Mission School – An American Flavor of Street Art

The Introduction & History
The Mission School derives its name from Mission District, better known as ‘The Mission,’ near San Francisco, US. As the name suggests, it is a regional art movement. Beginning in the 1990s, the alumni of the San Francisco Art Institute founded it. The school remains active even today. The freelance writer Glen Helfand first suggested the term ‘Mission School’ in the alternative weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian. In due course, the popularity and the reach of this provocative art form kept growing. This made the Mission District a hub of the intoxicating twentieth century street art.

The Correlations
The biggest selling point of the Mission School is that it identifies with the modern popular culture. It is characteristically an eclectic mix of street art in various forms, driven by the varying passions of the artists from different backgrounds. The vibrant executions of the school carry the elements of the Surrealist Movement of the 1920s, Mexican Mural Movement of the 1930s, Pop Art (Britain and US) of the 1950s, Punk Graffiti Art of the 1970s, Cartoons, Sign Painting, Hobo Art, and Graffiti style of guerrilla marketers, among others.

Primarily revolving around symbolized sentiments, Mission Art focuses on the social, political, cultural, and the commercial aspects of everyday life. Often, it represents the existing state and allied transitions in the contemporary society. On the other hand, it embodies activism and seeks change. For instance, global environmental concerns are styled as Eco-warrior artworks.

The Details
Mission School is the self-proclaimed creativity of the common person on the streets. This is opposed to the art that comes from the house of learned, highbrow artists of the yesteryears. Creating their low-tech works, the Mission School artists employ unconventional tools, like aerosol paints, correction whitener (used in stationery), usual house paint, pencils, pens, trash material, found objects, and scrap board. The results are vibrant thought-provoking imagery, reflecting upon the mood of the artists, and calling its viewers for action.

The Artists and the Artworks
The best collections of street art in Mission District can be found on the 24th Street and Clarion Alley. The Clarion Alley Mural Project sponsored hundreds of such murals with arrangements for guided tours for the visitors. Some of the lead names of international fame associated with the Mission School are Barry McGee (b. 1966), Jo Jackson, R. Crumb (b. 1943), Ruby Neri (b. 1970), Swoon, Margaret Kilgallen (1967-2001), Clare Rojas, Shepard Fairey (b. 1970), Alicia McCarthy, Spain Rodriguez (b. 1940), Chris Johanson (b. 1968), Rigo (b. 1966), and Margaret Kilgallen (1967-2001).

McGee’s adopted moniker ‘Twist’ has become his major signature tag work with a massive following among the art lovers. Despite the prevalent depressive mood, his creations find strong favors in the Mission School. Among the other significant examples of Mission Art are ‘Graffiti Horse’ by Ruby Neri and mural painting at LACMA parking garage by Margaret Kilgallen.