Original Revolution Mural damaged in a fire. Photo by Dennis Kernohan

En Español

Two leading Mission District muralists from different generations talked Wednesday morning and quickly turned a mural conflict into a new mural project.

“It’s a good message for the kids,” said Cuba enthusiastically about working with Sirron Norris on the project.  “A win-win situation.”

Added Norris, “I’m excited to work with him, to see this come to a peaceful end and to create a beautiful piece of art that’s a symbol of conflict resolution.”

The conflict arose earlier this week when interns for Norris painted over a mural on the Revolution Café’s east facade on Bartlett Street.   That mural had been created by Cuba, a 46-year-old muralist who has been working in the Mission since the early 1980s.

Norris, whose work resides in places like Clarion Alley and businesses like Jay’s Cheesesteaks, had been asked to redo the wall for a fundraiser on June 19th for a new Mission Community Market.

He planned to involve youth from the Mission and assumed the owner had informed Cuba that his mural would be painted over.   It quickly became clear that no notice had been given.

Cuba and Eric Norberg, another well-known muralist known as Spie, talked to the interns and Spie objected to the mural telling them their boss had no culture.  Norris was not there at the time.   In the end, someone scribbled across the new mural in progress “No Culture Vultures.”

The tagging upset Norris who has lived in San Francisco since 1997 and has worked in the community almost as long.  He opened a studio on Valencia in April.  He too makes a special effort to work with children from the neighborhood to demonstrate, as Cuba put it, that “scribbling can turn into a profession.”

Norris tried to get the artists’ phone numbers and when he did this morning, quickly called Cuba.

“Sirron is getting more then he asked for (in terms of attacks) when in fact he was invited to paint a mural and what’s he to do if someone offers him a job,” said Cuba who pointed out that getting a wall to work on is not easy.  He said that after years of trying he had only recently gotten the wall of the Mission National Bank.

Norris told Cuba this morning that the Bartlett wall would “be used for all of us to work together.”   
“I sensed his energy and it’s positive,” said Norris. “I had wanted to work with him before.”

Mural Etiquette

Earlier Norberg, who painted some peripheral parts of the older mural, said the owner of the Revolution Café had failed to follow a simple courtesy of informing Cuba.

“It’s a step by step process,” said Norberg who also teaches at Berkeley High School and has done many murals in the Mission.  “What they did is wrong. There is a protocol.”

Susan Kelk Cervantes, who founded Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center in 1977 and has worked as a muralist for nearly 40 years, agreed.

“If they know who the artist is it’s a courtesy to give a 30-day notice that they intend to paint it out,” she said and added that this is not legally binding, just good mural manners.

Andre Larzul, the owner of Revolution Café, did not respond to e-mails and was not at the café.

In cases where city funds are used, she said, there is often a contract signed between the owner and the artist that includes an alteration and destruction clause.  It calls for a 90-day notice.

The Mural Held a Special Significance for Cuba

Originally painted five years ago, Cuba’s mural included portraits of young people on Mission Street with their fists in the air. Norris remembered the image and called it a “tight-ass revolution scene”

Two years ago, however, a fire charred the wall and Cuba and another muralist, Dino, used their own funds to repair it and painted a Native American chief over the original scene.

It was Cuba’s first project after being bed ridden with a broken hip.

“To get up and paint that Revolution meant something,” he said adding that at the time he was walking with a cane, but going up and down the ladder strengthened his leg.  There was no way that Norris could have known that history, he said.

Indeed, when Norris heard about Cuba’s connection with the wall, he sounded dismayed.

Both muralists, however, were ready to move on to create something new – and sounded pleased to be doing so together.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. It seems this article clears up the previous one where everyone was attacking the artist. It seems the community should re-direct their sentiments towards the building owner for the insensitive move. Glad to see both artists coming together to resolve the issue.

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  2. The current mural was painted directly on top of an earlier mural. The artist was a friend of mine, and she was heartbroken when she saw it. (No 30 day notice given.)

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