Finding Aid to the San Francisco Mural Archive, 1930-2000 SFP 52

Finding aid written by Tim Wilson
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Title: San Francisco Mural Archive
Creator: SOMArts Cultural Center
Identifier/Call Number: SFP 52
Physical Description: 1 binder (approx. 900 p.) + approx. 800 slides (35 mm; color)
Date (inclusive): 1930-2000
Abstract: The archive includes slide images and descriptions of San Francisco murals painted between 1930-2000. The slides are from the collection of mural historian and photographer James Prigoff. The descriptions are based on Timothy Drescher's book San Francisco Bay Area Murals (c. 1996) which lists murals by geographical areas of the city. The San Francisco Mural Archive also includes a selection of images that depict muralists at work, school murals, graffiti murals, and murals painted on the billboard outside the Galeria de la Raza, Mission District, San Francisco.
Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Material: English .

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for use during Photo Desk hours.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish from photographs must be submitted in writing to the Photo Curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

Preferred Citation

San Francisco Mural Archive (SFP 52), San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, San Francisco Public Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Betsie Miller-Kusz for The Mural Resource Center/SOMArts, April 20, 2000.

Biographical / Historical

James Prigoff (October 29, 1927-April 21, 2021) was an American photographer, author, and lecturer whose work focused on public murals, graffiti, and spraycan art. In the early 1970s Prigoff became interested in documenting public murals. He amassed a collection of over 100,000 slides of mural art. Prigoff co-authored the book Painting the Towns-Murals of California (1997) with Robin Dunitz.

Scope and Contents

The archive is divided into 7 sections:
Sections 1 and 2 contain descriptions of 826 murals painted in San Francisco between 1930-2001. The murals in Section 1 (numbers 1-750) were painted between 1930-1996; those in Section 2 (numbers 751-826) were painted between 1997-2001. The organization is based on Timothy Drescher's book San Francisco Bay Area Murals (c.1996). Descriptions include: mural title, date completed, status (whether extant or not), artist(s), location, size, medium, funding source, notes, and whether an image is available.
Section 3 Muralists (37 slides) contains images of muralists and scaffolds, to give the viewing public a glimpse of the difficult physical conditions of making a mural. Many San Francisco community muralists from the 1970s to the present (2000) are included in this section. Slide descriptions include: mural title, artist(s), locations, date completed, and corresponding mural number from section 1 or 2.
Section 4 Galeria de la Raza Murals (37 slides, no description) contains images of the changing murals on the Galeria de la Raza, 2815 24th St., at the corner of Bryant St. This billboard has been frequently repainted since the 1970s and offers continually changing commentary on the Mission District community, its politics, and its people.
Section 5 School and Youth Murals (23 slides, no description) contains images of murals that have been painted since the early 1970s in schools and educational buildings throughout San Francisco. Originally organized through the Alvarado Arts Project of the C.E.TA. (Comprehensive Employment Training Act) funding, the murals have received funding from many sources in the years since.
Section 6 Graffiti Murals (58 slides) contains images of murals painted by young graffiti artists, usually on unauthorized walls, often without permission. They are transitory images, found in the urban environment, full of energy and protect. This archive includes such images because they represent an important visual component of the contemporary mural movement. Descriptions include: neighborhood, mural title, artist(s), date completed, location, status (extant or not), and whether or not there is a slide.
Section 7 Artist Unknown (7 slides, only location noted). This section highlights murals where the artist is unknown at the time of this archiving. These murals are generally neighborhood based and very beloved, and this is a small sample of such walls.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Street art - California - San Francisco.
Mural painting and decoration, American - California - San Francisco - 20th century.
Graffiti -- California -- San Francisco
Galeria de la Raza (San Francisco, Calif.)
Prigoff, James, 1927-2021 -- Archives