Billboards of the People

BILLBOARDS OF THE PEOPLE: Interview with Artist Erin Yoshi

An Interview with Artist Erin Yoshi

 by: Melanie Rose



Melanie Rose: How did you get started as an street artist/muralist?

Erin Yoshi: I have been creating art and painting since I was a child.  As I got older, I just wanted to paint bigger.  I grew up seeing the powerful mural movement in Los Angeles in the ’80s explode with huge pieces of artwork that showcased history, politics, culture, creativity and/or were just pretty to look at.  There were powerful women of color artists in and leading the movement including Judy Baca and Noni Olabisis, inspiring the next generation.  The graffiti movement was also booming with wildstyle pieces going up around the city.  As I started to travel, I was greatly influenced by the legendary Latino Muralist: Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, David Siqueiros and my all time favorite Jorge Camarena.  The combination of these influences made me want to start painting on the streets for a public audience.

MR: Why murals? What do they mean to you/others?

EY: Murals, if uncensored, are billboards of the people.  They can carry messages of culture, history, politics and hope.  They can be a powerful tool of expression.  It’s a platform of expression that is between the artist and the landscape.  One can say whatever they think, feel or want to share.  One can express the sentiments of their generation.

image: Erin Yoshi paints the first mural series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

image: Erin Yoshi paints the first mural series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

MR: What does art mean to you?

EY: Art has the ability to convey feelings and experiences.  It breaks boundaries of time, location, and can appeal to a broader audience that those directly associated.  It lives outside the box and doesn’t have rules.  That is why I love and respect those who are called to create it.

MR: How do you intend to involve the community?

EY: This mural has two community involvement junctions.  The 1st is through the brainstorming process to create the content and theme of the mural.  Community members are asked to give input into the design of the mural.  The 2nd is, some community members will be invited to paint portions of the mural with our team.  The first is the most important because it allows for the exchange of ideas and for the mural to represent AAWAA as authentically and rich as possible.

image: Cuidela Mural, Los Angeles. Courtesy of    The Estria Foundation   .

image: Cuidela Mural, Los Angeles. Courtesy of The Estria Foundation.

What about the mural are you most excited about?

EY: I’m most excited about partnering with AAWAA.  I know that many glass ceilings have been broken because of their work for women and women of color.  That Asian American Women today can advance farther in the arts than before, due to the commitment of building camaraderie among allies who recognize our creative potency.

What do you think this mural will do for the Asian American community, women artists, and/or the city San Francisco?

EY: I believe this mural is a landmark for breaking stereotypes and represents the power of building collectively.  The hope is to represent the legacy of AAWA while providing inspiration for the goals that are still trying to be achieved.  Women and Asian American Women are a recognizable force in the arts.  We have worked incredible hard for not only a seat at the table, but through collective organizing have slowly shifted the racial dynamics and male-dominated model to created new tables to sit at.  Today there are many women leaders in the arts, and some of them are Asian.  All that said, there is still much work to be done.


There’s still 3 more days to back Mural Muses and celebrate Asian American women in the arts! Check out the campaign page.

David Iskander