A vibrant, hand-painted mural decorating two facades of a former bank branch building was unveiled at a community celebration in San Francisco on Thurs., Oct. 20. Blue Shield of California and San Francisco’s African American Arts and Cultural District (SFAAACD) hosted the event, which drew community members, local leaders, and elected officials to the city’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.
Noted Bay Area artist Malik Seneferu, whose career began in Bayview-Hunters Point, designed and painted the colorful mural, which uses symbolic masks and figurative designs to capture the idea of land, freedom to build family and community, and to honor both contemporary and ancient ancestors. The mural is titled “Black is Beautiful” and is part of a series about communal discourse on Black solidarity.
The mural is one of 20 public art pieces Blue Shield has sponsored over the past two years throughout California to support art-related community revitalization and resiliency projects. Each mural is created by artists from local communities and is designed to inspire and unite community members around art that reflects their cultural heritage.
”We know there is more to good health than good medical care,” said Carlyn Obringer, government and community engagement manager, Blue Shield of California, who spoke at the event. “It is important to foster an environment of health, not just for the individual but for the community at large, and access to the arts has been shown to boost both physical and mental well-being. We believe that investment in the arts is an investment in community health.”
The mural is situated near other community anchors in the Bayview-Hunters Point town center. The space will be a source of charitable food distribution and a place for activities and events that support the experiences and lives of Black people in the area, according to Ericka Scott, director of programs, SFAAACD.
“We embrace all people in the neighborhood, and all will be welcome to enjoy this building and its offerings,” she said.
The SFAAACD was established by the City of San Francisco in 2018. It is dedicated to community change by fostering a commitment to services and activism through Afrocentric artists and cultural performances, exhibitions, and programming.
Five Point Holdings LLC, which leads the multi-billion-dollar San Francisco Shipyard/Candlestick Point projects, purchased the building with funds through its Implementation Committee as part of dedicated community benefits for the area.
“We are thrilled to save this building - an important local asset - on behalf of the community. The dramatic mural decorating it now brings artistic beauty to the community and centers the history of this area in an intentional way," said LaShon Walker, vice president, Community Affairs.
“It is through projects like these and collaborations with organizations like SFAAACD and Five Point Holdings that we can make great strides to improve the health of our communities,” said Obringer.