Environmental Muralist Mona Caron is an Extraordinary “Artivist”

Today is the anniversary of the unveiling of the Duboce Bikeway Mural, a 6,000 square foot mural painted on buildings adjacent to the first street segment of San Francisco to be converted into a bike path. The painting celebrates the city’s reduced carbon footprint as it makes biking more accessible; it depicts a biker’s route from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, with homages to alternative transportation activists and movements throughout. The theme of environmental activism, as well as the practice of putting huge paintings on the sides of buildings, are both central to the mural’s lead artist, Mona Caron. 

Mona Caron is an American painter and activist, known for her depictions of plants and flowers which scale the sides of skyscrapers and stretch across  buildings that are hundreds, even thousands, of feet. Often, Mona creates these murals as a form of environmental activism (which she describes on her site as “artivism”). She has also been known to create large hand-painted portable murals, which are held up during various protests across the world like the New York Climate March of 2014 and the demonstrations at the Climate Summit in Paris in 2021. 

Another purpose for Mona’s wall murals is community engagement. Often, her murals depict the history of the city where the building is, encouraging the community to reflect on both the past and the future of their city. She has created several such murals globally: one, a birds-eye view of San Francisco’s Market Street depicted over eight time periods, another, a 180-foot mural commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Water War in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

One of Mona’s most well-known projects is the WEEDS project, in which she depicted urban weeds on the sides of large buildings all over the world — in Lisbon, Portugal, Gutenberg, Sweden, São Paolo, Brazil, Denver, Colorado, and beyond. As she described on her website, the WEEDS project “is a series of paintings of urban weeds, created as a tribute to the resilience of all those beings who no one made room for, were not part of the plan, and yet keep coming back, pushing through and rising up. I look for clandestine plant life in the city streets. When I find a particularly heroic specimen growing through a fissure in the pavement, I paint it big, at a scale inversely proportional to the attention and regard it gets.”

The WEEDS project is also meant to celebrate the people living in the community surrounding the buildings, especially indigenous populations, who are resilient like the weeds. In one piece, Marskros – Grow Together, Mona even depicts the residents of the building she paints on at the roots of the flower. In an interview with FF2 contributor Jessica Bond, Mona shares that, “the piece showcases a large-scale dandelion growing due to the strength of the apartment building’s residents.” As Jessica goes on to describe, “Ultimately, [Mona] redefines the previous idea of what a ‘weed’ is to highlight how a neighborhood can grow strong like dandelions despite their conditions through diversity and a sense of community.”

Mona’s activism takes place on a wide scale — both literally and metaphorically. The impact that Mona’s work has on whichever community she visits is just as beautiful as her murals themselves. 

© Julia Lasker (12/7/23) Special for FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Read Jessica Bond’s interview with Mona Caron here. 

Learn more about Mona Caron here. 

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured photo: Casey Camp Horinek (Oklahoma) and Gloria Ushigua Santi (Sapara, Ecuador) standing in mutual solidarity (in front of their respective portraits by Mona Caron). Photo courtesy of the artist and used with permission.
Middle photo: “Duboce Bikeway Mural” by Mona Caron. Photo courtesy of the artist and used with permission.
Bottom photo: Portrait of the artist Mona Caron. Photo by Dustin Fosnot. Photo courtesy of the artist and used with permission.
Tags: artivism, Duboce Bikeway Mural, female activist, female artist, female painter, Mona Caron, San Francisco Bikeway, WEEDS

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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