As part of TEF’s renovation of the Garfield Center in the Mission District, the San Francisco Arts Commission invited artists to submit proposals to create a 113-foot-long glass mural along one wall of the natatorium. Oakland-based artist Favianna Rodriguez won with her proposal, Santuario, which celebrates the long presence of Latinx families in the Mission District. Her colorful glass artwork depicts a mother with her baby, two children swimming, and a paletero (ice cream cart vendor), as well as water and beach imagery. We asked her to talk about the origins of the piece and the role of artists in building community and addressing social justice.
Q: What inspired you to create this mural?
Favianna Rodriguez: I grew up in an immigrant Latinx family in Oakland, California, and a lot of our leisure time was spent going to events in the Mission District, so I have a very strong attachment to my sister community. Because I live in the Fruitvale neighborhood, which is the Latinx immigrant community in Oakland. I’ve always had a deep love and appreciation for the Mission and was very sad to see how gentrification pushed out a lot of Latinx immigrant families over the last 20 years.
When I heard about the competition to create public art at Garfield Center, I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate the Latinx community and the immigrants of that diverse neighborhood. As an artist, my goal is to portray communities of color and their stories, stories that have been sidelined and marginalized for too long.
In the piece, I included a mom with her baby, two children playing in the water, and an elder. When I held community art workshops, the kids wanted depictions of the beach and playful summer days.