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San Francisco | Arts + Action

Letter to Library from Bernal Muralist’s Heir Ensures Paint Out Stoppage for 90 Days
by Library Uses Association
Monday Jul 9th, 2012 5:07 PM
The heir of an artist of the community mural at the Bernal Library demanded that the Library Commission halt the destruction of the mural. The corporate driven Library commission with the support of "liberal" Democratic supervisor David Campos want the political mural removed from the library and replace it with a non-political mural costing over $150,000 with a consultant fee to the Friends of the Library. This privatization of our murals and library under the direction of the Democratic party is continuing despite growing anger
Letter to Library from Bernal Muralist’s Heir Ensures Paint Out Stoppage for 90 Days

Library Users Association

P.O. Box 170544, San Francisco, CA 94117-0544

Tel./Fax (415) 753-2180

PRESS RELEASE CONTACT: Peter Warfield

July 8, 2012 Tel./Fax: (415) 753-2180; cell/text 735-8963

Letter to Library from Bernal Muralist’s Heir

Ensures Paint Out Stoppage for 90 Days

San Francisco, July 8, 2012 – The Victor Jara mural on Bernal Heights Branch Library got a surer reprieve from destruction this weekend, when Nancy York, sister of muralist Arch Williams, sent a letter to San Francisco Public Library’s head enclosing proof that she is the executor of his estate.
Peter Warfield, Executive Director of Library Users Association, said the action ensures that “the library will have no excuse whatever to remove the mural any time before expiration of the 90-day notice period, and we certainly hope that the mural’s survival can be permanently assured prior to October 1.”
City Librarian Luis Herrera requested that Ms. York send “documentation of your current role as executor or representative of the artist’s estate on or before July 10, 2012.” It continued, “if you are unable to remove or pay for the removal of the mural before October 1, 2012, the City will proceed with its Bernal Heights Branch Library renovation project as planned, including the removal of Mr. Williams’s mural.”
Ms. York asserted her rights to 90-day notice of removal -- and the right to remove the mural or have it removed -- under the California Art Preservation Act (CAPA), which she faxed in a letter on June 8, 2012.
Under CAPA, the artist of a work of fine art that is to be destroyed must be notified so that he or she may remove the work, or have it removed. The right passes to the heir or personal representative in case of the artist’s death, and continues for 50 years. Arch Williams died in 1996, so the rights would be valid until 2046, 34 years from the present.
Ms. York’s letter encloses a copy of her brother’s “hand written will in which he names me (Ms. York) as his executor of his estate.”
Ms. York continues, “I must say that it concerns me that you are only now complying with the California Art Preservation Act, Civil Code 987 especially as the Bernal Mural was already altered in 2008-09.” She continued, “It was only through the efforts of Peter Warfield, Executive Director of Library Users Association, that I became aware of the pending June 11 destruction of the mural, resulting in my fax June 8th asserting my rights.”
The Library had planned scaffold erection for June 8th, which went ahead, and paint out of the mural starting June 11th . That work was suspended and continues to be suspended to date.

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The existing mural was painted by muralists Arch Williams and Carlos Alcala in 1980-1982, with participation by many adults and children. Approved by the Arts Commission and Library Commission at the time, it covers three sides of the building. The front includes the important Chilean musician Victor Jara playing his guitar, with his name, and words in Spanish and English from one of his songs. Jara was tortured and killed by the Chilean military when they seized power in 1973; the stadium in Chile’s capital where arrestees were brought after the coup is now named after Jara. The front panel also includes singer Holly Near’s name and words in Spanish and English, and the image of an African American singer modeled on Roberta Flack. The mural also honors working women, and Native Americans. The proposed mural omits Jara, Near, working women, a local history, children, the UN symbol and more.

Comments  (Hide Comments)


The current mural which is hidden by scaffolding following a 90-day stay of execution should be restored, not replaced.

The current mural is a true work of art with a timeless and powerful message of the people against oppression.

The current mural is beloved by the working class people, not by nimbys or those aspiring sorts who would remake the vibrant Bernal Heights neighbourhood into a more exclusive neighbourhood.

If one compares the current mural to the mural planned to replace it one will immediately discern a startling difference that no years of wear and neglect can erase:

The current mural is a true work of art-- a sincere and direct expression of those who created it. Like all true art it has soulpower.

The planned replacement mural is a shadow and shell of the original art: not only does it significantly erase Victor Jara, it is reduced and iconified to become obscure symbolism which only study can enlighten: it is a theft from the people.

The planned mural is more suitable as a design for a mass-produced t-shirt.

Please compare the designs:

The bland planned mural:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/5859278606/

article at El Tecolote with photo of current mural:
http://eltecolote.org/content/2010/04/committee-votes-to-remove-bernal-mural/

more links to images of current and planned murals:
https://encrypted.google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=Bernal%20Library%20Mural&tbs=imgo:1&biw=1020&bih=852&sei=BAz_T6rALuGW2AXbvrHhBA

One photo taken by myself of the current neglected, but more artistically powerful mural is shown here.