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Mission Gráfica

By Mollie McWilliams

There's nothing more DIY than creating your own art. For those interested in the medium of screen printing, it used to be nearly impossible to find a studio to work in. Since its inception in 1977, Mission Gráfica has provided space to make prints and posters in its studio on the fourth floor of the ever-vibrant and creatively charged Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts.

Founded by artists and activists in San Francisco's Latino community, Mission Gráfica became a hub in the creation of political and social-justice posters and prints that reflected such issues as immigration, displacement, and liberation. "Activism is a large part of the Latino community" and an important way for Latino activists to communicate an issue is through poster art, says studio coordinator Marsha Shaw. "When Mission Gráfica was started, screen printing was a primary form of communication for artists and activists in the Mission." She says artists such as Juan Fuentes, Jesus Barraza, Melanie Cervantes, Calixto Robles, Gato, Rene Castro, Faviana Rodriguez, Irene Pérez, and Alexandra Blum have used Mission Gráfica, and have undoubtedly become part of its Latino poster and print collection, which at more than 4,000 prints is the largest in the U.S. and still being cataloged.

Mission Gráfica is still heavily connected to its founding roots, but has branched out, bringing new people, images, and ideas into its screen printing, etching, and mono printing studio. Classes are on a drop-in basis at $15 each, and provide instruction from dedicated teachers and access to the large studio. Just bring ink, a high-contrast copy of an image, and something to print it on.

For artists of all levels, classes cover a range of topics, including how to use the machines, working with photo-emulsion, color separations, and printing on paper and fabric techniques. "In a three-hour class, students can produce a print from an image they made," Shaw says. All artists are encouraged to sign up for at least one class, but those wanting further instruction can purchase bundles, such as eight classes for $13 each.

If you want to work on projects beyond class time, Mission Gráfica offers studio rentals for $35 a day, $125 per month, and its textile room for $125 a week. "Our students have produced CD covers, posters, T-shirts and fine-art prints, [and] they have printed on skateboards, wood panels and glass," Shaw says. Although no instruction is provided, she is there during open studio time to provide guidance and an extra set of hands if needed.

Recently introduced are classes for teens, bringing screen printing to a new audience, allowing them to create and communicate ideas like the founding artists did. "It's important," Shaw says, "to pass on the knowledge of printmaking to the next generation."

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