Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts Unveils Restored Mural

The refurbished mural above the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts after it was unveiled Thursday (Photo: Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

Beloved artistic traditions weaved together in front of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA) Thursday evening at the unveiling of the center's newly restored mural.

The celebration captured the Latino-American artistic lineage cultivated in the Mission. With the scent of copal in the air, Aztec dancers from the Mixcoatl Anahuac troupe, dressed in vibrant penachos, led the re-dedication for MCCLA’s newly restored mural, “Spirit of the Arts." The unveiling honored its original artists Carlos Loarca and Betsie Miller-Kusz, in addition to muralists Carlos Gonzalez, Suaro Cervantes, Paul Kensinger and Aureliano Rivera -- all of whom received a commendation from the City of San Francisco.

"[The mural is] just a testament to the vibrancy and the diversity of this community, and that’s what we’re here celebrating," said MCCLA Director Jennie Rodriguez in her opening address at the celebration. "In these difficult moments, some of us think that maybe difficult moments are in our way, but it’s a time for the community to come together, and again, pledge their support to these institutions that are here supporting the community as well and bringing a lot of value and quality of life to our communities."

The mural's month-long restoration process — a collaboration between MCCLA and the San Francisco Arts Commission — comes 35 years after the mural's original completion.

Borrowing from Aztec, Incan and Mayan iconography, "Spirit of the Arts" is sprightly, textured and rich with history and homage. It covers the entirety of the Center’s 3,700 square-foot façade.  "Spirit of the Arts" was originally painted in 1982 by Loarca, Miller-Kusz and Manuel Villamor, all of whom returned to work on its restoration to commemorate the center’s role as a fixture of the Mission district's artistic community.

Dancers performing in front of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
Dancers performing in front of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. (Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

In its modern manifestation, the mural symbolizes heightened political stakes both on a local and national level. District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who was slated to appear at the festivities, was not able to attend due to ongoing city budget negotiations.

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The Center's inaugural director, former San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murguía, was in attendance for the event, as was former District 9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos, according to a press release, helped secure funding for the restoration project through an add-back.

“We’re talking about a president who’s in the process of engaging and pushing forward mass deportation,” Campos said at the event. “It is at a time where that is about to happen at the national level that we need to stand around and say ‘Mr. Trump, Latinos are as much a part of this community as everyone else. Whether you like it or not, we’re here and we’re here to stay. We’re not going away.’ This is our community as much as it is anyone’s, so that’s the message that we hope we’re making.”

Opened in 1977, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts is the largest Latino cultural center in the continental United States.  The Center hosts art workshops, gallery exhibitions, film screenings and art classes, including an annual summer arts program for local youth.

MCCLA, along with the Bayview Opera House, SOMArts and the African American Art and Culture Complex, is one of four city-owned, community-operated art spaces to offer artistic resources to San Francisco residents. The Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, where the center is located, was chosen as a semi-finalist for the California Cultural District's pilot program.

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