Digital Mural Project 2004-2006
THE DIGITAL MURAL PROJECT
One of the most compelling mural sites in the city, Galería de la Raza’s public mural is a 30-year diary of San Francisco’s socio-cultural history through the eyes of Latino artists. From the dotcoms to immigration, to gender, war and dislocation, Galería’s Digital Mural Project (DMP) engages diverse communities through its presentation of new genre public art billboards presenting artistic, social and political content.
Galería’s DMP encourages the use of new digital technology to create a series of innovative public art works. Building on the Galería's 30-year history of temporary murals in San Francisco's Mission District, the DMP seeks to engage diverse communities through the creation of artistic, social and political content.
Over the past seven years, Galería has commissioned over twenty-five digital murals. Each digital mural was installed on Galería’s 24 x 10 feet billboard on Bryant Street and was exhibited for six to eight weeks. Although the Digital Mural Project’s original intention was to provide contemporary Latino artists the opportunity to adapt digital technologies to public art, in retrospect it is clear the project has revitalized and perpetuated the Mexican mural tradition as an ongoing source of creative inspiration and social expression for Latino artists. Many artists developed the content of their digital murals by conducting residency projects with the constituents of neighborhood organizations serving Latino at-risk youth, women, people with AIDS, immigrants and seniors. Many mural openings were marked by receptions attended by the residency program participants and several included interpretive panel discussions featuring well-known community representatives, critical thinkers, artists, writers and scholars who examined the issues explored in the mural.
Galería’s billboard site has been a part of the organization since 1973. In the early 1970s, the billboard functioned as a commercial space that often displayed advertisements for harmful products, such as alcohol and tobacco, directly targeted to Latinos. Galería affiliated artists took over the billboard by painting over the ads, replacing them with community-affirming images and messages. Over time, the owners of the billboard ceded the wall to Galería and the billboard has undergone 30 years of continuous layers filled with a history of temporary murals created by many talented local Chicano artists. Today, the billboard functions as an aesthetic cradle for public discourse on a variety of political and social issues.
Founded in 1999, the DMP continues Galería’s long-standing tradition of arts activism and community dialogue from unique Latino/a perspectives. Building on the rich tradition of painted murals in San Francisco's Mission District, the program invites artists working with digital imagery and photography to access the public art space.
Through the DMP, Galería has commissioned over 25 artists from the Bay Area and beyond to create imagery dealing with important issues that range from the gentrification of the Mission District during the dotcom era, gender politics, immigration, racism and farm-worker rights to the war in Iraq. As a result, the DMP’s “public” nature has evolved from a locational space to an ongoing dialogue with the community. Many of the murals appeared in major daily and weekly Bay Area newspapers because they offered a running political commentary on contemporary events in San Francisco. But they also reflect the international influence of globalization in the years immediately before and after 9/11 and the social transformation of California into the nation’s first state where no population group comprises a majority of the citizenry.
At a time when “public” space is privately owned by media giants such as Clear Channel (who controls more than 700,000 display spaces in 37 different countries), the DMP attempts to provide a space for artwork that adds other perspectives to the urban landscape. The DMP reflects Galería’s commitment to engaging artists and audiences in new forms of community dialogue.
—Carolina Ponce de León