'World Sources of Food' – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

'World Sources of Food'

A four paneled, brightly multicolored mosaic adorns the side of this popular grocery store. 


The moniker WPA stands for Works Progress Administration. This was a United States government-funded program started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. The scale and scope of these civic schemes varied, from the creation of roads and bridges to the establishment of public works of art. San Francisco is home to several of these latter ventures, including many murals such as The Beach Chalet and The Rincon Center.

Adding to this respected endeavor is a multi-paneled piece entitled: “World Sources of Food.” This is the work of the former mural director of the Works Progress Administration, John Garth. His piece incorporates the use of over 150,000 pieces of vitreous glass and tile from Italy and Japan.

The work of art tells the story of how food is transported from around the world. This vibrant depiction incorporates both humans and animals to convey a message. Garth is quoted as saying: “True art is the expression of a nation’s soul and a people are judged by the art they honor.”

The mural, along with the building of the Safeway grocery store it is attached to, was opened on June 24, 1959. This was the largest creation Garth ever made. Sadly, it is the only one remaining in situ that he designed for the WPA.

Viewed from a distance, the pixelated portrayal forms an almost photographic image. Located in The Marina District of San Francisco, this particular Safeway’s design would become known as the “Marina style,” featuring an arched entrance and an exterior wall made from a rocky facade.

Know Before You Go

The mural is located on the easterly wall, facing Laguna Street. Use caution and common sense when viewing, as it is adjacent to a public parking lot.

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May 24, 2023

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