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The Clarion Alley Mural Project

When the Bitter End Meets the Rainbow Swallow

We've all heard it a million times in the last year, so much that it has all but negated itself through repetition... it is a new era in the modern world. Reactions to this new era vary, as do opinions over whether there is anything very different in this new reality. The only thing that seems constant is the emotionality inherent in people's response to the perceived change in the world order. We need places to go to consider these emotions, to say them aloud and see and hear others say them aloud. And we need to be thankful when we find these places.

Clarion Alley has seen the world change around it many times, since the days when San Francisco's sex workers became its alleys' namesakes and captains abandoned their ships for gold. Clarion Alley has entered this era with us as well. For Clarion, this has meant seeing one of its walls demolished and replaced to make way for spiffy, expensive townhouses. The warehouse that housed the Cockettes, where the Clarion Alley Mural Project was founded is gone, and sadly so are the murals that once graced its surface, but as Megan Wilson's piece assures as you stride over it and into the alley, Clarion is still 'Home'. There since the beginning of the alley project's inception, the alternating rainbow and text mural that skims the top of the alley's Valencia street entrance also has new gravity now. The 'bitter end has met the rainbow swallow' and the alley and its inhabitants have lived to cry, scream and laugh about it.

Clarion is in constant dialogue, continuously involved in a struggle of expression that plays out in a vibrant conversation down its length. Protests against domestic violence, and war and aggression by the establishment cry out together. Memorials boldly and graciously eulogize those who have fallen. An image of Apocalyptic San Francisco and a figure of Uncle Sam spitting bombs on to his foot sandwich Julie Murray's photo-realist escalator.

The way in which the images interplay with one another, while dynamic, is undirected - left more up to chance and available space than to a curator. This is not to say, however, that there is not some directed dialogue. The mural artists respond to each other in their works, including in some images or references to each other's work. In a piece signed Greta S., Twist is depicted tagging a screw on a wall. This initial dialogue between artists is enhanced and echoed through the addition of tags by subsequent visitors, who have left the mural in tact and merely added their own inscription to Twist's wall. These details are what make Clarion Alley such a kinetic treasure, always current and forever changing.

Clarion Alley runs between Mission and Valencia, parallel to 17th and 18th streets. It is open 24 hours a day and visible during daylight and dusk.