Not many people can claim residence on the block-long Balmy Alley, one of the first places in the Mission to fill with murals beginning in the late 1970’s. Even fewer can also take credit for one of the murals that line the alley.
Lucia Gonzalez Ippolito, 35, can put both on her resume. Now, she can also take credit for a community celebration in its second year: Lover’s Lane, a day-long open festival of food, art and games that will take place on Saturday, Feb. 11. from noon to 6 pm. Gonzalez Ippolito set the date a few days before Valentine’s Day as a way of showing love to the Mission, her longtime home.
The event is a joint effort between herself and other Balmy Alley residents. “Two of my neighbors will be making tacos,” she explained. “And another [is going to] let us use her power.”
Lovers Lane, Gonzalez Ippolito said, is a spiritual successor to the neighborhood parties and events that she witnessed in the alley over the years. “I grew up in Balmy … [I was inspired by] Brooke Oliver, the main artist-lawyer in the Mission. She used to do events in the alley back in the day.”
“I learned from [Oliver] a little bit, but also just growing up here and having parties in my garage,” she said. “I’ve been doing events in the alley for several years, and they are just starting to grow.”
Gonzalez Ippolito still lives in the home she grew up in with her parents and siblings. The muralist says she’s learned a lot from her dad’s sense of humor and satire — he worked as a newspaper cartoonist — and her mentor, the well-known muralist Juana Alicia Ariza.
In collaboration with her father, Tirso Araiza, she created ‘Mission Makeover Mural’ in 2012, a visual commentary on gentrification that fills the canvas of her neighbors’ garage door. The layout of the double-door garage frames the mural, with one door depicting the Mission as it used to be, and the other how it is today. “I witnessed the changes in this neighborhood,” said Gonzalez Ippolito. “Growing up in Balmy, four of my friends were evicted by 2012, so I really wanted to do a mural on gentrification.”
Gonzalez Ippolito said that her father’s artistry and her mother’s political teachings contributed to her mural in Balmy, which sits directly across the alley from her home. Her mother influenced a lot of the political opinions reflected in the mural, while her father directly contributed to its creation. “I came up with a design [and incorporated my father’s] image of Adam and Eve getting evicted from the garden of Eden,” She said.
Gonzalez Ippolito and her father began work on the mural alone, but found help from surprising sources. “This one guy from Puerto Rico was just sitting there one day, staring [at us work]. We started talking to him, and he said he was a painter. We invited him to come paint, and he [ended up doing] a lot of the portraits… [the mural] became a cool little community project.”