St. buffs over the last portion of the mural, taggers will return. “He tries to fix that corner but it’s not fixable,” said Twick. “It’s a no-win situation…he’s not gonna win. If he keeps on painting it white, it’s gonna keep getting tagged.”
Mission Loc@l found the owner, Evelyn Cornell in Sacramento where she lives and paints oils.
When Mission Loc@l reached her late Wednesday, she said she wanted the front of her apartment building in its original condition and had asked her manager to paint over the mural. At the same time, however, she added “we appreciate murals.”
She listened to the story about the controversy and the message that had been left untouched: “We want our Mural Back.”
She made no promises, but Cornell said she would confer with her sister who co-owned the building and get back to Mission Loc@l.
“We want our building to be a private building and not make any political statements,” she said. “We want our building to be neutral.”
She said she feared the mural would go around to the front, and when Mission Loc@l asked if she would be open to a compromise and getting an assurance from the artist that the mural would stop after the corner, she said no.
“I talked it over with my sister and we want the building to be just a plain old apartment building.”
Over the weekend, a new tag – this one in black – appeared next to the plea.
This woman who “paints oils” obviously has no love of art. The same woman who owns an apartment building in the Mission knows nothing of our neighborhood. Street art is such beautiful and vibrant part of our culture here. If the residents are smart, they will unify and demand their mural back. I’m sure many of them loved it.
Neutral murals? Plain art? Wooooowww. Some of you truly lack a sense of outrage for the environmental, social and other injustices of the world, and yet, murals seem to disturb you a great deal. It is impossible to avoid the history of social activism in the Mission and simply distill out the burritos, warm weather, galleries and other amenities you may be here for. Matter of fact, SF has alwAys been a hotbed of the arts and related social activism. Didn’t they warn you before you immigrated here? We welcome you, but don’t come here touring “neutral art”; you would be happier elsewhere, I am sure. If you prefer scenes of flowery hillsides, please, pick up a brush; there are plenty of plain, blank walls.
MURALS REPRESENT HISTORY OF THE STRUGGLE THAT WE STILL FIGHT TODAY! JUST LIKE HIP HOP WAS ORIGINALLY ABOUT THE STRUGGLES OF SOUTH AFRICANS…I’M TIRED OF WEALTHY WHITE PEOPLE TRYING TO WIPE US OUT! I MEAN REALLY HOW MANY FUCKIN’ COFFE SHOPS DO YOU NEED ON 24TH STREET ANY FUCKIN’ WAY! THEY WANT THE IMMIGRANTS TO GO BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY STUPID IDIOTS THEY ARE THE FUCKIN’ IMMIGRANTS US NATIVES HAVE BEEN FIGHTING TO PROTECT OUR LAND AND PRESERVE OUR VAST CULTURE FOR CENTURIES.
IM OFFENDED THAT EVERYONE COMES TO SAN FRANCISCO TO STEAL OUR CULTURE THEN THEY COLONIZE US GENTRIFY US AND THEN THEY TRY TO ERASE OUR CULTURE! THIS IS JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF RACISM. THE MISSION WAS PREDOMINATELY A LATINO COMMUNITY BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT US INTHE NICE BIG HOUSES BY THE BEACH BT ONCE THEY SAW HOW WE BECAUSE THE BEST COMMUNITY WITH THE MOST FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE BEST FOOD AND BEST WEATHER IN TOWN THEY WANT US OUT!
Silly rabbits. They’ll keep getting tagged as long as there’s a blank space there.
Why not recruit the muralist to paint something that’s more in keeping with the owners’ tastes? Maybe palm trees, bouganvillas, passion flowers, california poppies, the SF parrots, cats peeking through the flowers, two little old ladies (representing the owners) sitting under a lovely arbor, etc.
so it’s okay to see microsoft, starbucks, target…or any other crappy corporate business bombard train stairs, pillars and side of buildings in my city. and this is a thorn in somebody’s side?!! Get over yourself! Signed A proud CATholic who loves those Heavy Hispanic Overtones!
everyone just relax
It seems the main trouble is that Twick can’t figure out where his canvas begins and ends.
I see nothing wrong with a white apartment building. I see nothing wrong with a beautiful mural too. But it should be up to the property owner what goes on their property.
I think the themes of conquistadors, priests, Mayans and the Virgin of Guadelupe are a little overdone, and unless I was opening a Mexican restaurant, I wouldn’t want them on my building. And even if I were opening a Mexican restaurant, I’d be asking the muralist for concept sketches beforehand.
Funny how certain people move to/buy property in the mission to feel be hip, then have a fit when a culturally themed mural pops up on their building. If people dont like politically charged murals then they should move to Marin or down the Penninsula. This is the San Francisco Mission District. We will not soften the blow of our activism or history for anyone. Love it or hate it, but respect that these murals are in many cases the only voice of those who have been silenced for too long….this land will be taken back eventually, even if we have to do it wall by wall.
Does the owner realize what neighborhood her building is in? making a statement that she wants the building to remain neutral is ridiculous – someone will make a political/gang/etc statement on that wall no matter WHAT anyone wants. neutral space is never neutral in that neighborhood it will always be claimed and used to speak out. might as well have some talented artists using the space!!!!
put up a camera
Ah, La Mission. So complicated and, yet, so simple:
It is obvious that the PARTIAL whitewash invited a backlash for the building owner up.
Señora, when you left the top portion of the mural chopped off, you were slapping a community’s cultural expression in the face. You created the appearance of being a censor instead of just exercising your right as a property owner to present your building as you saw fit.
The solution is obvious: Don’t half-ass your power play. Completely whitewash that portion of the wall, top-to-bottom.
I might recommend that you paint a mural of beautiful Bougainvilleas in its place. Throw “your people” a bone, a beautiful one at that.
I saw the conquistador mural, with the friars lugging in the cross . . . that mural was very political and cultural, an aggressive statement really, in your face aggressive . . . I am glad it is gone. . . and I find the virgen aggressive, too. . . why doesn’t Twick paint a sun-dappled hillside? where is it written that all murals have to be political statements? Did Diego Rivera ever paint ‘just’ a picture? I think so. If plain pictures were okay with River (I am thinking of some of his gorgeous flowers). . it ought to be good enough street art for Mission
The Virgen de Guadalupe is not a neutral mural. . .
It is hard to understand why the owners are so thick-headed. How can they not see that having a mural makes their building more like “a plain old apartment building” than having tags/graffiti?
I do not like the heavily Catholic overtone of the Virgen de Guadalupe. And I can see a non-Hispanic owner resisting a very Hispanic-toned mural. It’s not like the Hispanics in the neighborhood ‘own’ the cultural rights of the neighborhood. . .
Would neighborhood taggers respect a more neutral mural, such as a scene of flowers?
Where do some get the seeming assumption (Twick seems to have made this assuption) that mural themes on privately-owned walls have a right to be Hispanic-related? Not everyone in that hood is Hispanic. .
STill, the sisters owning the building sound like lucky idiots. Sweet to own a cash cow apartment building in the Mission, eh? And how dumb can they be?
my dog has found her new bathroom. This a silly fight.
Saying that murals are better than graffiti is really saying very little. Murals are art, and therefore, subject to criticism as art. They aren’t automatically “good” merely because of their alleged graffiti-fighting role. Many murals in the Mission are badly painted and badly maintained. And many are blatantly racist and heavily ideologically driven. I’m not sure I necessarily agree that the owner of a wall or fence has a “right” to paint anything he chooses on it. Particularly if it is offensive to many in the neighborhood. But clearly, if a property owner does not want a mural on his building, that ought to be the end of the discussion.
I love murals, but the rights of the property owners are the only valid aspect of the debate. Infringing on their rights as property owners is wrong. Calling them “downright dumb” is completely ignorant, and standing up for the taggers (who respect murals — who cares what they respect? They’re breaking the law!) is idiotic.
My understanding is that building owners have a legal responsibility (and they definitely have a social responsibility) to keep their buildings free of graffiti, especially gang-related tags. Therefore, they should be obligated to allow murals–especially when someone else is paying for it! If the owners don’t like the politically charged images, they should ask the artist to paint something else. Even though the artists and other locals may see it as a cop-out not to include an indigenous motif in the mural, it is possible. The new mural on 23rd and Capp is less “political” while still referencing local issues.
I want to put a tattoo on your face, I don’t care if you object, it’s my artistic expression and if you are going to be walking around MY neighborhood and I have to look at you, I want you sporting that tattoo.
If you cant take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. The property owner needs to realize that they own property in an area where illegal graffiti is an issue. I can understand why they would not want the front painted, however the side obviously benefits from art. If the manager wishes to go out daily to paint over, then so be it. Stupid.
I’ve never understood this about Latinos even though I was born and raised South of the border. There is no respect for other people’s property. The neighborhoods are full of trash and graffiti. And yet they want respect and good will from others. It isn’t going to happen.
I live a half block away from that building and don’t understand why the building owners don’t want the mural. That building is ALWAYS getting tagged. Taggers do seem to respect murals, so why not go for it?
Obviously, the owners are downright dumb. They simply cannot win that fight.