San Francisco's Mission District has often been an open canvas for many local artists. "Hundreds. The Mission right now is known as one of the top 12 art places in the nation," says Ani Rivera with Galeria de La Raza, a non-profit studio helping emerging artists display their work.
So, when BART officials announced they were looking for works of art for the new plaza on 24th and Mission Streets, many in the community thought the transportation agency would pick someone local. "I think there was only like five, six submissions. We were one. And they didn't select any of them," said Susan Cervantes with Precita Eyes Mural Arts, a well-known artist in the Mission.
BART had received 49 proposals from artists throughout California and by the end of 2012, a three-member panel had narrowed the selection process. Now, only three artists were competing for the work -- two from Los Angeles and one from San Rafael, but no one from the Mission.
That infuriated some in this community. But BART officials told ABC7 News that the federal money the agency receives for the project specifically says BART cannot hire an artist based only on location. "You can't hire someone based on where they live. It has to be an open and fair process," explained BART spokesman Robert Franklin. BART also requires that the artwork to be displayed at the plaza be durable since it will live outside for many years.
Because the community rejected the three outsiders, the agency has now decided to reopen the selection process. "We want to get this right. We want to make 24th Street Mission Plaza into an open, welcoming space that is reflective of the community," Franklin said.
In the past few months a group of artists and institutions got together to create the Calle 24 Art for BART committee to try to encourage more local artists to submit their ideas for the project. "We can produce the quality art that is called timeless, the innovative art. We have it in our institutions and we want to rise up to the challenge," Rivera said.
Calle 24 hopes to deliver several proposals to the BART panel and hopes one of them will be awarded the project which is worth about $160,000.
ABC7 News learned about this issue at a recent ABC7 Listens meeting at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco, hosted by ABC7 News reporter Lyanne Melendez. If your group would like to team up with ABC7 News to host the next ABC7 listens meeting, click here for more information.