SF JACL Japantown Mural FAQ Page
San Francisco Japantown History Mural Proposal
by the SF Japanese American Citizens League
Frequently Asked Questions
The San Francisco Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (SFJACL) proposes a Japantown History Mural to be located on the exterior retaining wall facing Geary Boulevard, between Laguna and Webster, along the Peace Plaza. The proposed mural will depict the 116-year history of San Francisco Japantown, including images of key people, places, and events that have shaped the oldest and largest Japantown remaining in the nation. The proposed project requires approval by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission which has jurisdiction over the proposed location as well as the San Francisco Arts Commission.
To manage the project, the SFJACL has retained San Francisco-based Mission Art 415 which produced the tribute mural of Carlos Santana in the Mission District and the Resilient mural series for the San Francisco Giants. The Mission Art 415 design team is composed of artists Rigel "Crayone" Juratovic, Wes "Marks" Wong, Project Manager Lisa Brewer, and Graphic Design Manager Randolph Bowes. To solicit community feedback on the proposed mural, a series of five community meetings was scheduled: November 1, December 1, December 15, 2022, January 12, and January 30, 2023.
1. What is the mural proposal?
The Japantown History Mural is proposed as public art mainly for educational purposes. The National Endowment for the Arts defines public art as "community art by, for, and of the community in which it is presented." As we go further from the first generation (Issei) and second generation (Nisei) Japanese Americans, there is a clear lack of information on the pioneers of San Francisco Japantown, and how and why this community still exists. The proposed mural's goal is to educate future generations to better understand the path that the Issei and Nisei had created for San Francisco Japantown.
A major Japantown mural has been an idea floating around the community for many years, but solid planning and funding were elusive until recently. In March 2021 and again in spring 2022, the SFJACL learned about very generous bequests from the estates of long-time SFJACL members Yo Hironaka, Greg Marutani, and Frank Minami. Yo Hironaka was a tireless volunteer who touched many lives with her warm and welcoming approach to community inclusion. Greg Marutani served on the National JACL Education Committee for many years, developing and distributing school curricula about the Japanese American experience. Frank Minami was a retired bank executive who focused on creating new economic opportunities. Inspired by Yo's commitment to inclusivity, Greg's dedication to education, and Frank's contributions to the local economy, the chapter board approved a proposal for a Japantown History Mural in June/July 2022. The mural, inclusive of Issei, Nisei, and key places and people in San Francisco Japantown history, would educate visitors and residents alike. As a new tourist attraction, the mural is likely to stimulate additional foot traffic and shoppers in Japantown.
The SFJACL board on July 16, 2022 voted to partner with Mission Arts 415 and Crayone (aka Rigel Juratovac whose mother was Korean and father Yugoslavian), a legendary graffiti artist who grew up in San Francisco Japantown and has created numerous San Francisco and Bay Area murals to international acclaim (a fascinating interview with Crayone can be found here: CRAYONE Art Talk).
The proposed mural is intended to enliven the otherwise blank space and attract visitors and community to learn about the rich history of a community which has survived through many disruptions and threats to its existence due to racism, prejudice, and disregard for the importance of cultural enclaves in San Francisco. The mural will pay homage to the power of community and illustrate the resilience of Japanese Americans in San Francisco.
2. Who are members of the Design Team?
In its decision to partner with Mission Arts 415 and Crayone, the SFJACL board considered many factors, including reputation, successfully completed large-scale mural projects, and familiarity with community-based culture and history. Brief profiles of the Design Team follows.
Rigel “Crayone” Juratovac, Master Artist
Rigel “Crayone” Juratovac grew up in San Francisco Japantown in the 1980s, often hanging out at the Japantown Bowl. He is now revered as a street art legend and respected around the world for his influence in the street art culture. He has transformed the graffiti world from a crime into a well-respected art form with his professionalism, artistic talent, verve and character. Crayone offers an expansive and high-profile client roster over his 40 years of artistic excellence, including Levi Strauss, Ritz Carlton, Harley Davidson, State Farm, Wells Fargo, the San Francisco Giants, the San Francisco Fire Department where he serves as a full-time firefighter, numerous restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. His international following on various social media platforms makes him one of the most recognized street artists in the world.
Wes “Marks” Wong, Master Artist
Wes “Marks” Wong is a world reknown street artist whose work draws upon a unique mix of 20+ years of exterior murals, interaction design, programming and aerosol techniques to create at a large scale. Past projects have ranged the gamut artistically from illustrative to photorealistic, always guided heavily by concept. His large scale public art can be found across San Francisco and has been photographed thousands of times by locals and tourists, as well as appearing in countless publications. From a half block long mural dedicated to the Summer of Love in the heart of the Haight & Ashbury, a large mural depicting legendary Chinese mythology in Chinatown, and recent murals in and outside of the San Francisco Giants stadium, in collaboration with Crayone.
Lisa Brewer, Project Manager
Lisa Brewer is the President of Mission Art 415, Inc., co-founder of The Lilac Mural Project, and owner/director of the Mission Art 415 Gallery located in the heart of the Mission District of San Francisco. Lisa has a degree in fine art and design and worked in the professional art world for over 40 years as an international fine art broker before making San Francisco her home. Since 2004, Lisa has offered property owners the solution to graffiti vandalism with amazing works of art. She now manages one of the largest exterior mural projects in the world, covering over 18 city blocks with commissioned street art. She is a member of the San Francisco Department of Public Works "Adopt-A-Street" Program and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Graffiti Advisory Board. For her dedication to serving San Francisco beautification programs and working with marginalized children providing free art and music classes, Lisa was honored as the Citizen of the Month by the San Francisco Police Department.
Randolph Bowes, Graphic Design Manager
Together with his wife Lisa, Randolph Bowes started the Lilac Mural Project in 2004 to improve the environment of Lilac Alley which was home to gang violence and drug abuse. The Project provided a safe place for emerging street artists to paint with the express intention of beautifying forgotten and blight-stricken sidestreets and transforming them into open air art galleries. The Lilac Mural Project has become an international tourist attraction and one of the largest exterior mural projects in the world. Expanding the Lilac Mural Project to Mission Art 415 Inc., Randolph and Lisa opened gallery space to street artists, offering them an important way to generate income. With a master's degree in sound engineering and graphic design, Randolph serves as the Mission Art 415 Graphic Design Manager with a broad range of duties including designing mural sketches, managing merchandising, developing promotional materials and artist media kits, video editing, professional photography, and historical research.
3. What is the proposed budget?
The estimated project cost, based on current prices, is $312,400. The mural artists, paint, and technology alone amount to $274,000.
The SFJACL has allocated $100,000 for this project, primarily from the bequests discussed above. SFJACL will look to fundraise the remaining amount ($212,400) through philanthropy and grants under the guidance of policies of the Department of Recreation and Parks for public-private partnership projects
4. What is the timeline for this mural proposal?
In August 2022, the SFJACL submitted a preliminary proposal to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD). SFJACL is currently following its required community process guidelines in order to seek final approval from the Recreation and Park Commission.
Step 1- Meet with RPD Staff (complete)
Step 2- Community Meetings (in progress)
Community meetings are required to ensure that neighbors/community agree and support the proposed item. RPD requires a minimum of two or more community meetings for all proposed park changes. The meeting outlines can be flexible; however, generally should include:
Community Meeting #1-Identify need and propose two to three solutions.
Community Meeting #2- Work on concept design with RPD, present alternatives, solicit feedback on proposals.
Community Meeting #3- Present preferred alternative, solicit feedback.
RPD will generate a mailing list of all addresses within a 300’ radius of the project site and help to advertise the date and venue of community meetings. The applicant must provide RPD with meeting dates and locations six weeks before the first meeting. In addition, applicants must also keep track of all attendees with a sign in sheet, and properly document notes/summaries, and take photos.
Step 3- Community Stewardship and Grant Agreement with maintenance requirements of the project sponsor (to be determined)
Step 4- Letters of Support (in progress)
Step 5- Director of Operations Approval (to be determined)
Step 6- Develop Plan (to be determined)
Step 7- Recreation and Park Commission Approval (to be determined)
Step 8- San Francisco Arts Commission Approval (to be determined)
SFJACL is still in the early stages of the proposal approval process. To solicit community feedback on the proposed mural, a series of five community meetings was scheduled: November 1, December 1, December 15, 2022, January 12, and January 30, 2023. If needed, additional meetings will be scheduled for the future. Meeting information can be found at the SFJACL website Programs & Events page.
5. What is the concept design for the mural?
The SFJACL held 2 meetings in July and August 2022 to brainstorm the theme, important events, and elements to be included on the mural. The SFJACL concluded that the theme of the mural will be honoring San Francisco Japantown “notables.” These notable portraits will be individuals who made a lasting difference in the survival and vitality of our community. They are persons whose determination to build Japantown in the face of exclusion and racism helped to preserve our history and culture, and whose activism, trailblazing and vision continue to guide us today.
6. How will organizations and elements be represented on the mural? Will public be able to see a draft of how these would be represented?
Since November 2022, the SFJACL has reached out to community members to assist with identifying elements. The artists, SFJACL board members, and advisory committee members created a preliminary timeline and submitted elements ideas. This collection of elements will provide artists with design components. At every public meeting, requests for elements ideas have been solicited. Images of key organizations, institutions, and landmarks possessing cultural and/or historical significance have been collected and continue to be collected. An initial design draft was presented at the December 15 Community Meeting. The SFJACL must determine the notable individuals before artists can place elements in the timeline. Design drafts will be shared with the public via the SFJACL website and community meetings.
7. What is the process for determining the notable individuals to be included in the proposed mural?
The SFJACL developed the following criteria for notables.
1. Established and built San Francisco's Japantown and who have made significant contributions to continue to build and preserve it; or
2. Advanced our diverse stories and history through education, the arts and culture; or
3. Played a leadership role in social justice and civil rights issues
Each criterion should have a significant connection to San Francisco's Japantown.
The SFJACL began collecting nominations for notables from community members and leadership over the summer 2022. The nominations process was opened to the general public via online form starting on December 1, 2022. The form link was available on the SFJACL website and distributed through chapter social media posts. Nominations closed at midnight on December 31, 2022. The goal is to identify 10-12 notables to be included in the proposed mural.
The initial list contained 67 names, including individuals both living and deceased. In reviewing nominations, the SFJACL board determined that, to be considered further, candidates should only include deceased individuals. Nominations were posted on the website in advance of the January 12 community meeting. At the conclusion of that meeting, 27 finalists were announced. The list of finalists will be posted to the SFJACL website and in the Nichi Bei weekly newspaper.
8. Is there an advisory committee?
The SFJACL board invited key community members to serve on a Mural Advisory Committee that would aid the SFJACL board by reviewing nominees and prioritizing among them. The following people accepted the invitation to serve on the Mural Advisory Committee:
Dr. Ben Kobashigawa, Professor of Asian American Studies (retired after 30 years), San Francisco State University (bio)
Darcy Nishi, Founding member of the Japantown Rainbow Coalition (bio)
Kenji Taguma, President of the Nichi Bei Foundation; Editor-in-Chief, Nichi Bei News. (bio)
Rosalyn Tonai, Executive Director of the National Japanese American Historical Society. (bio)
Biographies of the Mural Advisory Committee can be found clicking the bio after each name above.
9. Will the murals withstand sun, fog, rain?
The special treatment that MissionArt 415 uses on their numerous murals around the City are specifically used to protected against the weather as well as tagging/unauthorized graffiti vandalism. More than eight coats of a special sealant finishes the mural. The SFJACL intends to conclude a lifetime maintenance contract with the artists who will regularly monitor any problems. Mission Arts 415 insures its projects up to $2 million and intends to insure the proposed mural for its life.
10. Is it possible to paint the mural on removable panels?
In an early version of the proposal, the mural was proposed to be painted on removable panels due to the impending Peace Plaza Renovation Project, scheduled to commence in 2024.
However, the SFJACL is no longer pursuing this format for three reasons. First, painting on removable panels would add $35,000 to the cost of the mural. Second, there is the problem of ownership of the removable panels. If they are deemed to belong to the City, then the responsibility for their safekeeping belongs to the City which is now facing budget deficits. There would be no guarantee that the City would take care of the panels. Third, the proposed murals measure roughly 2,200 square feet. There are few locations within Japantown to relocate the mural panels. Given these challenges, the SFJACL plans to move forward with the proposal for a mural painted directly on the wall.
11. How can I provide feedback or support this mural proposal?
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to provide feedback or support for the proposed mural.
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