MEDA Helping Mission Small Businesses Thrive: SF ArtWork

MEDA’s Strategic Plan 2017-2020 re-envisions its work via five measurable results to be achieved for the San Francisco Mission District community by 2020.


MEDA is committed to ensuring the Mission District retains its historic and current identity as a strong Latino community, and a welcoming place for immigrants and the generations of Latino families who have long called the neighborhood home. This means that Latinos of all income levels are able to call the Mission District their permanent home, along with the small businesses and community institutions serving them. We envision a family-friendly community offering affordable retail, restaurants, child care, housing, arts and culture, blue-collar jobs, parks and transit that create a neighborhood of opportunity.

Following is a story of a neighborhood venture representing the type of family-serving business MEDA looks to help thrive.

Owner: Francisco Santana
Business: SF ArtWork
Address: 2266 Mission St.
Type: Art and painting
Product: Interior/exterior design

What gave you your idea to start you business? 
I am a Mission-based independent artist who has dedicated my entire life to painting. I grew up in the rural area of Santa Cruz, a neighborhood at the edge of Mexico City.

When I was a 6-year-old, instead of coloring with pencils I painted on the floor. My dad used to make sweepers with tree branches that I used as wood pencils and traced over the ground floor. I created little houses with branches, wood and organic items; my first painting supplies were charcoal, wood chips and chalk, but, basically, any useful item helped me to trace.

When I enrolled in school, I was the most-happy kid because when I then had access to real color pencils and paper — a luxury. During my school years, teachers encouraged my special ability for painting. I used to help neighbors throw out their garbage just so I could admire their interior paintings.

When I start a conversation, I use paper and pencil to express myself and clarify my ideas. If I can’t paint, I cannot live. My first experience with murals and large paintings came from the influence I had with large and spectacular ads located at the top of buildings. It gave me the idea to create large-sized works.

I attended Diego Rivera’s elementary and middle school, located in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City, where I had opportunity to get formal art classes for 12 years. I graduated with honors and exhibited my oil-on-canvas paintings in the school offices. I concentrated in art and sciences as my major so I could get accepted to the National Autonomous Mexican University, and then two years focusing just on art. I later ended up coming to the U.S. and established my residence in San Francisco, where

I had jobs as a cook, dishwasher and chef, but I always continued to paint.

What has your experience been opening a business in the Mission? 
Painting in restaurants, houses and locations in the Mission and surrounding areas has afforded me the amazing opportunity to make a living doing what I love most. I customize each job according to the client’s request, as every nationality/ethnic group has their own preferences around painting.

When I was in my first school, I learned about the ancient cultures of the Aztecs and Mayans. I thought the Mayans were extinct, so I was surprised that numerous Mayans still live in San Francisco; I have even completed painting projects related to the Mayan culture. Additionally, I contributed to the illustrations in the book Aventuras de dos Hermanitas en el Salvador.

How does your business/business idea relate to your life? 
I’m a painter. That is who I am. It’s my essence. I live to paint.

My job is done with my blood, sweat and tears. Painting requires physical and mental efforts. My education prepared me in so many ways, offering me the necessary training that has shaped my painting career. I have a large network, specifically in the Mission: People know me because of the nature of my work, although my time to socialize is short because my attention is focused on my art projects. “Tanto el Arte y tan poco el tiempo.” (“So much art, but time is short.”)

Why should potential customers invest in small businesses?
Because I pay attention to each client’s requests, desires and preferences, I offer a quality job at accessible prices. More than a job, my work is an expression of my passion for painting. 

Where do you see your business in five years?
I am preparing my own exhibition, working tirelessly to create new projects. I dream of a workshop, where community members express themselves via art practical skills, offering them the space to reflect and transform their lives. 

What do you love about the Mission?
The Mission offers me great experiences with people, places and cultural activities that remind me of my homeland. My best customers are here in the Mission. For example, almost every month I change the window design of La Major Bakery. Using my talent and dual-culture knowledge, I paint the windows according to Latino and U.S. celebrations.

The Mission is my neighborhood. I belong here.





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