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Susan Cervantes (San Francisco) collaborating with Mission Neighborhood Centers (San Francisco)

Award: $22,900 Visual Arts Grant awarded in 1996

Dedicated: March 23, 1997

Muralist Susan Cervantes collaborated with Mission Neighborhood Centers to create a new community mural on the façade of Precita Valley Community Center. Alongside images reflecting the Center’s recreation programs and nearby Precita Park, the mural features the faces of Carlos Hernandez and Sylvia Menendez, teenagers who were slain while picnicking in Precita Park in 1996. The mural was dedicated at a community celebration on March 23, 1997 which featured speeches by the teenagers’ parents as well as music, dancing, poetry, an exhibit of low rider bicycles, and food. Approximately 400 community members attended the event.

The artist facilitated community participation in designing the mural through workshops held at Precita Valley Center. The process involved the Center’s youth and provided individuals from the Center and the surrounding neighborhood with opportunities to submit their ideas and drawings for the mural’s theme. Through this process, the community’s need to mourn the loss of Hernandez and Menendez, emerged. A March 1997 San Francisco Examiner cover story noted, “Today, the teens are immortalized on the double doors of the community center at 534 Precita Avenue, where the mural vibrates with color, history, and intricate symbols of faith and nonviolence suggested by young people who play at the Center.”

Susan Cervantes was drawn to paint the façade of Precita Valley Community Center because it had been important to her early artistic career. In 1974, she was one of the muralists who directed and designed one of the Mission District’s first community murals on the lower wall of the Precita Valley Center, and from 1975 through 1980, she was the arts and crafts supervisor for the center. Mission Neighborhood Centers is a nonprofit community-based organization that provides social programs to low-income children, youth, and seniors of San Francisco’s Mission District. Precita Valley Center houses the youth component of its programming.