If you walk by Bryant and 24th Street in heart of the Mission District you will notice something that looks like a billboard with the requisite frame and overhead lighting. And yet the contents is never an advertisement. That billboard belongs to the Galeria de la Raza, an organization that has supported Chicano/Latino activism in the Mission District since 1970 and is situated on that corner. Originally it was a commercial billboard. But, the founding group of artists at the Galeria de la Raza rose up and took it for their own. For years now it has been the Galeria Billboard with frequently changing messages.
Back in the 70’s it was a Foster & Kleiser billboard with a prime location at street level. Everyone in the local community was not supportive of the types of ads that appeared on it and other billboards. In 1975 it began to take on a different life when it was “appropriated” by several Galeria artists who painted an “ad” for a Mission District arts magazine called Tin Tan. Apparently for several years the local artists continued to “appropriate” the wall for their messages while Foster & Kleiser still pasted up commercial ads. All the while, the Galeria director tried unsuccessfully to engage in conversation with the ad agency.
Finally one day the game stopped when a Foster & Kleiser truck expectantly drove up, disassembled the billboard and left the materials with someone at the Galeria who noticed what was happening and inquired what they were going to do with the discarded pieces. The billboard was rebuilt by the Galeria artists and has been maintained every since as a community billboard celebrating Latino art and culture.
Over the years there have been a variety of temporary painted art by local budding and established artists as well as visiting artists. Michael Rios was amongst the first to paint several murals including a perennial favorite subject celebrating Frieda Kahlo. Xavier Viramontes painted a series of protest murals, with a notable one about the never ending saga of the eviction of the residents of the International Hotel in Chinatown as well as others promoting clean streets and good health. Periodically the billboards have been painted by Native American Indians to support their causes.
In the 90’s Galeria de la Raza decided to change the emphasis of the wall and created a public arts program that they call the Digital Mural Project and uses computer generated images. The artists and subject matter are local and international. These past few years they have featured artists from Central and South America, Mission District students, artists and residents and Native Americans who have covered various topics such as globalization and culture, a tribute to Cesar Chavez, the human cost behind cheap immigrant labor to more recently painted murals on shark conservation which you can view on our site. The Billboard changes several times a year. The current one is scheduled to come down at the end of March.
More information is available – Timothy W. Drescher. San Francisco Murals, Pogo Press, 1991
About Galeria de la Raza
The Galeria is a non profit organization located on the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets in the heart of the Mission. It was founded in 1970 to promote and raise awareness for Chicano and Latino art within the local community. To learn more about the organization and view more digital murals visit their site www.galeriadelaraza.org
Location: 2857 24th Street
- San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 826-8009 gallery office