Three decades of posting the revolution with Mission Gráfica
Eventually, Gráfica designed a banner denouncing war in Latin America for a U2 benefit concert in Oakland. The studio produced album artwork for Santana, a Mission High graduate. Among the 4,000 historical prints still kept in Gráfica's extensive archives — among the largest in the United States — there are heart-stopping expressions of solidarity with war-torn Central America, pirate radio schedules, homelessness advocate rallies, public health announcements, and Caribbean-flavored flame-bursts heralding the neighborhood's wild annual Carnaval.
"Without a doubt, Gráfica was one of those spots where people from different movements could come together," said "Doug Gline" of the San Francisco Print Collective, a political street art group whose members met at the studio during the eviction-rife Internet boom of the late 1990s. Gline, who uses a pseudonym due to the extralegal nature of some of SFPC's projects, credits Gráfica as a place where real work got done on social change. "It was a launching pad. It wasn't like a café, where everyone was just there to hang out."
Gráfica underwent a rethinking of its mission in the 1990s, under then-director Juan Fuentes. "We wanted to be a learning center, an educational place," Fuentes recounts. In particular, Fuentes found ways to engage Mission youth, starting a free silk screening workshop for high schoolers and spearheading a project that decorated 50 bus shelters with teen-made posters calling attention to addiction and domestic violence.
Although currently lacking an official coordinator, the studio still hums with activity. Acting coordinator Gina Contreras estimates that 40 students attend the workshop each week. Expert instruction, equipment, and some materials are provided. New students are often amazed, she says, at the artistic power of the old-school technique. To Fuentes, what defines Mission Gráfica — and poster art in general — is the open invitation to speak out and the potential be heard. "We see the street as an extension of the gallery. Creating posters amplifies one's voice beyond the studio and into the world."
MISSION GRÁFICA SILKSCREEN WORKSHOPS
Mon.–Fri. 6–9 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.–2 p.m.; $15
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
2868 Mission, SF
(415) 643-2786 www.missionculturalcenter.org