Three volunteers were scraping a giant mural off the wall Thursday at Galeria de la Raza, the 55-year-old center for Chicano and Latino art located at 24th Street and Bryant in San Francisco's Mission district.
"It’s heartbreaking," said Galeria volunteer Dora Alvarez. "But the positive thing is we’re going to put another one up."
The digital mural, printed on heavy paper and mounted on the wall like a billboard, depicts a heroic quintet: two couples -- one gay, one lesbian -- and a transsexual man.
But it seems someone didn’t like the way the mural and the gallery's new photo exhibit The Q-Sides integrated queer and "cholo culture," or Chicano lowrider culture. So between June 12 when it was initially installed and June 16, they defaced the mural twice with spray paint, damaging it beyond repair.
Galeria de la Raza executive director, Ani Rivera, said the gallery won't be intimidated. She's standing her ground, even though someone also sent homophobic threats via social media to the gallery, mural artist Manuel Paul, and Paul's supporters.
"This wall has always been a space for public art to push and expand on the narratives that define Chicano-Latino aesthetics," Rivera said. "What we’re talking about is the sort of the folks who have lived in the fringes of lowrider community, who have never been able to share their stories due to homophobia and rejection. "
The volunteers were planning to mount a back-up copy of the mural on the wall by Thursday evening.
This is not the first time that Galeria de la Raza has dealt with vandalism. In 2012, for instance, vandals defaced a work on the side of the building by Spencer Keeton Cunningham. The artist restored the piece.
“We’re calling on folks to step up and say this is not acceptable," Rivera said of this latest act of vandalism. "If you see somebody messing with it. Say something. Take a photo. Share it with us."
Rivera has also called police and reported the threats, and set up cameras to help deter further vandalism.
"It’s art," said volunteer Alvarez. "Sometimes you’re not going to like it."