Meet the Artists Behind the FMHI-SF Kapwa Mural, the First SOMA Pilipinas Mural in the District!

Artists of the mural at 595 Bryant -- Samantha Schilf and Monica Magtoto

Artists of the mural at 595 Bryant -- Samantha Schilf and Monica Magtoto

Completed in May and officially opened Friday June 8 at 6 PM, the bright and beautiful FMHI-sponsored mural at 595 Bryant adorns the rooftop of Mestiza, the Filipino-inspired taqueria that’s also a proud member of the SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District.

A powerful product of community collaboration, the mural appropriately celebrates the Filipino value of Kapwa — the value of fellowship and inner unity between all persons. Artist Samantha Schilf explains:

“For me, Kapwa means fiercely caring for another person, because you see yourself in them. Our team hosted five separate workshops at Galing BataWestbayFilipino Mental Health InitiativeUnited Playaz, and Undiscovered SF, asking community members: ‘What does Kapwa mean to you? What does Kapwa look, sound or feel like? How can we use Kapwa to end the stigma on mental health?’ Their responses helped us appreciate that when we openly talk about mental health with our friends and family, we are healing ourselves, one another, and our ancestors,” Sami said.

Addressing the stigma of mental health in the Filipino community centered the team’s approach to the mural — a direct response to the concerns raised by the community in the workshops that Sami and her team hosted.

“This project started in the fall of 2017, when I first joined the Filipino Mental Health Initiative. I’ve been a muralist and a mental health advocate for the past six years, and so this was a natural fit to bridge my passions with the amazing work that FMHI has been doing! Today, Filipinx's face unique challenges when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, and often this conversation is hushed and stigmatized. However, being vocal about our unique experiences surrounding mental health allows us to break the stigma, and find ways to support those who may need it,” Sami said.

For both Sami and FMHI — including Program Coordinator Rey Novicio — one of those ways to support mental health is through accessible public art that represents the spirit of the people who comprise the community.

“Since I joined FMHI. Rey and I have shared a vision for continuing FMHI's mission, to promote mental health in the Filipino community by bringing the conversation about mental health to the community through the arts,” Sami said.

“The mural really amplifies SOMA Pilipinas' mission to provide culturally responsive art that addresses the needs of the community so that we can thrive and sustain. It is such a great honor that SOMA Pilipinas supports this FMHI mural project, because it tells me that we as a people are united to create art that’s beautiful and also deeply cares for the wellness and wellbeing of the Filipino and Filipino-American community,” Rey said.

Created by both Sami and her fellow artist Monica Magtoto, the work is visible from the freeway and street level as well, as the Mestiza patio, presenting a peaceful energy that’s meant to empower all who engage with it.

“I painted this mural in honor of the Filipinx community, for the people who walk or drive along this route daily to work, school or other parts of their journey, so they might catch a glimpse of the beauty, strength, resilience, and values of our culture. I wanted young girls of color to be able to see themselves represented in public art and know that our stories have value, and are works of art in their own right. I wanted to inspire the next generation of storytellers and artists to use their voice and talents to heal and make meaningful change in their lives and in their communities,” Sami said.

Building community and sacredness of place is one of SOMA Pilipinas' chief aims; in this way, hosting the mural at Filipino-owned Mestiza Taqueria helps reinforce the biggest strength of our Cultural District -- our people power.

"Creative expressions  are so important to the identity of a neighborhood -- whether its food, music, or art.  There is a lot of power in the tangible and intangible ways that works like the mural and the food we create at Mestiza encourage and inspire social connection," said Deanna Sison, Owner of Mestiza.

PeoplePaul BarreraPeople