Luis Cervantes, 1923-2005 – artist, painter, sculptor, philosopher, and muralist who inspired generations of artists.
“He was passionate about creating a message about one’s roots. ” Luis Cervantes and his wife, Susan Kelk Cervantes, opened the New Mission Gallery in the 1960s, and in 1977, they started Precita Eyes Muralists, whose mission is to produce urban community art through collaborations. Mr. Cervantes directed many of the nonprofit’s projects, including “The Cross of Quetzalcoatl” at San Francisco State’s student union, “The Precita Valley Vision” at the Precita Valley Community Center and “Si Se Puede” at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco.
Mr. Cervantes was born in Santa Barbara. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1942 and served in England, Belgium and France with the 358th Engineer General Service Regiment. Mr. Cervantes was among the invasion forces at Normandy on D-Day.
After World War II, Mr. Cervantes moved to San Francisco and found work as a custom mattress maker with the McRoskey Airflex Mattress Company, his employer until his retirement in 1992. He served as president of the San Francisco Furniture Workers Union for two years. Mr. Cervantes used his G.I. Bill scholarship to study sketching and sculpture at San Francisco State College and ceramic sculpture at the College of Marin and the San Francisco Art Institute.
His sculptures have been shown at the M.H. de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Cervantes, who abandoned ceramic sculptures in the 1970s to concentrate on painting with acrylics, taught at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco State, the Galeria De La Raza and other venues. His work is in the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum and many private collections.
In 1990, he and his wife participated in the Ecological Arts Collaboration, a cultural exchange between American and Russian artists. The couple visited Russia three times and produced two murals in St. Petersburg and one in Moscow. Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed April 6 “Luis and Susan Cervantes Day.”