Take a walk down Balmy Alley — between 24th and 25th on one side, and Treat and Harrison on the other — and you’re greeted with a synesthetic explosion of colors, shapes and stories adorning facades of old garages. Some of these murals are ancient, some are newer, but all of them tell the stories of Mission residents and tackle the issues from every era: race, culture, gender identity, police brutality and political activism.
San Francisco native Lucia Ippolito is adding another mural to Balmy’s rich collection. Tentatively titled “Women of the the Resistance,” it features prominent female activists from past and present generations and from all regions of the world.
“We’re all angry right now,” she said. “So we decided to represent the faces of the women fighting for the cause.”
The mural-to-be illustrates themes from modern America with imagery of corporate puppet-masters pulling strings over oil rigs that leak into the ground, all painted in cool tones. Below it, burning warm in the middle of the mural are young female activists like Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian woman who was jailed for slapping an Israeli soldier after hearing that troops had shot her cousin. Toward the middle are Bay Area activists like Lara Kiswani, who works for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, and Mission muralist Nancy Pili Hernandez.
Getting approval to start the mural wasn’t too difficult. The garage had another mural originally painted by Edythe Boone on it, but the door was going to have be replaced. Ippolito had to reach out to Boone’s lawyer and get the green light, and then pitched her mural idea to the property owners before starting work.
She plans to have the mural finished by mid-August.
A teacher during the school year, Lucia Ippolito likes to paint on her off time. She’s even worked in Palestine for a nonprofit. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Enlisting the help of others like fellow teacher Michelle Rios has helped speed up the progress on the mural. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Rios and Ippolito are both San Francisco natives, born in the Mission and only realized their common love for art during a school exercise. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Planning a mural from start to finish is not too straightforward. The space needs to get cleaned, a grid laid out and a sketch helps people stay on track. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
On some days, other friends drop by and help for a few hours. Autumn Cobb came to Balmy and painted for a few hours before the crew ended for the day. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Sonia Molina, seen here painting in a face, focused on bringing some of these characters to life. The people featured on the mural are female activists from multiple generations and continents. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Yasmin Madriz comes when she can, she said, helps with the cleaning, painting and organizing before heading home for the day. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Everything that gets taken out to Balmy has to go back inside. Molina, seen here slamming a paint lid back on its can, carried all of the supplies back inside. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Art lovers from all over the world come to Balmy and spend hours looking at the murals. Arvind Tiwari was one of those vacationers enjoying Balmy on a frigid Sunday, and stood behind the painting crew for admiring the scenes. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Mission artist Lucia Ippolito in front of a Misson Makeover, a mural she did on Balmy in 2012. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.