Is it possible that murals are going to be the new NIMBY flashpoint in town? We have Coit Tower, where the neighbors are using the WPA-era murals as a wedge in their dealings with the city. Starting with Diego Rivera's first fresco commissions here by architect Timothy Pflueger in the early '30s, we have an admirable tradition of painting buildings inside and out with the relevant social issues of the day– works in the Mission, the Beach Chalet, the Rincon Post Office. Except sometimes the social issues that inspire the murals get forgotten and the painter's style goes out of fashion– which seems to be what's happening at the Bernal Heights Library, via Bernalwood. He may still be a hero in Chile, but musician Victor Jara currently elicits a "who?" from most San Franciscans, and there he is, painted on the walls of the library in what many regard as a regrettable work from the '80s by the otherwise obscure Arch Williams and Carlos Alcala.
Most of us only have the vaguest memories of events in Chile in the '80s during the military dictatorship. And whether or not that was his motive, local library gadfly Peter Warfield unearthed the executor of Williams's estate, who came forward at the last minute to claim her rights to save the mural, currently surrounded by scaffolding and previously scheduled to be painted out? today. The replacement decor for the otherwise simple (also WPA-era) library building is a bronze and tile work applied to the wall by Precita Eyes out front and a painted mural around the side by Ruben Rude, leaving most of the building white.
Currently budgeted at somewhere north of $180,000, the project is now stalled and the building will remain scaffolded until this all gets sorted out. Bernal residents seem to be neatly divided– the mural is either an important cultural resource or an eyesore. [Correction: We previously identified Victor Jara as Alberto Jara from Argentina, instead of Chile]
· Controversial Bernal Library Mural Cloaked in New Controversy [Bernalwood]
· June 2012 Update [Bernal Heights Library Art Project]
· Coit tower, NiMBY Beacon to The World [Curbed SF]
· Precita Eyes [Precita Eyes]