Don’t fret; the scratched-out faces on the Santana family mural at the 24th Street BART plaza aren’t meant to forbode something horrible, although it may seem so at a glance. The Santanas are just getting ready for a makeover.
This week, muralist Wes Marks has been scraping off the original faces of the legendary music family, and will soon begin the process of hand-painting each of the five Santana faces to look just as they did before.
“With the naked eye, if you come back in two months, you wouldn’t see any difference,” said Lisa Brewer, a co-founder of Mission Art 415, which manages the mural project. But, she said the new mural will “shine through the Mission for as long as I’m alive.”
First unveiled in the fall of 2021, the mixed-media mural was painted by cartoonist Mark Bodē. Since Bodē isn’t a portrait artist, Brewer said the faces were essentially photos pasted on the wall.
“I was never really happy with the faces, the way they came out,” Brewer said, noting that the mural had issues even when it was first unveiled. “Your mural is only as good as your building surface.”
On top of the limitations that came with a tight budget, the building’s age and BART trains rumbling below ground brought additional problems, like cracking. Luckily, a private donor recently offered to cover the costs of a restoration. The price tag is undisclosed.
Marks said he hopes to have the restoration of the mural’s faces and hands done in a month, and will be out working in the plaza as often as possible until then. The designer-by-day is no stranger to the San Francisco mural world; he recently finished one of the city’s first Black firefighter at Rosa Parks Elementary school, and last year worked on a “Resilient SF” Giants mural at 3rd and Townsend streets.
“It’s definitely an honor to do this,” Marks said, “Being able to paint Jorge is an honor.” He said he feels he’s come full circle with this new project: As a child, he remembers seeing the tour bus for Jorge Santana’s band, Malo, parked next door to his best friend’s house.
Jorge Santana passed away in 2020, before the mural in his honor came to fruition. His older brother, Carlos, led the world-renowned band Santana.