MaestraPeace Mural, The Women's Building
One of San Francisco's largest and best loved murals adorns the Women's Building at 3542 18th Street in the Mission District. It was painted in 1994 by some of the Bay Area's best muralists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Perez. The mural celebrates courageous women who have changed the world. Cards and gifts representing the mural can be purchased at reception inside the Women's Building.
Backstory and Context
The Women's Building, Edificio de Mujeres, is a woman-owned community center dedicated to social justice, gender equity, as well as the health and well-being of women. The Center serves up to 25,000 community members each year. It rents space to tenants, meetings, and community events. The Women's Center was founded in 1973 during the feminist movement to address the needs of women in San Francisco's communities. By 1979, the Center needed more space to hold a conference on violence against women, and, having been turned away by San Francisco State University, the organization purchased the current Women's Building.
There was opposition to the organization's feminist activities at the new site. In the first year of opening, an attack of arson caused $50K worth of damage to the building by a pipe bomb explosion on its front steps.
The Women's Building currently houses nine community health organizations in its non-profit hub, including a girls' running club, a group helping women escape from domestic violence, washrooms for the homeless, immigration services, and support for survivors of sexual assault. It offers a head start day care, CalFresh & food pantry, a computer lab, job search assistance, legal aid, tech tutoring, tax help, and wellness programs such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Mambo. The Center also helps women make connections to other services in the community.
The Women's Building does not function exclusively as a community center. It also hosts an enormous mural, the MaestraPeace Mural. This mural celebrates the achievements of women worldwide and is a favorite of both locals and tourists. The nearly 12,000 square foot MaestraPeace Mural cascades over the two facades of the Women's Building. It was painted in 1994 by a diverse group of artists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Perez.
Dominating the 18th Street entrance is a nude, pregnant goddess with butterfly wings. She holds up the sun, while fountains of water and fish descend from her image to the entrance. The Lapidge Street facade is topped by a portrait of Rigoberta Menchu, who won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy work with indigenous peoples of Guatemala. Below Menchu are portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe, Joycelyn Elders, a Latina healer, and a traditional female African drummer. Poet Audre Lorde is portrayed penning the words, "future generations."
The mural even extends inside the entrance to the Women's Building. “It makes you feel like you’re walking through the mural. When you come through to the other side, you’re still a part of it,” explained artist Susan Kelk Cervantes. Artist Miranda Bergman called it, "a standing ovation for women's liberation; a non-negotiable demand for respect; a healing waterfall of women's love; a prayer for everybody in the world; a sweet subversive dream of peace."
2.. Diana Scott, "Unfurling a Maestrapeace: Mythic and mortal female ancestors grace this San Francisco landmark," On the Issues Magazine, Winter, 1995, accessed December 30, 2016.
3. Bridget Huber, "Womens Building Turns 35," Mission Local, May 30, 2014, accessed December 30, 2016.
4. Huber, "Women's Building Turns 35."
5. "Non Profit Hub," The Women's Building.
6. "Programs," The Women's Building.
7. Scott, "Unfurling a MaestraPeace."
8. "The Nobel Peace Prize 1992, Rigoberta Menchú Tum," Nobelprize.org, The Official Site of the Nobel Prize, accessed December 30, 2016.
9. Scott, "Unfurling a MaestraPeace."
10. Huber, "Womens Building Turns 35."
11. Scott, "Unfurling a MaestraPeace."