June 7, 2010, Sirron Norris was hired to do a community mural and his interns painted over the earlier mural by Cuba and Dino.

En Español

The two interns told their boss, the local artist Sirron Norris, that a man with a child stopped by the mural  Saturday and started yelling at them. “He told them that the wall was a blessed wall and that their bossy man had no ethics or morals, and was a culture vulture” said Norris.

“My interns recognized him. They all used to be taggers, and they know him. His name is SPIE, and that was his mural that we painted over.”

“I didn’t realize. I didn’t know that this was this holy manifest destiny spot. This was meant to be so community-based. Everyone is supposed to have ownership of that spot.”

The mural Norris planned with the help of his interns is a street scene whose details will be filled in, piece by piece, by everyone in the community who stops by to work on it during a block party that will be held on June 19th, from 11-3 pm. Norris says that he was asked to do the mural by the owner of the Revolution Cafe, and by the Mission Community Market – a farmers market and music space that will run on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m, on Bartlett between 21st and 22nd. The Revolution Cafe and the Community Market offered to pay for the cost of supplies, but everyone working on the mural, according to Norris, has been contributing their time free of charge. The mural that was painted over was an image of a Native American chief.

Mural by Cuba, Photo by Dennis Kernohan

But Norris remembers there being an earlier mural in that spot, a “tight -ass revolution scene” by CUBA, a spray-can muralist who, like SPIE, has several murals around the Mission (works by both SPIE and CUBA are featured in the book Street Art San Francisco.)

Norris as he started to paint

Norris’ interns told him that several people had complained to them about their painting over the mural at 22nd and Bartlett, and that CUBA himself had stopped by and thanked them for leaving in part of his design, but also told them that they “might have a problem.” The interns, Norris said, didn’t tell him about the warnings because they didn’t want to stress him out.

Norris thinks that his involvement with the new mural might have something to do with the controversy. A commercial artist by training, he began doing murals through developing independent relationships with business owners, rather than through the graffiti scene. “I never did graffiti. Maybe there’s a code of ethics that I’m not familiar with.”

Norris who opened a studio on Valencia Street this April is no stranger to vandalism. Days before his gallery opening a brick was thrown through his studio, smashing the storefront logo of his trademark cartoon bear. At the time he told Mission Loc@l, “You put yourself out there and you’re going to get it,” and added “I just thought at 37-years old, as an adult you think that everyone is going to treat your art with the same respect.”

For now, he’s leaving the mural on Bartlett as it is, with the tag, so that people in the neighborhood have a chance to see it, and talk about it.”I honestly want to sit down with this dude. I want CUBA there. I want to say, “I want you to have space here on the mural.” I think that’s an important thing to do. He’s part of the community.”

Heather Smith

Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow...

Join the Conversation

43 Comments

  1. How can someone be surprised about this? He painted over A Native American mural located in the Mission with a bland mural that lacks culture. If he’s so ignorant that such an idea didn’t raise red flags for him, then of course he should have done his research (BEFORE painting over a SACRED mural). Stop erasing our culture with your ignorance!

  2. I really like Sirron Norris’ art. But why did they have to paint over such a great existing mural. I pass by here practically every day and I have admired both of the last murals. I have featured photos of them on my blog

    http://blog.soulcocina.com/2008/11/marvelous-times.html

    and

    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/lhEwMNH8UO9-v5tFDOjYNC8YVAQRiovC5dFuBDVYRWw?feat=directlink

    I don’t think it is time for this mural to be painted over {oh well too late now} the “Revolution” mural appears to have more of a message than whatever Sirron Norris is putting over it.

    Sadly, this new mural may fit the location more than the old mural. There seem to be more people being cool and less folks talking about revolution on and around this corner now compared to when I moved into the neighborhood 11 years ago. maybe it’s just me though, as I am more a passerbyer than a hangeroutter than I used to be?

  3. I agree with Issac. How can you go in and paint over something with obvious deep ties and symbolism to the culture and community that is this neighborhood. Bad form and a complete lack of respect.

  4. I’m conflicted. I hate the whiny sense of entitlement from the graffiti community, and Norris goes about street art exactly the way one should.

    It’s just that Norris’ art sucks so hard…

  5. When painting over another artists work like this one shouldn’t be surprised at getting someones panties in a knot!

  6. I don’t think its appropriate to target the artist. It’s my understanding that the owners of Revolution Cafe asked him to paint this mural as a community project with youth from his art classes. Many neighborhood kids take art classes with the artist and they had planned to paint it with him but it seems that will no longer happen. Perhaps this “SPIE” tagger person should take the artist up on his offer to sit down and do a collaboration. That way the neighborhood kids still get to benefit from this community project.

  7. First of all I’m curious exactly how a mural goes about becoming ‘blessed’. It’s graffiti, it gets painted over, that’s the nature of it – to suggest that one particular piece is somehow sacred is pretty silly.

    Secondly, the owners of Revolution obviously asked him to do this, so if you’re going to get mad at anyone, get mad at them.

  8. A wise muralist once told me, after I helped paint over a very old and beautiful mural: “it’s bad to paint over murals when there are so many other walls without art on them”. If it was really SPIE and CUBA who had commentary (this is all heresay at this point), then it should be recognized that these guys have put in work as muralists for decades, and they deserve respect for that, and especially for the reason that their art is inspirational, thought-provoking and aesthetically beautiful. My kids and I like Norris’ art, but I must say that it is disappointing to hear that nearly all of his work is commercial. I respet making a living off one’s art, but not if the artist lacks balance by also contributing to the social discourse and paying dues by elevating important social issues through their efforts. It may be a positive step forward for Norris that he is willing to collaborate adn engage and not censor the graffiti commentary. Lastly: SPIE has worked for years with youth to promote muralism, world-wide— to address earlier comments.

  9. Whose building is it? It would seem that the building owner determines what will be pointed there, maybe no mural at all.

  10. If you’re looking at the revolution mural…look down the street and up to the right. Is anyone else visually offended by the US bank building on Mission and 22nd? That has to be the largest “canvas” in the mission. Both sides of the building have those huge ugly grey slabs. Would be awesome to see US Bank sponsor two huge mission murals by local artist that could be seen from everywhere. Much like the 6th street “home” mural.

  11. Norris shud buy Spie some paint and appologize. Its not just graff scene rules, but common sense not to go over something that took alot of time without asking permission.

    Any artist shud understand that and I hope his interns get a good lesson outta the situation.

    U gotta respect the land your on.

  12. Norris’ art speaks from a place that has nothing to do with whether he comes from commercial art or graffiti, and I for one have always enjoyed his work. The question is, who owns that wall, the person who owns the building, or the person who up up the mural? Too much of graffiti culture is tied up in macho territorialism, and the belief that the artist takes possession of the space by painting it. There are the obvious usual issues around gentrification in the Mission, as there always seem to be, and what role painting over a mural of a Native American plays in this, but that’s an entirely separate issue from who Norris is an artist. I think one artist calling another a “culture vulture” and defacing his work is a pretty poor way to make a point about the politics of Mission development.

  13. Excuse the hell out me, but who decides what is graffitti and what is art? Who died and made a bunch of these fools art critics? I am never surprised by the blantant ignorace, bigotry, and the unconscious remarks of “transplanted hipsters” into our neighborhood. Obviously, many of you that have made these insulting, insensitve, and culturally devoid remark are no idea of the incredibly, rich and dynamic history of the murals in the Mission. Our murals are a testament of who we are as not only native people from the whole continent, but also of our indentity as artists, and activists who have fought the bigotry of this country and society to say that “We are here and we aint going nowhere”.

  14. The fact that you felt that you needed to destroy a big part of the last five years of San Francisco culture by puting up this disgracefull new piece. I believe that Sirron Norris SUCKS! Long Live TRUE SF CULTURE!!!

  15. Murals are temporary. They aren’t owned by the artists who make them. They are made on others’ property. They aren’t like the Pyramids, or even a traditional painting on canvas. More like Buddhist sand mandalas. Or billboards. Expect erasure and replacement.

    That said, everyone is a critic. People have a right to their opinions, but not to destroy others work without the permission of the owner to express them. Period.

  16. The same people who bleat, whine, and moan over the painting over of the former mural are the same people who aid and abet criminals by bemoaning the actions of Muni fare inspectors: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2010/05/12/sfmta-suspends-muni-fare-inspection-stings/. Get over your high minded-selves, the Mission used to be very Irish and Italian; did we see those people whinge and complain over them losing their “percieved” power in the neighborhood? “Ashes and ashes and dust to dust”, murals will eventually be painted over, including Mr. Norris’s, people will die off and others we replace them. Don’t you people ever pay attention in the church that you so piously claim to attend and worship? Thank the Lord I got out of that cesspool when I was young.

  17. It seems like the rules are very simple, you don’t paint over other peoples work. Its disrespectful. …
    (Comment Edited.)

  18. …the old wall was way better because it had meaning to a lot of people, im sorry teddy bears have no meaning, no culture.
    (edited)

  19. This “collaboration” is now a perfect metaphor for the culture clash that has been occurring in the mission since gentrification began.

    They should leave it exactly as it is now.

  20. If the supposed “revolutionaries” want to make a difference, maybe they should tell their brothers and cousins around South Van Ness, Capp, Harrison, 24th, and Army Streets to stop shooting and killing each other.

  21. Cousin Ted: you wouldn’t know, but every one of the revolutionaries in the neighborhood and on this site do actually work with the homies in the neighborhood to try to get them to stop killing themselves and each other. For everyone who cares more about who “owns” the building: if you look back far enough, most of the wealth that enables people to own buildings, especially commercial buildings in SF, is likely wealth created via the slavery, thievery of lands, or other vile acts of colonization. If we invest the power to decide the make-up of our urban landscape in those who have exploited or have inherited the benefits of exploitation, we are through! I am glad we have this space to have this discussion, because so many of you would not make these comments in the flesh, in public, and I do appreciate knowing what people think about what’s going on in our community. Thank you for expressing yourselves, whether I agree with you or not!

  22. I’ve lived in SF since 1987. Privileged posers more than irritate me…. … know that you’re messing with deep cultures here. We see what you’re doing, and we don’t like seeing someone come and go over things that represent from the heart of the original people, especially Indigenous folks. You need to own up to your privilege & wrongdoing, and give reparations to those you’ve wronged. The Last Poets said it well..”When the Revolution comes..” Peace with Justice. (edited)

  23. ari thanks for the reality check. but i have to go there with ted. if you were living in a cesspool, what does that make you? the cesspool is a better place without you. thanks.

  24. Why is everyone so angry at the artist? The owners of Revolution Cafe ASKED him to do it, i don’t think that it’s the artist’s fault for accepting the offer. the beef should be with the cafe owner, not Norris.

  25. how about further investigation of the “owners of the revolution cafe”? i hear mostly negative things about them from people who have had dealings with them over the years. perhaps it is time to dig a bit deeper into the current state of owner/worker relations
    for businesses in the Mission District?

  26. Even if the artist is asked by the owner of the business to paint over it, he should consult with the previous artist about it, it’s just common decency, respect, and honor amongst artists of any era and style. Much Respect to DNO, SPIE and CUBA, WoRmHoLE….RBN.

  27. Why am I not surprised? The entire thing was the building owner’s fault for not clearing anything up. There was no malicious intent. It was just an honest hiccup. What surprised me, however, are the messages posted here. You guys really have no class. You couldn’t even bother to find out the entire story, and instead acted like some wild dogs, because, you know, being angry is much more important than knowing the entire story. And even when you find out the truth, you try to do some ‘damage control’ instead of owing up, You’re just a bunch of clowns pretending like your actual Revolutionaries defending Mission’s culture.

    Revolutionaries my ass. Let me guess, most of you decided to take American Studies at City College because you wanted to get an easy ‘A’. Then eventually, you bothered to learn something, mostly in order to show-off your study buddies, or to impress that one classmate that looks cute, or maybe because you realize that you actually have to put some effort. Soon enough, you blame everything on ‘The Man’, picked up a Che Guevara T-Shirt from Hot Topic, and became Vice President of the College American club, which by the way acts as some party Frat and doesn’t bother to help the community, besides throwing an occasional fundraiser. Then, you find the word ‘hipster’ on urbandictionary.com, find out that your poser friends are mad at them too. Thus your misplaced anti-hipster crusade officially starts.

    The problem that the Mission and Ess Eff faces aren’t these hipsters, but you Granola Boys and Girls who honestly think it’s a good idea to chase out anyone who wants to move into your little piece of street.

    1. Jack: Thank you for your comment. And you’re right, it does appear that the business owner should have cleared things up. Quite a lot of work went into getting him when the stories were reported, but we failed in that and then, as journalism does, we moved on to the next story. But this is a reminder to check back again because really, I wouldn’t even guess at what he would say and I would like to know. For some reason, I was rereading the story yesterday and looking at the photographs of the two, well three really, murals and thinking about the differences, change and what it all means. Best, Lydia

  28. After reading this entire thing, I find it more ridiculous than when I had first heard the rumor about it. As for you Jack, it’s not your place to judge and I think it proves your own lack of class. I agree with some of the things that were said in this discussion and I can honestly tell you that I am none of those things you said and I think it’s insulting to my friends and I who grew up here. I think change is good but I also think it’s better when it comes naturally as opposed to being forced.

    I don’t think any of the artists called themselves revolutionaries, and especially not Spie. For being the worldwide well known artist that he is (and I can guarantee you that he is) he is also the most humble. If he was defending the mural it was most likely because a lot of work went into it and it had become a part of the neighborhood visual culture.

    It is true that it was the responsibility of the owner to inform the original artists but Norris should have considered his action. It is not an issue of “graffiti ethics” or “entitlement”, it’s an issue of Mural ethics, and if you are planning on becoming a muralist in San Francisco, and especially in the Mission, you ought to know that regardless of the request by owner and compensation or lack there of, it’s of the utmost importance that you notify the artist before painting over their work.

    Regardless of property ownership (and most murals in the city are copyrighted for this reason), a mural becomes a historic part of the culture that surrounds it. In example, just because the Chinese government doesn’t value Buddhist artwork it doesn’t make it right for them to go destroy large sculptures and put new art in it’s place. I’m sure Norris is a good teacher but I hope he’s not out there teaching the kids that it’s alright to go paint over other children’s artwork. I’ve known Spie for over ten years now, regardless of his graffiti background, he’s been more of a life and artistic mentor to youth and children throughout the bay area than anyone else I’ve ever met.

    Ted, about your earlier remark about the Irish and Italian Mission residents, I’m sure they didn’t whine because they moved up the hill to Noe Valley and Diamond heights and the Castro of their own accord, not because they were being driven out for not making rent (I should know, I’m a third generation SF Native).

  29. to everyone labeling spie as just some “tagger” needs to understand that for years he worked with the youth of our city on mural projects waaaaay before sirron norris started to paint his lackluster bears for commercial profit. i personally never liked norris’ art. YOU ARE NOT A STREET ARTIST!! trust.. this isn’t the first time he’s done shit like this. he tried side busting my piece at a live art show. painting directly over what i had just painted to put one of his stupid bears up. i went right back over it …live… in front of the whole crowd.

  30. “@ted you dont know anyhting about the mission and it was RUSSIANS and IRISH who were shooting in my neighborhood ARMY ST.long before the natives took it back so please!!! go back to you brainwash temple leave our pure beautiful minds alone to create” and taggers are not intitled brats!

    it is the horrible generation of ignorant hipsters and wannabees that never learned about the history and rich culture of the mission and its graff influence to the youth
    as a positive path of creativity and self identity unlocked and set free and that is what people fear and that is why they react so defensively! this country has tuaght us to fear the unknown and reconnect courage through substance abuse and ignorance! YOU cant call SPIE1 a tagger you didnt know him when he was and if you did you shut your mouth wit awe….. he is a legend world wide in artest circles graff circles and keeping the community alive circles!!! i feel that sharing this is only going to give more info to the silly wannabees to sound like THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT! you know who you are as for the REV im really sad that a place that wants so badly to be COOL and a location for the COOL didnt know that even they cant make a decision so tough all on their own i was there with CUBA and DINO when they repainted the RVOLUTION after it was destroyed by a fire it was a beautiful day and we were viben on a different tip! but was it blessed. the NEW MARCADO that has no say on our walls should stick to food vending. a word from the ELDERS that we should always respect even SiRROn yuppies go home the homies dont like you disrespecting the NATIVES and their ELDERS and take your expensive yuppie larvas wit you!!! thank you

    local artist and community worker!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *