San Francisco Chronicle - May 2, 2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Luis Cervantes -- Muralist Who Inspired Generations of Artists
Cicero A. Estrella, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 2, 2005
Renowned muralist Luis Cervantes died at his San Francisco home Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer.
He was 81.
Mr. Cervantes, co-founder of Precita Eyes Muralists, a Mission District nonprofit that promotes the mural art form, inspired generations of artists.
"He influenced a lot of Chicano and La Raza artists, and they influenced his work," said his son Luz De Verano Cervantes. "He was passionate about creating a message about one's roots. His murals were often about community, the universal themes of life and transformation and the spirit of family and friends."
Luis Cervantes and his wife, Susan Kelk Cervantes, opened the New Mission Gallery in the 1960s, and in 1977, they started Precita Eyes Muralists, whose mission is to produce urban community art through collaborations. Mr. Cervantes directed many of the nonprofit's projects, including "The Cross of Quetzalcoatl" at San Francisco State's student union, "The Precita Valley Vision" at the Precita Valley Community Center and "Si Se Puede" at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco.
Mr. Cervantes was born in Santa Barbara. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1942 and served in England, Belgium and France with the 358th Engineer General Service Regiment. Mr. Cervantes was among the invasion forces at Normandy on D-Day.
After World War II, Mr. Cervantes moved to San Francisco and found work as a custom mattress maker with the McRoskey Airflex Mattress Company, his employer until his retirement in 1992. He served as president of the San Francisco Furniture Workers Union for two years.
Mr. Cervantes used his G.I. Bill scholarship to study sketching and sculpture at San Francisco State College and ceramic sculpture at the College of Marin and the San Francisco Art Institute. His sculptures have been shown at the M.H. de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Mr. Cervantes, who abandoned ceramic sculptures in the 1970s to concentrate on painting with acrylics, taught at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco State, the Galeria De La Raza and other venues.
In 1990, he and his wife participated in the Ecological Arts Collaboration, a cultural exchange between American and Russian artists. The couple visited Russia three times and produced two murals in St. Petersburg and one in Moscow.
Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed April 6 "Luis and Susan Cervantes Day," and May is Mural Awareness Month in the Bay Area.
In addition to Kelk Cervantes and Luz De Verano Cervantes, Mr. Cervantes is survived by sons Suaro and Monte of San Francisco and Stephen of Corralitos (Santa Cruz County); daughter Lorna Dee Cervantes of Boulder, Colo.; brothers Angelo of Las Vegas, Juan of Crawfordville, Fla., and Frank of Lompoc; sister Aurora Cervantes of Santa Barbara; and five grandchildren.
The family requests that donations and contributions be sent in Mr. Cervantes' memory to Precita Eyes Muralists, 2981 24th St., San Francisco, 94110.
A public memorial is planned this month.
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PROCLAMATION - City and County of San Francisco
Whereas, San Francisco recognizes the individual achievements of its residents, celebrates their contributions to the community and appreciates their rich legacies of ingenuity, creativity and innovation; and
Whereas, San Francisco owes a debt of gratitude to Susan and Luis Cervantes who established Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center in 1977; more than 20,000 students and tourists have passed through their doors as the starting point for mural tours; and
Whereas, Precita Eyes, a non-profit multipurpose community arts organization, holds the distinction of being one of only three community mural centers in the United States; and
Whereas, with its deep rooted community ties, Precita Eyes has added to the beauty, culture and economic vibrancy of the Mission, while at the same time encouraging community residents to embrace all forms of artistic expression; and
Whereas, Precita Eyes offers mual and art classes for children and youth that enable them to develop their individuality and confidence through creative activities and to experience unifying, positive social interaction through collaboration; now
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Gavin Newsom, Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, on the occasion of Precita Eyes' A Celebration of Community Mural Art, do hereby proclaim April 6, 2005 as...
SUSAN AND LUIS CERVANTES DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO!
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto
set my hand and caused the Seal of the City
and County of San Francisco to be affixed.
Gavin Newsom, Mayor
HELP FIGHT SUSAN'S EVICTION. SUPPORT FAIR HOUSING ZONES FOR ARTISTS.
Help declare the Cervantes Studio a cultural landmark.
Motion Granted for San Francisco's Frida Kahlo
Susan Cervantes with supportersBeyond Chron
Alison Stevens Rodrigues 22.AUG.05
Longtime resident, artist, and pillar of San Francisco's Mission District, Susan Cervantes, claimed a victory last week when a judge ruled that she did not have to leave her home of 35 years – yet.
In response to the three-day eviction notice that landlords Douglas Wong and Pearl Yee served Cervantes in July, no fewer than 50 people assembled at 9:00 a.m. on Friday to rally against it, and similar evictions that have been sweeping the City. For half an hour, tenants rights activists and Susan Cervantes supporters stood in front of 400 McAllister, refuting the displacement of artists and poor people, before Cervantes and her attorney stood in a court room and received word that their motion to take the eviction to trial was granted.
Widely acknowledged for her part in creating hundreds of murals in the Mission, including those along the Women's Building and Balmy Alley, Cervantes is known locally for her commitment to the Precita Eyes Arts and Visitors Center, of which she is the founder and director. The Center, which is one of only three community mural centers in the United States, brings art into the daily lives of people through its offering of classes, workshops, and low-cost supplies to both children and adults. It also has served as a starting point for more than 20,000 students and tourists who have taken the eight-block Mission Trail Mural Walk offered by the Center.
"She's such a fixture in the neighborhood," commented Ted Gullicksen, president of the San Francisco Tenants Union. "That's why this eviction is particularly egregious."
Despite her significance as a cultural cornerstone, and the significance or her work as historical and artistic references, Cervantes might be forced to leave the home where she has paid rent for more than half of her life. Located just a short distance from the Center, her apartment has been more than just a place to live; it has served as both a studio for Cervantes and her late husband Louis, and as the birthplace for two of their children.
"It is sacred and holy ground and should not be demolished," said Cervantes, adding that for the landlords who want her to leave, it seems that making an investment is more important than human life.
Wong and Yee bought the three-story property at 398 Precita Ave. in July of 2005 and gave Cervantes a three-day notice to leave. Because the previous owner had converted the bottom floor, zoned for commercial use, into a residential unit, they claimed that her residence was an unlawful use of space.
Representing Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Tomas Lee said, "I don't think those evicting [Cervantes] know the contributions she's made to this city or the respect she's gotten in the artistic community worldwide."
Gullicksen explained that the first-time landlords are using the wrong "just cause" for their eviction. Had they gone about the process correctly, he continued, they would have issued reason number 10 of the 14 just causes for eviction under rent control. According the SF Tenants Union Web site, number 10 states that "the landlord seeks to demolish or otherwise remove the unit from rental housing use, has obtained all the necessary permits, and does so without ulterior reasons and with honest intent."
"Demolishing a unit can take a while," noted Gullicksen, adding that the landlord(s) must give the tenant 30-days notice in addition to obtaining the appropriate permits. The tenant may then argue the case and so the process can take even longer.
"But with an illegal-use just clause, which is what [Wong and Yee] used, a landlord can give just a three-days notice," Gullicksen said. "It's a classic example of a pretext eviction. They're trying to get Susan out because of her low cost of rent."
Community activist Richard Marquez pointed out that the Mission is always on spectators' lists because the cost of housing there is often half of what it would be in other areas.
"The Mayor seems to be working toward gentrifying the city – people are charging outrageous rent and the low- and no-income can't afford it," said longtime Mission resident, Iris Biblowitz. "That's why we're seeing more and more low- income people having to leave San Francisco,"
If evicted, Cervantes said she would likely be one of those emigrating, which is why fellow muralist, Marta Ayala, attended the rally. She recalled that when Cervantes' husband, Louis, was alive, he and his wife were the people that artists went to with their queries and conflicts. "They were the Diego and Frida for us here in San Francisco," said Ayala, referring to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who had been influential Mexican artists.
If Cervantes leaves, Ayala insisted, the muralists of San Francisco will not know where to go. "We don't want to get lost."
Meanwhile, Cervantes' attorney, Raquel Fox of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said she was pleased with the outcome Cervantes' first court appearance, and Cervantes herself promised to continue putting up a fight.
"We will continue the struggle for everyone," said Cervantes, adding that what is happening to her is just a microcosm of the injustices going on all over the world.http://www.precitaeyes.org
~ Alison Stephens Rodrígues398 Precita Avenue Cultural Landmark Status
download petition to declare bottom floor of 398 Precita Avenue a Cultural Landmark: petition.pdf