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a bicycle parked in front of a colorful painted mural of farmers in the mission district

These City Walls

San Francisco is a beacon of light for the artist, the outcast, and the downright weird. Never ones to abide by boundaries, San Franciscans have long sought ways to bring their creativity into the public square, making art the property of the masses. In line with this creative impulse, walls and fences throughout the Mission District are covered with colorful murals, a trend that began in the 1970s with the Chicano Art Mural Movement and drew inspiration from the work of prominent Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Of particular interest are the murals of Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley, where the ever-changing images depict controversial issues of social justice, including police brutality and gentrification. Other murals expand beyond the circumstances of the city itself to touch on the legacy of civil war and imperial oppression across Central America. Still other images are more jubilant, taking the viewer on a psychedelic journey of color, shape, and texture.


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