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A passionate idea becomes a colorful reality

A passionate idea becomes a colorful reality

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It is a sunny day in San Francisco’s Mission District. The gentrified Mission District.
In the corner of 24th and Capp streets, a very iconic corner of the barrio, seven artists collaborate in the painting of a large mural. Five young women and two men.

It is an impressive mural, covering the façades of two buildings, right above the offices of the offices of Calle 24.

In front of the mural, a banner announces JUSTICE4AMILCAR MURAL.

“The mural is meant to be our counter story to the official police version of the killing of Amílcar Pérez López. It will be our report answering the police report,” says Carla Wojczuk, the leader of the effort and one of the seven artists perched above the busy streets.

When I ask her about the process of gathering the artists who would eventually form the team, she says: “Initially, I wanted an all-female group…but it was hard to realize…so I reached to those who could be truly committed…Those who’d be ready to ride or die.”

She laughs afterwards…perhaps to attenuate what to some might sound a bit too combative?

“We needed people ready to commit,” she clarifies. “A male might change the dynamics…but Pancho (Pescador) and Cristián (Muñoz) were ready. Pancho was just in it, from the first time we met…and Cristian…he’s a worker. He’ll show up.”
The other artists are Flavia Mora, Lucía González Ippolito, Ana Lisa Escobedo and Adriana Adams. They all bring that needed strong commitment to the work and various skills.

“The final team was a combination of people I thought would be important,” Wojczuk says. “For example, Flavia Mora painted the water jug drop-offs in the desert, as it relates to her family’s own migration story.…Or, in the case of Lucía González Ippolito, (who also helped with the final design)…she has been in charge of recreating a pair of hands that her stepmother, (muralist Juana Alicia) had painted in the 1980’s…the hands of a young Salvadoran man who is trying to fend off the threat of the rifles pointed at him by military men…In the Amílcar mural, the rifles have become guns used by the SF Police…the type used by those who killed Amílcar López…or Alex Nieto.

Apparently, the collaboration among the members of the team has worked.

“It has felt really cohesive,” Wojczuk says. “All the artists bring a mix of things that personally would be important to the message and to the aesthetics of the images to be painted.”

I ask Muñoz, one of the two male artists (both originally from Chile) about his experiences working on the mural and collaborating with the five young women. “I feel honored… and accepted…as a man coming from Chile,” says Muñoz. In Chile, Muñoz was a muralist with a famous mural group, the Ramona Parra Brigade.

“I feel that the women in our group have a more romantic appreciation of life in general…a very feminine design…but also a very strong design…including softer colors, delicate gestures and symbols,” he says.

“At the end, we are united by a common work, our love for community,” Muñoz continues. “Surrounded by the noise, the smells, the variety of emotions that we can feel while we are up on the scaffolds.”

The sounds from the street, the smells, all rises to the scaffolds. It is the life that unfolds beneath those artists, something that Carla is eager to share.

“I love it,” she says. “I really do. It is a mix…we are on public display up there…way up high…it is a bit of a performance…although sometimes you just want to be intimate with your work…It is a combination…you get to be into everything that goes around you…but you’re also away…It is a bonding experience with the people who are up there with you…in our own little city”.

Towards the end of our conversation, I ask how does it feel to be in her position, a white woman in charge of a mostly Latino/a group of artists. She gets more serious and pauses, briefly. “This is a really great responsibility that I feel…a cultural responsibility…to discern when it’s my turn…or my responsibility to listen and when to speak…and there’s no clear answer to that. But I feel so connected to the people of the Mission…to the energy of the place… and I have prepared…learned the history, especially the history of the murals…and the more I learned about the history, the more I felt compelled to put something back in.”

It has been over two years since the project started to come alive. “It was only a passionate idea,” says Wojczuk.

Around the beginning of November, right around the celebration of Day of the Dead, the mural in memory and honor of a murdered young Guatemalan immigrant will come to life.

Story by: Carlos Barón