Galería de la Raza – a non-profit organization dedicated to Chicano and Latino art in San Francisco – has been a fixture in the Mission District for almost 50 years. On top of serving as a place to promote Latino artists, it’s also represented the community. In the last year, the gallery featured a mural that depicted two same-sex couples and one transgender person front and center. The mural continued to be vandalized, and the gallery repaired it several times. Even though it’s contributions to the Mission are noteworthy, as the gentrification of the historically Latino neighborhood continues to take hold, the gallery realized it needed to make their home more permanent. For the last 43 years, Galería has been on a month-to-month lease, so it sought out a long-term lease. However, KQED Arts reports, the owner of the space refused to make it happen. In an email to supporters, Executive Director Ani Rivera explained how the landlord had no interest in changing the current setup.
“Given the demographic and economic changes happening in the city and in the Mission District, we felt that it was appropriate and pressing for us to begin a ‘place keeping’ process,” she wrote. “Above all, we aimed to secure a home for Galería, preferably in the space where we’ve called home for the last 4+ decades. However, we regret to inform you that our landlord has turned down our request to enter into conversation to negotiate a long-term lease. They resolutely stated they have no interest in our offer and have no intention of revisiting the matter in the near future. For now, the rental agreement will continue on a month-to-month basis.”
The neighborhood’s shifting demographics has brought in wealthier residents, who have pushed out Latinos. In 2000, the Mission had a 60 percent Latino population, which is down to about 48 percent. According to a survey from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, at the current rate, that number of could drop to 31 percent. Similarly, commercial rents continue to rise and businesses catering to a shrinking Latino population are feeling the effects. “Galería for many in the community is a safe space, and it’s also at the verge of going under,” Rivera said. “So I am in a constant mourning, I am in a constant action, trying to figure out how to protect, how to sustain.”
Realizing that the month-to-month situation doesn’t guarantee longevity in the Mission, Galería has decided to set up roots in another part of the neighborhood. In the email, Rivera explains that the gallery will look for “other long-term sustainable options” in the coming weeks.
Update, July 19 at 10:40 a.m.: Galería de la Raza released a statement clarifying that it has no plans to move. “We continue to maintain a positive relationship with our landlord and appreciate the support they have given Galería over the years,” the statement read. “We want to be clear that we will continue to operate out of our current historical location. The rental agreement will continue on a month-to-month basis as it has for the past 43 years. We would like to thank you all for your support and concerns. We sincerely appreciate your willingness to help and commitment to keep Galeria’s mission going. If circumstances change and as updates become available we will keep you all posted through our newsletter, social media channels and email. We invite you to stay connected and we hope you will visit us soon.”