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If walls could talk...

WallsTellStories/Paredes Habladoras is, uniquely, a community and muralist driven iOS/Android app, self-guided tour and mobile website, that reveals historic, geographic, political contexts of Bay Area muralism–of the current moment and at the time of creation.

WallsTellStories/Paredes Habladoras enables users to engage with the murals by utilizing audio, video, photos, geocaching, mapping, AR/VR, and other media. Events and guided tours will be scheduled according to COVID19 safety standards.


Murals are defined here to include sanctioned and nonsanctioned murals, collective community, individual expressions; graffiti and stencil pieces; and disappeared or ghost murals.


Nonlinear storytelling will invite the public to add their own histories to contribute to an inclusive people’s



Phase One

Create a sample tour– a scalable proof of concept whose feature-set can be expanded over time. This approach allows us the flexibility to adjust the project scope based on user feedback so that we can ensure our final product vision is a validated, user-tested product.

The SF Bay Area depicted in the murals reminds us of what is being rapidly erased during San Francisco’s sweeping displacement and heightened gentrification. As we increasingly see our City’s priorities move toward leaving cultural histories behind, Walls Tell Stories will raise awareness of these losses by emphasizing San Francisco’s cultural history, and historical and political context, documenting and archiving overlooked and forgotten stories and memories. Through the tour app, the events that build community and emplaced knowledge, and project activities, viewers will be encouraged to further interact and engage in a range of ways, from making a donation for mural upkeep to adding their stories and cultural productions to the media program. Referrals to community organizations and campaigns will be offered.


Phase 1

Identify a mobile app building platform.  


Design proof of concept tours and mobile-friendly website.

Design interactive and educational in-person experience mobile apps tied to the website.

MVP downloadable mobile app.

User testing to validate the core concept.



Phase 2

Refine experience and define roadmap based on learnings from user research.

Expand functionality around the website experience (i.e. ability to create your own tour).


Expand the number of tours and tour stops.


Expand the number of muralist participants.

Phase 3

Incorporate augmented reality into mobile experience.

Scale up.

Works In Progress

Works In Progress

Phase 1 Design

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Each mural has its own QR code.


User downloads free app from App Store.

The app is easily used on both Android and iOS.

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Visitor scans QR code with phone camera to reveal interactive website with mural information.

Visitor takes a self guided tour with multiple stops.


Desktop experience for off-line and remote access.

Work Samples

Designed framework that will grow with the initiative.

Leveraging parallax scrolling for the mural pages, we created a flexible interaction that can be used for all murals, regardless of their size. While the example below uses audio to add to the experience, this execution will leverage diverse media, making each mural experience unique.

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This prototype has sound.


In progress-

Participants and Sample Tour Stops

Participating Artists

Praba Pilar is an award-winning diasporic Colombian artist

and digital media specialist who has worked on media projects for decades. Since

2019 she has been doing Techno-Tamaladas to foreground Indigenous technologies

of life via events sharing tamales and conversation.

Juana Alicia has been creating murals and working as a printmaker, sculptor, illustrator, and studio painter for over thirty years. Her style, akin to genres of contemporary Latin American literary movements, can be characterized as magical and social realism, and her work addresses issues of social justice, gender equality, environmental crisis, and the power of resistance and revolution. 


Ben Woods is a public and video artist working with large-scale projection and installations. Woods uses media to animate public spaces and murals with images of their unrecognized history. Woods is known for documenting a long-hidden mural by Ohlone people behind the altar in Dolores Church.


Genny Lim is an award-winning American poet, playwright, and performer. Lim has performed with Max Roach, Herbie Lewis, Francis Wong, Jong Jang in San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Houston, and Chicago.


Supporting and/or endorsing organizations and individuals include to date: Freedom Archives, Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, Clarion Alley Mural Project, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Ethnic Studies at SFSU, SF Latino Historical Society, STAMEN Design, artist Sirron Norris.

In the first year, Walls Tell Stories will develop and implement the tour

Preguntando Caminamos/Walking Asking Questions, focused on environmental

justice framed by the principles articulated at the People of Color Environmental

Leadership Summit. It will share materials and ask questions about ethical,

balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a

sustainable planet for humans and other living things. Preguntando Caminamos

will feature murals that weave together diverse cultural perspectives on San

Francisco's built environment, land, water, food politics, urban ‘renewal,’ housing,

and local residents – asking questions about the histories we cannot see; about how

urban renewal policies rebuilding our cities succeed or fail to ensure the health of

the natural world for present and future generations; about environmental hazards;

and about access to the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and

environmental self-determination.

Sample Tour Stops

1. Gartland Pit, 16th Street and Valencia, Mission











In 1984, Susan Greene and a loose gaggle of artists, writers, musicians, and

anarchists formed the Urban Rats. The group coalesced around the story of the

Gartland Apartment fire where on December 12th, 1975, 14 people died, and 30

were missing. The eight-block area around this fire at 16th and Valencia had 11

arson fires the previous year. The story of the fire came to the group from the late

Victor Miller, New Mission Newspaper editor, would spend decades trying to

get justice for the more than 132 fires in the general area of Valencia and 16th street

from 1974-76. The Urban Rats created large scale site-specific installations that

made visible the story of the fires. These included a mock graveyard, billboard

alterations, and massive stenciling. Additionally the Urban Rats plastered the area

with an info sheet to provide context and history for the installations. The pit itself

became a people’s park where dance performances, film screenings, poetry

readings, etc. were held. There was major media coverage of the site and its history.

The neighborhood and housing rights organizations were activated and would not

allow the property to turn into high-income housing. To this day, the site hosts

mixed-income housing. Currently, this rich history of art and activism cannot be

seen at the corner of 16th and Valencia. This tour stop will feature images of the

site-specific installations, videos, archival photos of the neighborhood in 1975,

images and texts of neighborhood activism, protest, and resistance; of performances

that happened on site after the fire and will ask questions about urban

gentrification and displacement; about past and present ‘for profit arson’; about

neighborhood activism and resurgence of at-risk and low-income communities.

2. Next stop: “Remembering the Gartland” Mural at Harrison and 14th Street






Fast forward to 2002 when Flyaway Production commissioned a mural

“Remembering the Gartland” and created Wall Dances to commemorate New

Mission News editor Victor Miller upon his death. FlyAway productions aerial dance, performed against and within the “Remembering the Gartland” mural, traces

the Gartland Apartment’s death and resurrection. The ethereal soundtrack features

voices of displaced Mission residents. At this stop, the mural images will be linked

to the history of the Gartland Fire, and the 35-minute aerial dance will be once again

visible along with the soundtrack.

3. Next stop: Juana Alicia, La Llorona’s Sacred Waters Mural, 24th St. and York

When Juana Alicia’s 1983 mural Las Lechugueras about the struggles of women

lettuce farmworkers against abusive working conditions and pesticide poisoning at

York and 24th St. was water damaged, she developed La Llorona’s Sacred Waters

to replace it. Created in 2004, it weaves multiple histories of women, water rights,

and protest together. At this stop, mural images of Las Lechugueras that are no

longer visible at the site will be shared and linked to cultural and historic

information about farmworkers in California. The present-day mural will be linked

to media about the local and global water issues and activists that Juana Alicia

references in the new mural.

Other Tour Stops to be developed, will include murals by Mona Caron, Michael

Rios, Las Mujeres Muralistas, Susan Greene, Praba Pilar, Ben Wood, Jet Martinez,

Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera

Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Pérez, Susan Cervantez, Sirron Norris.

Demonstration of Image Recognition Software

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