Balmy Alley is home to the most concentrated collection of murals in the city of San Francisco. It is located in the south central portion of the Inner Mission District between 24th Street and Garfield Square.
The earliest murals in the alley date to 1972, as work of the two-woman team of Patricia Rodriquez and Graciela Carillo known as Las Mujeres Muralistas. In 1984, Ray Patlan spearheaded the PLACA project to install murals throughout the alley featuring the common theme of a celebration of indigenous Central American cultures and a protest of US intervention in Central America. Topics of the murals included the Nicaraguan revolution, Óscar Romero, and the Guatemalan civil war. This culminated in the addition of twenty-seven murals during the summer of 1985, funded in part by a grant of $2,500 from the Zellerbach Foundation. This art project proved influential, inspiring the La Lucha Continua Art Park/La Lucha Mural Park in New York City the following year. Painting continues regularly in the alley, including a restoration of one the PLACA murals in 2014.
The Balmy Alley murals have been described, along with San Diego's Chicano Park and Los Angeles' Estrada Courts, as a leading example of Chicano mural environments giving expression to a history of displacement and marginalization traditionally experienced by Mexicans and Chicanos of the United States, and as a means to reclaim the spaces historically denied to them.
- Salvioni, Daniela; Fuller, Diana Burgess (2002). Art, women, California 1950-2000: parallels and intersections. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-520-23066-3.
- Jacoby, Annice, ed. (2009). Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo. New York: Abrams Books. pp. 103–111. ISBN 9780810996359.
- Peters, Nancy J.; Brook, James; Carlsson, Chris (1998). Reclaiming San Francisco: history, politics, culture: a City Lights anthology. San Francisco: City Lights. pp. 235,236. ISBN 0-87286-335-2.
- Jones, Carolyn (2014-09-09). "Mission District mural fades after 30 years, but message doesn't". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
- Latorre, Guisela (2008). Walls of empowerment: Chicana/o indigenist murals of California. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-292-71906-X.
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