Overnight sensation poet laureate gets a mural in Hayes Valley

Overnight sensation poet laureate gets a mural in Hayes Valley
Image: @nicolehaydenart via Instagram
By Joe Kukura - Published on January 29, 2021.

Well, that was fast. Just five days after the youngest-ever poet laureate to speak at a presidential inauguration Amanda Gorman electrified the country with her words, Gorman now has a mural in Hayes Valley depicting her in the exact same yellow coat and red hat from her unforgettable January 20 address.

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The mural at a facility run by the SF Zen Center is by local commercial artist and muralist Nicole Hayden, and the piece was already going up just two days after the inauguration. Passersby noticed and took snapshots like the one seen below, often stopping her to commend her on the project. “I’m used to working and talking,” Hayden told the Chronicle. “I’ve done a mural in one day.”

Surprisingly, the mural was not originally supposed to depict Gordon. The SF Zen Center has been adding a series of Black Live Matter murals in previous months, and the center had originally commissioned Hayden to paint a mural of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. That plan changed after Gorman read her poem. 

“I told her Amanda Gorman is the right person to put on the wall mural,” SF Zen Center teacher Arlene Lueck told the Chron, of her decision to change the mural plan. “Her words and her presence sparked a truth and goodness that we have been longing for since Obama left office.”

And so Gorman appears just as she did before the country on the day she became an instant star, except with a set of butterflies fluttering around her emotive arms. Yet Hayden did not paint those butterflies. They were already painted there, and Hayden simply incorporated them into the work.