For Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Bay Area Spaces we interviewed Susan Cervantes the Founding Director of Precita Eyes Muralists Association in the Mission District of San Francisco. As a community-based mural arts organization, Precita Eyes Muralists Association looks to simultaneously beautify and educate the local community about mural art.
[Alexandra Fulks] Precita Eyes brings art into the community in such direct and accessible ways, what do you see as the benefit of both taking people out into the neighbourhood as well as bringing the community into your space?
[Susan Cervantes] The benefit is that they can see themselves in the mural that they’ve designed and created so they feel ownership of it and they get to express their own voices in the process. They get to work with other people, which is not usual, and they might find that really rewarding and bonding within the community. In terms of people that come to our space, they are excited about our space. They see a load of visual imagery that stimulates them and gives them ideas. They learn about the process of community murals and the history about them, the stories behind them. They get to meet the artists on a lot of occasions. People enjoy the environment that we’ve created.
[AF] Being based in the Mission, Precita Eyes is part of a community that has undergone a huge amount of change in the last few years, how has your role changed over that time?
[SC] It’s changed but not everything has changed. Fortunately the change doesn’t turn everything over to where it has completely disappeared. We are in the process of trying to preserve the cultural legacies of the Mission District, and particularly the 24th street corridor which we are a big part of. It just recently was declared the Latino Cultural District. We are restoring the murals that are along the corridor and creating new ones that are around themes of respect for people who have contributed to the mission over the last few decades so that people can learn about them, recognize them and the importance of the contributions that they have made to the community. What gives the Mission its flavor is our ability to live in the Mission. We are doing everything we can to make people more and more aware of those things.
[AF] Precita Eyes manages to serve its core community as well as a large number of tourists and visitors from all over, can you speak about catering to your diverse audience?
[SC] We have our tours that serve probably around 7000 people a year mostly school groups that come from all different parts of the Bay Area and beyond who are interested in seeing the mural environment and learning how they got there—who did them, why they did them. So we have very diverse groups that come from all different backgrounds and experiences, and when we are out in the community working with the community on particular murals it also is often very diverse groups of people that we work with, and the designing and planning of the murals, so we touch hundreds and thousands of people through that process. Of course the mural itself as it’s completed continues to be its own event and touches people’s eyes and minds and hearts with its presence.
The exhibition: Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Spaces is on view from July 9th – August 20th, 2015.
About the Author:
Alexandra Fulks is a senior at California College of the Arts and a Communications Intern at SOMArts Cultural Center.
Photo Credit: Precita Eyes