San Francisco Neighborhood Reclaims Vandalized AIDS Mural
In June, muralist Juana Alicia and a group of students, AIDS advocates and community members reclaimed a vandalized AIDS-awareness mural in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The 15-by-45 foot "in-your-face" mural, intended to raise awareness about women with AIDS and often criticized for being "anti-male," has been repeatedly vandalized in the five years since its unveiling. Instead of "cry[ing] or scream[ing] in outrage" over the damage, Alicia and others "banded together" and, with an $8,000 grant from the Mayor's Neighborhood Beautification Fund, restored and slightly redesigned the mural on the side of the New Santa Clara Market on Haight Street. The mural, "richly decorated with portraits of prostitutes, lesbians, women in prison, immigrants and activists placed among skeletons, pill bottles with dollar signs on them and corporate honchos adorned with pig noses," was designed by Alicia and female AIDS activists from the Walden House, a substance use treatment facility, Casa de las Madres, a shelter for battered women and their children, the Women's HIV Hotline and other groups. The reworking incorporates the "prominent addition" of a male figure kneeling before several photos of neighborhood residents who have died from AIDS-related complications. But he is only one male depicted alongside "women of all races, classes and professions" battling HIV, represented by a single snake weaving its way through the different stories. Jimmy Sawlim, the market's manager, has not heard any anti-male complaints since the unveiling of the present mural, adding that there was "a lot of support from the neighborhood. Most of the people were so angry to see [the mural] messed up." Alicia and students from an "art-and-social change" class she teaches at New College restored the mural and coated it with five layers of graffiti-resistant varnish. Alicia is now trying to secure funding for the addition of lights that would "showcase the work at all hours and help protect it from vandals." To view the mural go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/sfgate/object.cgi?object=/chronicle/pictures/2001/01/19/mn_wbural4.jpg&paper=chronicle&file=WB184997.DTL&directory=/chronicle/archive/2001/01/19&type=newsm (Delgado, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.