I look for murals everywhere I go, but San Francisco is something special. I went to school near San Francisco, so I’ve learned some of the good spots to look for public art and when I had a business trip this past summer I decided to take an afternoon and walk to all of my favorite spots to photograph new street art. I visit every 1-2 years, and usually there will be a good amount of turnover in the murals as they are updated, repaired after taggings, and replaced by new art.
I decided to visit three spots and walk between them so that I could spot new art along the way. My favorite mural alley is Clarion Alley, connecting Valencia and Mission between 17th and 18th. It’s where I first discovered the Mission murals, and I love to see what is new. On this visit there were some great additions, though I was sad to see that my original favorite mural is getting smaller and smaller as neighboring art encroaches on it. This alley may only be a block long, but it’s packed with murals on both sides for the full length (minus a bit of fencing).
My next spot was the Women’s Building near 18th and Valencia. In terms of sheer impressiveness, this may be San Francisco’s most iconic murals. The facade is covered in an enormous mural themed around women’s health issues, indigenous cultures, and immigration and civil rights. It is stunning. This mural hasn’t changed much in the years I’ve visited it, but I could tell on this visit that some maintenance had been done to keep the colors bright.
Finally, I walked over to Balmy Alley between 24th and 25th. This is one of the more well-known mural alleys and I believe it has been here for a long time. Clarion Alley is my favorite of the two, but that may just be because I found it first. There are all kinds of murals in Balmy, ranging from professional artists to more simple community efforts. And of course, walking between the various spots I found several more beauties.
This is my favorite way to spend an afternoon in SF, and this time I also broke it up with a stop in Dolores Park for ice cream after visiting the Women’s Building which was an excellent choice!
Photo via Flickr user Brad Fult