Street Art in San Francisco: Balmy Alley

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In San Francisco, there are several clusters of murals or street art that have gained attention. Many of these exist in the Mission District. For the mural lover, Balmy Alley is one of the highest concentrations of murals, and it is steeped in history. The Alley is located between 24th St. and 25th St., and Treat St. and Harrison St., which is a short walk from a BART stop. The ally contains murals in a variety of styles and on a variety of topics from human rights to gentrification.

The history of Balmy Alley begins in the mid-80’s. During this time, the neighborhood was primarily Latino.  In the previous decade, a famous mural called Las Lechugueras had been painted by two women called Mujeres Muralistas. A couple of murals were painted in the area, but it was Ray Patlan who had the intentions for the area. He brought together a group of muralists to create a project in this ally. They wanted each garage door or fence to have a mural on it. The theme uniting the paintings would be the “celebration of indigenous Central American cultures, and protest of U.S. intervention in Central America.”

By September 1985, 27 murals had been painted thanks to the funding Zellerbach Foundation and paint donations from Politec Mural Paints. After its completion it received more publicity than any other murals in San Francisco and significantly affected the creation of La Lucha Continua Art Park in New York City.

Since then, other murals have sprung up in the same area on a variety of different themes while some of the older murals are being restored. The best way to visit this iconic area is by foot, either individually or on the tour with Precita Eyes Mural Arts. This is a great way to get some history behind some of the major murals. Either way, if you appreciate street art, Balmy Ally is a San Francisco must.