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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tourism For Locals: Galería de la Raza at the Heart of Latino Art Scene

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 11:45 AM

The exterior of the 44 year old artistic institution. - JUAN DE ANDA/SF WEEKLY
  • Juan De Anda/SF Weekly
  • The exterior of the 44 year old artistic institution.

It has been said that revolution doesn't need art but that art needs revolution -- but we argue that is not true because for revolution to exist it's in need of revolutionary art.

Galería de la Raza holds this to be true as the artistic and socially active heart of the Mission District's Latino community. The artistic collective has been an important gathering spot for not just artists, but intellectuals, writers, and the general neighborhood population for 44 years now.

Founded in 1970, it sprung from the community activism of the predominant Latino residents that were demanding to be heard and desired to have a space for autonomous expression.

At the time, the Chicano Civil Rights movements was in full force with figures like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Oscar Zeta Acosta, and Rubén Salazar making headlines nationwide for the better treatment and acceptance of the rapidly-burgeoning Latino population in the United States.

In San Francisco, the 1970s brought about a Chicano/Latino literary and artistic renaissance. Current San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murguía and California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera were active in the early days of the movement in the Bay Area, along with other writers and poets and fused their writings, with not only messages of cultural and linguistic pride, but also a call for civic engagement and activism.

Current Mural "Youth So Educated are Dangerous." - JUAN DE ANDA/SF WEEKLY
  • Juan De Anda/SF Weekly
  • Current Mural "Youth So Educated are Dangerous."

In the realm of art, a group of Chicano artists and community activists gathered in the Mission at 14th Street and Valencia to establish a center of promoting and fostering Latino art and artists. According to the gallery: notable Latino artists that formed the foundations of the collective included the likes of Rupert García, Peter Rodríguez, Francisco X. Camplis, Graciela Carrillo, Jerry Concha, Gustavo Ramos Rivera, Carlos Loarca, Manuel Villamor, Robert González, Luis Cervantes, Chuy Campusano, Rolando Castellón, Ralph Maradiaga, and René Yañez. Artist Peter Rodríguez gave Galería de la Raza its name.

In 1972, the collective gallery moved to its current location at the intersection of 24th Street and Bryant where it has truly left its mark on the neighborhood. Galería de la Raza was responsible, according to the organization, for establishing the traditional Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) as "an articulation of Chicano/a and Latino/a aesthetics."

Here is their mission statement:

Founded in 1970, the Galería is a non-profit community-based arts organization whose mission is to foster public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art and serve as a laboratory where artists can both explore contemporary issues in art, culture and civic society, and advance intercultural dialogue. To implement our mission, the Galería supports Latino artists in the visual, literary, media and performing art fields whose works explore new aesthetic possibilities for socially committed art.

In the 1980s, Galería began presenting temporary painted murals on a large billboard facing the Bryant Street on the outside of the gallery space. All the murals have a political or social comment/critique on the cultural climate of the time. In the mid 1990s, the gallery community began the ongoing Digital Mural Project, where digitally created images are temporarily placed on top of the current mural. One of our favorites is eVicted, a piece created by Mission district artist Albert Lujan in the 00s. It was a poignant criticism of the facade behind the Dot Com boom. Or should we say "Dot Con boom?"

  • Photo Courtesy of Galeria de la Raza
  • "eVicted"

The gallery space is intimate and has a historical weight to it all. Currently on display are works by photographer Alejandra Regalado. Her show, In Reference To, explores the experience of Mexican female immigrants and delves into their representation of femininity and cultural expression.

If you are ever tempted to view any of their past exhibitions, their digital archive stores gorgeous images and data on every show and artist they've promoted since their opening more than 40 years ago.

So check out this historical space that is open Wednesday through Sundays, and as we say in Spanish: "Pa'lante!"

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, Juan at @JuanPDeAnda, and like us on Facebook

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About The Author

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda is a cultural correspondent with a concentration in tourism, literature, and lifestyle and has been writing for SF Weekly since 2013. As an avid traveler, he enjoys discovering destinations abroad as well as the never-ending hidden gems of San Francisco. #DondeAndaJuanDeAnda?

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