Looking At The Mission District Through Precita Eyes

Photo of Shane Downing
2 December 2016

Precita Eyes Muralists is one of San Francisco’s most beloved institutions of public art. This collaboration-minded, community-centric organization of art enthusiasts has been painting the Mission , literally, for over three decades. Offering art classes, one-of-a-kind souvenirs, and guided walking tours, Precita Eyes is best known for the more than 50 colorful community murals that it has painted throughout the neighborhood.

These murals capture the Mission district’s history, culture, and evolution in a way that is equally stunning and telling. Each of these murals is more than just a wall, more than a series of paint strokes, designs, and colors. These murals represent unique stories. Fortunately, we have individuals like Patricia Rose, tour coordinator at Precita Eyes, who share these stories with community members and visitors alike.

Rose’s involvement with Precita Eyes stretches back to the late 1970s, when it was just a small group of artists who met on Thursday evenings to plan murals and to discuss wall space. Years later, the group grew into a recognized arts non-profit. Actually, Precita Eyes is one of only a handful of community muralist non-profits in the country, with similar organizations based in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Precita Eyes offers three distinct walking tours: the Classic Mission Mural Walk (weekends at 1:30pm), the Mission Trail Mural Walk (Saturdays at 11:00am), and the Precita Park Tour (Sundays at 11:00am). All tours are guided and range in length from an hour and a half to two hours and fifteen minutes. Either drop in early, or buy tickets in advance.

Walking tours with Precita Eyes are relevant to all ages and audiences. Patricia poked fun at her ability to seamlessly switch between talking to a group full of preschoolers and talking to a group full of graduate students. All of Precita Eyes’ guides are as passionate about the Mission’s murals as they are comfortable leading mixed tours of out-of-towners and neighborhood locals. Everyone has something to learn on one of Precita Eyes’ walking tours.

Patricia stressed that regardless of whether or not tourists participate in a mural walking tour, they should absolutely visit the Mission district when they’re in San Francisco.

‘There’s this beautiful, essential core of the Mission that is just a working class, Latino neighborhood,’ said Patricia. Given the neighborhood’s vibrant colors, live music, and renowned food, she urged people to visit the neighborhood with an ‘open heart and a hungry stomach.’

And as Patricia explained, for those who live in San Francisco, or even call the Mission district home, taking a walking tour with Precita Eyes is a great way to put your finger on the pulse of this neighborhood. Even if you walk past these murals every day, chances are you do not know the stories that they were created to convey. ‘If you’re curious about the stories behind these magnificent works of art, you would learn so much more about your city and your neighborhood. I would encourage it.’

The decades’ long emphasis that Precita Eyes has placed on the collaborative nature of community art has not only given the organization a deep-rooted connection to the Mission district, it has transformed this small gathering of local artists into an irreplaceable cornerstone of both the neighborhood and San Francisco as a whole.

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