By Yeahee Jung
Fostering beauty and neighborhood pride for the Portola district, the snake mural project located under the freeway at Alemany Boulevard was completed on Oct. 9 with the help of City College students.
Following a long preparation period, painting of the mural had began just over a month earlier on Sep. 6.
The mural is the first part of a 3-phase project, begun over three years ago to preserve the beauty of the local flora and fauna in the neighborhood. Depicted in the mural are two endangered species, the San Francisco garter snake and the Mission Blue butterfly.
The mural project’s total cost was under $12,000, funded by a portion of a $45,000 San Francisco Community Challenge Grant award. The mural’s supporters spent $3,300 for rental scaffolding and $4,700 for a consultant.
Phase two of the project will be the installation of four-dozen art panels depicting local and natural history.
These 48 images of the Portola neighborhood history were compiled during 15 years of research by City College librarian and artist, Katherine Connell, and her artist husband, Oscar Melara.
“The art panels will be put on the fences in 2012 and will serve as teaching tool to younger generations and serve to safeguard the history and natural history of the area,” said Lia Smith, City College ESL teacher and long-time neighborhood activist.
The third phase will be the creation of a native plant garden, designed by City College student Davery Yim.
“The native garden will serve as a teaching tool and reminder to younger generations to preserve the environment to safeguard the natural ecosystem,” said Smith.
Other City College student volunteers include Killian Farrell-Alvarado, Christopher Campbell, Jie Wen, Janice Huang, Salome Fanta and Peter Ho. Artist Cory Ferris, now at student at City College, designed the original art work for the mural when she was attending Mission High school. The Alemany Island Beautification project was recognized by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, receiving its Best Community Challenge Grant Project award. NEN is a mix of city agencies, non-profits and faith-based organizations that contribute to helping neighborhoods become stewards of their community.
On the night of the awards ceremony at City Hall on Nov. 16, Lia Smith, the project representative, was called to the stage. While pictures of the mural flashed on stage, Smith stepped on up and accepted the award.
The volunteers were jubilant.
“I’m very happy to be here. I felt so proud when they showed the Alemany project,” said City College student and volunteer Salome Fanta. “The experience was great, people were nice, and it was very beneficial.”