Art, Travel

Discovering Local Wonders: A Trip to Awesome Balmy Alley

We recently discovered (after over two decades of staying in the Bay Area) Balmy Alley. I found this by way of searches and via AtlasObscura; and I simply had to drag my family there for a visit. And it was a delight for the eyes as well as a balm and inspiration for the soul! Discovering local wonders is truly amazing, and a trip to awesome Balmy Alley was simply what we needed without even knowing it.

For most of us, the name San Francisco conjures up images of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, or … But there is so much more to this city by the bay. I have talked about some of the literary sights in the Bay Area earlier here. It is also home to numerous murals – each one bursting with color, emotion, and stories. Today’s post, as I mentioned already, focuses on one part or rather one aspect of the Mission District – aka the historic Latinx district of the city.

Here is a brief glimpse into Balmy Alley, a teaser kind of…

Discovering Local Wonders: Balmy Alley

Balmy Alley‘s history takes us back to the 1970s, and thus predates many of the cities alleyway murals. It is in a way, the original ONE.

It all began with two women. That seems like a cooler way to start this tale than the usual ‘once upon a time,’ right? Anyways, it first started when Maria Galivez and children from a local child care center painted murals in the alley in 1972. And soon after that, artists Patricia Rodriquez and Graciela Carillo painted their first mural in the Alley. This duo of muralists grew into an organized group that came to be called as Las Mujeres Muralistas.

As time progressed, more works covered the walls of the alley. Artists used (and continue to use) these murals as a way celebrate Central American culture as well as to send messages of opposition and resistance against social injustices, political problems, human right issues, and more.

So while the themes and thus murals have changed over the years to represent the socio-econo-political turmoils of the times, the spirit of the artwork and the artists behind them has shined as brightly as it did with the very first one about forty years ago today [August 2021]

Note: Please remember that murals are copyrighted works of art. All photos on today’s post are my own; clicked by me/my family during our visit to Balmy Alley. They have been published here with permission and copyright information received from Precita Eyes. Thanks to Patricia Rose (who is also one of the Balmy Alley muralists) of Precita Eyes who provided me the information for the captions.

Balmy Alley, in San Francisco’s Mission District, has been a community mural environment since 1971.

And Some of Its Murals

This is one of the more popular murals that has been at Balmy Alley since 2002; and while it highlights struggles in the beautiful Asian country of Nepal, it is also an image representing struggles around the world. Looking into the faces of the people in that painting, reminded me that we, as the human race, have many things to resolve still, to better ourselves.

“Naya Bihana” (A New Dawn) by Martin Travers ©2002 – Highlighting the struggle for Democracy in Nepal.

The picture below is one of the few where we posed in front of these stunning inspirational images. We simply had to join the Women of the Resistance after all; well, in a way, we are women (and people) of the resistance, each of us, in our own ways!!

“Women of the Resistance” by Lucia Ippolito ©2018, assisted by The San Francisco Poster Syndicate – Portraits of real women from all over the world who have been fearless about raising their voices against injustice, and are working tirelessly to help create a better world for all.

The bright colors of that geometric mural draw the eyes of Balmy Alley visitors effortlessly

“Antepasadas” by Simone Star ©2016; border design by Patricia Rose ©2016 – This mural celebrates the beautiful indigenous needlework from Meso-America, including geometric weaving from Guatemala, beadwork from Mexico, and floral embroidery from the Yucatan area of Mexico.

Additional Info

Note that Balmy Alley is constantly changing, a reflection of the times we are in while being an artistic sentinel of the past. So some of the murals you see online might not be there when you visit (though I am hoping and guessing the ones pictured here in my post will most likely stay for a long while). For example, I looked for a Michael Jackson mural among a couple of the others I saw online when I first learned about Balmy Alley, and could not find them when we visited (or did I somehow miss one or more of them – hard to do so but ….)

Precita Eyes Muralist offers various options for tours. You will most likely have one of the Balmy Alley muralists leading the tour and I know I plan to take a tour some day in the future! Check out their website for more information and even their online store. You can discover other Balmy Alley (as well as more SF) murals through this comprehensive catalog here.

Discover more murals in the neighborhood around Balmy Alley as you walk around Calle 24 – the historic Latino cultural district. And one other alley inspired by Balmy Alley is not too far away – Clarion Alley – which I have earmarked as part of our next drive to San Francisco.

References, h/t, and Additional Reading

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And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you been to San Francisco? If yes, then have you seen Balmy Alley? If not, then don’t forget to add it to your list of places to see on your next trip out to this beautiful city by the bay…

Do you love discovering local wonders (and the past year has provided many of us reasons to do so too, right)? And do you have any other similar destinations that you love and recommend to others? Do let me know. I would love to hear about those hidden gems that tourists, and even people local to your area might miss easily (like I almost did with Balmy Alley).

5 thoughts on “Discovering Local Wonders: A Trip to Awesome Balmy Alley

  1. I think it’s so neat how the murals change. I think murals are such beautiful works of art. I would love to see these.

  2. Wow I live just outside of San Francisco and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this! I will have to check it out. Thank you so

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