It Is Gone: Old Bernal Heights Library Mural Painted Over

After a long and difficult community-focused mediation process, followed by additional delays triggered by opponents, the old Bernal Library mural was finally painted over today.

Next steps? Artist Ruben Rude will begin painting the Moultrie-side portion of the mural. Precita Eyes will begin the prep work on the Cortland facade, including an outline for the forthcoming tile work, so we’ll soon see the scope of the new design in actual size. (The Precita Eyes portion of the mural will be executed in hand-painted tile.) Ruben is expected complete his work this fall, but Precita Eyes will probably be hampered by winter weather, so the Cortland remuralizing may go into early next year.

Once again, this is the final design of the new murals:

PHOTOS: Repainting of the old mural this morning, by Telstar Logistics

45 thoughts on “It Is Gone: Old Bernal Heights Library Mural Painted Over

  1. Hooray! I cringed every time I looked at that embarrassingly outdated mural. I can’t wait to see the new one.

  2. Good. Paint it over, put something new in it’s place. The old mural was not ugly but it was not a great work either. It had it’s time now there will be something fresh and new. I hope I like it.

  3. Pathetic. I did not dig that funky mural either but it was an authentic piece of public art that expressed the cultural past of this neighborhood. Wiped away and replaced by mindless dreck.

    • The mural? The mural was awesome. The new one looks like it’ll be ok, too, but not as nice as the old one.

  4. So relieved. I really don’t understand the point of view that it was some kind of valuable piece of public art. It was mediocre craftsmanship at best, with *many* other similar examples throughout the mission and nearby neighborhoods. I would strongly prefer the building to be left clean, but at least the new mural will be as fresh and clean as our library and not make it look like a dilapidated shed.

  5. Personally the mural didn’t bother me…what bothers me now is this uneasy feeling of impending backlash a la the ill placed billboard at the GL parking lot.

  6. I don’t know. Maybe I am too nostalgic for that mural but I remember a time before brown nannies pushing white babies in strollers on Cortland and Chevys instead of BMWs were parked in garages. The library was shared by families during the day and gang bangers at night during those days but mural represented a step toward transforming the neighborhood to what it is today. Well, if homeowners are willing to pay $800K for a tiny cottage then maybe they should allowed to redecorate the area to their tastes.

    • It’s the end of an era for sure. I love art, and hopefully a bit more than nostalgia. I’ll treasure the memory of that mural from my childhood, though… RIP. In any case, I’m thrilled that the community cares about art, libraries and local aesthetics.

    • Yeah, it’s a bummer to see the mural go. It was beautiful, and a lovely tie to the history of our neighborhood.

    • ya i definitely feel you,I live in Bernal Heights now. I am just 21 but i live at my grandmas and my family has been here for 50 years and ts crazy how the neighborhood is now compared to how my mom and rest of the family describe it from back in the days. Personally I was sad when i saw them painting over the mural. To me it represented what Bernal Heights was and still has a little of today and they kind of killed a peice of Bernal Heights culture by painting over it.

  7. (Note to moderator: Feel free not to post as this message may disturb provincial minds.)
    Of course that mural was legitimate public art. It was not graffiti. it was approved and paid for by the community who used to live here. Sort of like those murals inside Coit Tower with the strange 2D perspective and oddly drawn faces — a publicly funded work of art expressing the culture at a certain point in time. Go check out Chicago or New York and take a look at public art; they give tours and are proud of their art heritage. I am not calling any names here, but the intolerance and narrow mindedness expressed by destroying a viable piece of public art — which is exactly what has happened here — reflects a shallow YUPPIE aesthetic. Shoe fits.

  8. I do believe this discussion (in the comments above) fully illustrates the post itself (as in “After a long and difficult community-focused mediation process, followed by additional delays triggered by opponents…”)

    Art is such a subjective matter. Break down the following components of this and you get a set of completely subjective things:
    1) The artistic merit of the now-painted-over mural
    2) The associations people have with that mural
    3) The aesthetic value of the building without a mural
    4) The artistic merit of the planned replacement mural
    5) The associations people have with the replacement mural in concept

    There are few objective things to be said about any of those five factors, and to disagree on one or more of them is highly likely. How we disagree and how we discuss such subjective matters reflects who we are as a people and a neighborhood, so yes, the less name-calling, the better.

  9. Hopefully there are pictures and sketches of the old murals in the library archives. Sometime down the road it might be interesting to look at what was, and then see if we still feel the same way.

    • it’s sad, i have great memories as a child trying to reenact that pose,playing innocently in the park,truly a sad day. My grandparents STILL live on moutlrie, Im in 20’s now and that art piece was the only thing that brought me back to my childhood in bernal.I just don’t recognize this hill any more.Sad,sad.
      On the bright side, some yup WILL pay 700k+ for my gp’s two bedroom cottage.

  10. The remodeling of the library itself was very contentious and went through a whole community process, but look at the fabulous result. An old building was updated to new uses and the greater enjoyment of everyone in the neighborhood. In the same way I think the exterior deserves to be as well-thought out, rather than trying to save a relic that’s past its prime and unappreciated by most.

  11. OK. I sincerely apologize for my use of the terms intolerant, provincial, and narrow-minded, and YUPPIE in this discussion. Aside from hurting feelings they distract some from the issues at hand.

    Here is why I believe destroying public art is almost always a bad idea. Side note: I did not like the library mural very much but that is neither here nor there. What matters is that the mural was deliberately created for a reason. Civic leaders from pre-mural times got their money together, requested ideas and designs from artists, made their selection, granted the commission, and then the artist(s) create the work.

    Earlier in the conversation I mentioned the 1930s murals in Coit Tower and at the Beach Chalet. Those murals were created in the context of their times. In them you will see lots of ideas about the struggles of the working class, porcine cops, civic leaders, captains of industry, etc. In years after the murals were created (1950s and 60s) some of those ideas became unpopular and artistic styles moved on leaving what some would call funny looking murals on walls. In fact, the Beach Chalet devolved into a rowdy bar with pool tables and lots of cigarette smoke. Nobody cared much about the murals and as a result they were damaged.

    Fast forward to the 1990s and we San Franciscans get our beautiful Beach Chalet renovated, and low and behold, those funny murals are meticulously and painstakingly restored. In fact they are amazing. Now we can take our kids, nieces and nephews and learn a lot about San Francisco of the (first) Depression Era by looking at those murals.

    The Bernal Heights Library mural was a product of it’s times too. They included; the ‘police action’ in Vietnam, Uprising of students at SF State, The Great Society, race riots, civil rights struggles, psychodelia, the United Nations, World Peace, and a real desire for love and understanding. Maybe the mural was kind of lame but you can bet that nothing like that mural exists in Noe Valley, The Richmond, Sunset or any other part of the city. It was OUR lame dippy mural. Its ideas were assembled, approved and executed by the good folks of an earlier Bernal Heights.

    Unfortunately that opportunity for future generations to learn about an earlier Bernal Heights by way of a walk around a mural on a sunny day has been pre-empted forever in favor of… frankly, I don’t know what we got in the bargain. But I believe that the community-centered mediation came up with exactly the wrong answer.

    I would ask that those who were so horribly offended by the mural look inside and conceive a new work of public art that expresses the times we are living in now, rather than let this act of destruction be what they are remembered for.

    • Well put, thank you. This is the same erasure of real history that’s been happening in this stolen country since 1492. So very, very sad; not to mention offensive.

    • Bravo. Thanks for coming back, John, and this time… well said. I completely understand what you are saying here, and you make a very good point.

    • Good points, but everything you write about the mural could apply to the building itself. Many of us view architecture as art in the same sense you consider the mural art. And that mural defaced the building, a building with a rich cultural, historical, and artistic legacy. Without much effort, your arguments could be used to condemn the original mural because it destroyed, or damaged, an existing work of art — the library building.

      Why not a compromise…Let’s paint a mural on the Bernal Rec Center, or some other architecturally insignificant building in the neighborhood, instead. It’s too late to save the old mural, but we could save the library, provide a venue for local artists, and spruce up a pretty awful structure at the same time.

      Of course, people in other cities and towns who are struggling to survive in this economy would find this whole discussion a little ridiculous. This is a classic SF controversy, only possible in a place where people have too much money and too much leisure time on their hands.

  12. I am sad to see the architectural integrity of the building once again being undermined by putting painting on top of it that can never harmonize. A original building reflects esthetics and values just as “art” does, and has connotations and memories that are destroyed by its opportunistic and thoughtless use as a canvas.

    • Bingo. I wanted to make a comment along these lines earlier, but didn’t have the time and would not have stated it as well.

      • Anyone who could say that this situation is a result of thoughtless-ness must have a touch of Rip Van Winkle syndrome. A community discussion that went on for way more than a year – in this current incarnation- can hardly be considered thoughtless. Good riddance to bad rubbish and Precita Eyes aside, to try to say that the scope of the architectural integrity of the building encompassed the original mural needs a visit to the eye doctor and a good review of Jansens Art History. It is absurd to get sentimental about it in that way. How about the old sidewalk, or the former light fixtures, or maybe some of the poorly configured previous landscaping that conveniently caught every single piece of trash blowing around on Cortland? Would that also be considered part of the architectural integrity? Its not a Maybeck or a Neutra and its certainly not being defaced. Its a living breathing part of a neighborhood and should evolve just as Bernal has- at least the good bits.

        Why not consider other parts of the hood that could stand to have an overhaul, rather than droning on about something that is moving ahead, and a year from now, will be something everyone uses and likes. I would also like to comment on the fact that many of the people who have helped push this through are people who have helped the neighborhood grow in so many positive ways. Given their collective track records and their integrity, I would deign to trust them. They aren’t about to have a serious lapse of judgment or conviction now.
        All of the comments above about the great things happening inside the library are in the appropriate spirit. Amen.

  13. I was at the library community meeting earlier this week and was thrilled to hear that this was moving ahead. More than anything, I appreciated how hard it is to please everyone, and as much as I personally would love the library to stay unadorned on the outside, I like that the library administrators are trying to update and modernize while staying true to the spirit of the old mural. It’s a really great team in place. Most of all, I am thrilled we have a neighborhood library that everyone cares about so much, and hope it always stays that way.


  14. Our library has a history web page here:

    Why don’t we as a community try to work with the library to get that page updated with high quality images of the old mural so it can be remembered for all time on the internet. We could also help them to have detailed descriptions of the intent and information about the artists, etc.

    Failing that, we could try to convey this history with another website, or perhaps a Wikipedia page that can preserve this history??

  15. As far as the artist goes, check the spelling on that. I believe it’s REuben Rude. ( And I think his work is great, meticulous and thoughtful. Plus he is a truly nice guy. Change is often good and helps us grow, whether we think we want or need to or not. Its really more about what’s in the library and how we love it and how it lives with our community than what it looks like. I think the mural expresses what our community feels like in a way. So far, I think it’s all been a generally good thing, no?

  16. The murals were installed without adequate public notice. They were meant to slow down the vandalism and graffiti that plagued the neighborhood and the library. The library was the target of numerous break-in. Used needles and broken glass were an everyday occurance in the playground. The neighborhood was a rough place to live and nothing like it is today. I will never miss that mural and wish the building exterior could have been restored to it’s orginal WPA design and colors. I understand, however, that some sort of compromise needed to be reached and I hope the future users can appreciate the concerns of so many.

  17. Pingback: Bernal Library Reveals Unadorned Facade During Mural-Free Interlude | Bernalwood

  18. Most of you people that are so happy to see the mural go must be the newer boring residents of Bernal Heights.

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