By: Katherine Castillo
The Castro mural “Hope for the World Cure” honoring lives lost to AIDS was defaced with graffiti in December.
Painted in 1998,“Hope for the World Cure” at Market and 15th Street, is one of the most powerful public artworks about both the chaos and the solidarity of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco and worldwide.
The future of the mural is now uncertain, after being vandalized and almost completely covered in graffiti by an unknown assailant.
A Cultural Landmark
In the 23 years of this mural’s existence, it has never been targeted like this before, where the damages are irreparable without organized and supervised help from the community.
Community members such as residents, members of local action groups, and Susan Cervantes, Founding Director of the Precita Eyes Muralists Association, said the mural is a cultural landmark that needs to be restored and protected. Cervantes estimated the cost of the reconstruction could be in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.
“We are quite sad it is getting destroyed by vandalism. And it is so big now that we don’t have the resources to clean it up like we have had in the past,” Cervantes said.
The pandemic also complicates the restoration process. “Because businesses are closed and no longer there, we actually don’t have resources like water, bathrooms, storage for materials, or anything like that in order to start the cleaning,” she continued.
Time has certainly faded the vibrancy of the mural, but the level of damage that occurred in late December exceeded any other episode of vandalism in the almost 23 years since its creation in 1998.
“This is a very large mural that tells a story. There’s so much history here crammed in,” said neighbor Dennis Richards in an interview for KTVU FOX 2 on December 27, 2021.
Joshua Slovkovits, a former neighbor, said the homeless encampment has been there for years, but after the pandemic it became almost untenable to walk around that corner.
“It is sad that the mural has ceased to be a priority for the neighbors for its enormous trajectory and support to the community, but at this time we are more concerned about our safety and that they be transferred to a safe and dignified place,” said Slovkovits.
17 artists from the Heart Heals who suffered from AIDS collaborated and designed the mural along with the Precita Eyes Muralists Association, which is in charge of handling the mural’s restoration.
“District Supervisor Rafael Mandenmal is very interested in recovering the corner where the mural is,” Cervantes said. They would need to first contact the property manager so they can later proceed with a restoration agreement along with the property owner to start repairing the mural.
“Supervisor Mandenmal is in contact with the property management trying to reach the property owner so that we can get full support from them and start the restoration,” said Cervantes.
“We also have a lot of people from the community who are wanting to invest in the project, but they need to know the owner supports the restoration before going forward,” Cervantes said.
The residents also want the Supervisor and the City to do something to protect the homeless encampment located just beneath the mural. “We don’t want the City to just remove them from there, but to actually find a solution for their needs,” she said.
Restoration work would have to wait until after those who are camped out are moved to an alternate location or housed in shelter.
Precita Eyes Muralists Association is not actively collecting any money until they get full owner permission. However, Cervantes mentioned people can donate directly to their website and put in the memo the money is for the restoration of the mural. They can also make direct contributions by check or by calling the Association and processing a credit card.