Mission Cultural Center

three-story building with glass windows and a colorful mural on the 2nd and 3rd floors
Mission Cultural Center

Photograph by Mike Buhler, courtesy of California State Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2020, the Mission Cultural Center (later Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts) is a large and diverse neighborhood in the east-central portion of San Francisco. The building was constructed in 1947 as a furniture store and converted into the Mission Cultural Center (MCC) in 1977. The property was first identified as a significant Latino institution by California’s 1988 statewide survey published as, Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California. The publication identified the Centro Cultural de la Misión (Mission Cultural Center) as one of the ninety-nine most significant properties associated with Mexican American history in California.

The Mission Cultural Center’s origins reflect a confluence of influences associated with Latino/Chicano culture in San Francisco. Its creation is intrinsically tied to the ascendancy of the Mission District as the city’s most concentrated Latino enclave during a vital period of political, social, and artistic foment. The Mission Cultural Center focuses on supporting and promoting the full spectrum of Latino arts, including visual and graphic arts, music, theater, dance, writing, poetry, and cultural festivals. The building’s exterior highlights the artistic spectrum through a mural titled, “Spirits of the Arts.” The mural is the building’s most significant exterior character defining feature. Painted in 1982 by Carlos Loarca, Manuel Villamor, and Betsie Miller-Kusz, the mural covers the entire upper Mission Street façade and partially wraps the secondary façade. It features Central American motifs blended with allegorical images of activities that are typical within the MCC, such as dancing and playing drums. The dancers also include skeletons in homage to Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). As described by the San Francisco Arts Commission, the mural was inspired by Incan, Mayan, and Aztec symbolism and was intended to celebrate the many arts presented within the Center. Since its founding, Mission Cultural Center has exhibited and supported thousands of artists worldwide and has gained national recognition for its graphics department as being among the most significant Latino portfolios in the country.

Last updated: August 11, 2021