August 1, 2012
The iconic and historic “Maestrapeace” mural that adorns the Women’s Building in San Francisco’s Mission District will soon be restored to its original glory, thanks in large part to a recent surge in grant funding from the City and County of San Francisco and SF Beautiful.
The San Francisco Women’s Center received a total of $60,000 in July, nearly half the funds needed to complete the $130,000 restoration project.
The “San Francisco Seven” – the seven female artists who completed the mural 19 years ago – will use scaffolds to restore the mural’s vibrant reds and yellows using an acryloid seal to ensure longevity while combating graffiti as well as discoloring due to aging and weather.
Work is expected to begin mid-August and completed by mid-October, said artist and Precita Eyes co-founder Susan Cervantes, who is coordinating with artists to begin the work.
The three-story Women’s Building located on 18th Street between Guerrero and Valencia streets will also benefit from new window fixtures and concrete flatwork to properly frame the mural. The original mural was painted in 1994 at a cost of $43,000.
“It’s out in the community where everyone can see it and witness it and interpret it in their own world – and in their own lives,” said Women’s Building Development Director Tatjana Loh.
Images of artist Georgia O’Keefe and 1993 Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, among dozens of Aztec and Chinese goddesses, conjure introspection from the community with its sheer size – a total of 10,400 square feet.
The “San Francisco Seven” will be paid the same amount, if not less, than they were originally paid, Cervantes said. She declined to disclose how much the artists would be paid.
“They didn’t get paid enough in the first place,” Loh said.
The mural remains symbolically relevant to the community. Its ethnic inclusiveness mirror’s the Mission District’s cultural diversity and the heterogeneous population that utilizes the social services offered, services that includes access to technology, computer classes, job searching and low-cost legal advice. An estimated 20,000 residents use the building’s services each year.
Cervantes conceptualized a fantasy goddess in the piece that was met with controversy when the San Francisco Landmarks Advisory Board threatened to block public funding for the project due to the erotic and sexual nature of her bare breasts and spread legs, which served to “embody light and life-giving energy.”
The original artists, many of whom have aged since the original mural was completed, are working against time. Three can no longer climb the scaffolding due to their age and they still have to coordinate a mutually suitable time to do the work. Rain is also a concern, Loh said, particularly if the project runs behind schedule.
“I think it’s been long overdue,” Cervantes said. “If we had done it ten years ago we could have saved a lot of the color.”