The Mural Arts Organizations That Are Beautifying San Francisco and Oakland

|October 30, 2018

If you know anything about San Francisco, you know it’s filled with public art, from colossal statues to colorful alleys. On its own, the Mission District is home to more than 500 painted murals (which you can see virtually on SF Mural Arts). But the beautification of our community and the preservation of that art, culture and history doesn’t come easily, and the organizations that work to do so deserve a huge round of applause.

But before you start clapping, we’re going to tell you a little bit about them. Below, you’ll get a basic introduction to a handful of arts-centered organizations based in San Francisco and Oakland that are focused specifically on public art and murals. Then, you can click on each one to find out how you can help, which events you can attend, and where you can see their projects.


Born out of San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, Imprint.City is a non-profit organization that transforms underutilized spaces through visual arts and urban-focused culture events as well as community development projects. Since officially beginning work in 2015, the organization has attracted more than 5,000 event-goers, 30 participating neighborhood retail and food merchants, 30 youth employees, 10 community-based partnerships and 50 performing and visual artists to the Bayview neighborhood through various projects.

The team’s most visible project is The SPRAYVIEW, a mural arts project that will one day be completed as an outdoor museum growing to encompass blocks of colorful murals painted by more than 15 different artists.

Amongst other events and projects, Imprint.City hosts BayviewLIVE each year as a celebration of urban music and art, and the only one of its kind in the city.

Together with community and city administration, Imprint.City is working to develop to Bayview, a historically African American community into a designated cultural district. Through this, their murals and their must-attend events, they’re transforming the Bayview and the city one step at a time.

Clarion Alley Mural Project

In the words of Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP), their mission is to support and produce socially engaged and aesthetically innovative public art as a grassroots, community-based, artist-run organization in San Francisco. In support of public art as a means of political, economic and social justice messaging, their team strives to create a space where culture and dignity speak louder than the rules of private property—and you can even find those words painted in Clarion Alley.

Since 1992, CAMP has created more than 700 murals, including the transformation of the alley into a public space filled with murals. They have also supported more than 500 artists and now receive more than 200,000 visitors annually.

Clarion Alley itself runs for one block between 17th and 18th and Mission and Valencia Streets in the Inner Mission. Inspired by Balmy Alley—another mural arts alley that began in the 70s and focused on Central American social struggles—a group of six artists established this second alley with similar goals focused on social inclusiveness and aesthetic variety. Over the years, they have supported artists of all ethnicities, ages and levels of experience. It’s a must-see during any trip to the city.

Precita Eyes Mural Arts

Precita Eyes is one of San Francisco’s most well-known nonprofits, and they work both to create murals around the Bay Area and to educate the public about them. If you haven’t already embarked on a public or private mural tour, we definitely recommend it. Theirs are open to all ages, are led by muralists, and teach the history, process, impact and preservation of mural art while exploring some of the Mission District’s most iconic areas. You can get more information on tours here.

In addition to these explorations of the Mission, Precita Eyes has supported artists and created new murals all over the city and the Bay Area. They’ve done restoration projects; they provide low-cost art classes, workshops and programs for children, youth, adults, schools and organizations, and also host seasonal Community Painting Workshops for the community.

Bay Area Mural Festival

Since 2016, Bay Area Mural Festival has been celebrating the mural arts with one amazing arts-centered event each year. The story began with a festival in South Berkeley, continued in 2017 in Richmond, and was hosted in Oakland in 2018 during the city’s first ever Oakland Art Month. These community-oriented festivals use the mural arts to engage local youth, local artists and each community through beautification and placemaking activities while calling attention to social issues, history and cultural identity.

Completely free to attend and open to the public, the fun includes live mural painting and kids activities as well as food, beer and art vendors. Follow the team on Facebook for updates on future events.

San Francisco Arts Commission

The San Francisco Arts Commission is the organization artists go through to get public murals and public art approved. The city-run agency champions the arts as essential to daily life by investing in our community’s vibrant arts community, enlivening the urban environment and shaping cultural policy.

In regards to murals, if yours is on private property and funded with private dollars, you don’t need to worry about approval from the Arts Commission, but if it’s on public property or funded with public dollars, it will have to go through design approval and other processes. For more information on SFAC, click here. And to get the lowdown on the mural approval process, click here.

The San Francisco Mural Project

The story of this mural project began in Les Bosquets, a neighborhood near Paris where the artist JR has worked for many years. There, he and his team photographed more than 750 people, one by one, against a green screen to create a massive photo mural, Chronicles of Clichy-Montfermeil, which has now been permanently installed in the neighborhood of Clichy-Montfermeil.

Now, JR has moved onto his second city. Right here in San Francisco and inspired by the painted murals of Diego Rivera, JR and his team are creating their second masterpiece. In early 2018, they parked their 53′ trailer in 24 different locations around the city to capture anyone who wished to participate directly from the streets. With photos, films and interviews from more than 1,200 people, they’re putting together a portrait of San Francisco that will be assembled and exhibited on an LED wall at SFMOMA beginning in early 2019.

To get more information on the exhibition at SFMOMA which will be free and open to the public, click here.

Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project

A project of Attitudinal Healing Connection, the Oakland Mural Project is using the power of mural art to educate and engage our community’s youth in current issues and their solutions. Over the years the program has and continues to engage more than 300 youth and has given them the voice and power to be change-agents in their communities. While doing so, this project has also created over 30 jobs, beautified our neighborhoods and given voice to the residents of our neighborhoods.

For example, the mural planning process includes a survey of neighborhood residents to identify both positive and negative aspects of the area as well as to define the locals’ hopes and dreams for that community. Responses then determine the content of each mural. And, because the entire process is driven by community collaboration, the pieces are painted by Oakland-based artists.

Completed, in progress and planned right now, AHC is creating a total of six large-scale mural and public art projects in West Oakland and Emeryville.

Community Rejuvenation Project

Founded by Desi Mundo in 2005, Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP) is a pavement to policy organization that develops and implements best practices centered around public art policy through on-the-ground experience in urban communities. In summary, the team’s extensive experience in public art and creating murals has led to real practices and government policy around the topic.

Over the years, the team has painted more than 200 murals in communities throughout the Bay Area and along the way they’ve also developed an innovative model for community involvement by incorporating multimedia and documentary filmmaking into the process. They’ve worked with more than 30 local organizations centered around art and culture and have supported multiple artistic collaborators.

For more information on best practices, the benefits of murals, policies and education, check out the CRP website here.

Want to give someone a shout out?

If you know of an arts organization or an artist who deserves a shoutout, tell us about him, her, or the team in the comments below!

Category Community Guides, East Bay, San Francisco

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McGuire Real Estate

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