Alma Landeta was working on another mural project in San Francisco’s Mission District, for Sour Cherry Comics, when they learned about the call for proposals.  

 “I can’t remember if a friend sent it to me or if I stumbled upon it on Instagram or what, but I knew I wanted to apply for sure,” says Landeta, a San Francisco multidisciplinary artist describing the SF LGBT Center’s search for a new mural for the side of its building at Market and Octavia streets.

Multidisciplinary artist Alma Landeta created the new artwork on the San Francisco LGBT Center with support and assistance from the queer and transgender community. (Photo by Anikara/Bridgette Wilkerson)

Says Landeta, “It’s such a hyper visible location. It’s such a significant community organization. Just everything about getting to make this mural felt like a dream.”

The dream-like feeling took the form of reality: Landeta’s vibrant work “Joy is the Fuel” — which reads “Joy is the fuel for our collective strength” and pictures a jubilant dance party — officially was unveiled on July 25.

“After I applied, I sort of forgot about it, and was just thrilled to get the call from them about wanting to work together,” says Landeta.  

Landeta refers to the SF LGBT Center’s mural project series committee: Director of Programs Jen Valles, Director of Cultural Programs Timothy Hampton and Senior Communications Manager Miguel Raphael Bagsit, who gave Landeta their wholehearted support. 

Landeta’s artwork often focuses on their identities as queer, nonbinary, mixed-race and Cuban American and their allowance of space to explore their personhood.  

 They share, “There’s a lot of ways that I kind of fall into these quote-unquote gray areas—in terms of race, in terms of gender, in terms of sexuality. And so there are some ways where I’ve felt I’ve had to kind of define that for myself. In doing so, it really seeps into my work in pretty big ways.” 

Landeta’s art presents aspects of their own identities as well as others, in turn championing visibility. 

“I’ve been really wanting to make work where folks feel seen and loved. And a lot of my work more recently has been dealing with the importance of bodily autonomy for my communities—for queer and trans people specifically,” they say. 

“Joy is the Fuel” depicts these communities, featuring friends of Landeta’s at various San Francisco dance parties, such as MANGO!, which is held at the Mission District’s El Rio. 

 For Landeta and friends, being on the dance floor in queer spaces holds particular significance: “In coming to be more comfortable expressing myself and my gender and really living fully as a trans nonbinary person, getting to be on that dance floor, I felt like I was just there surrounded by [a] community that I felt safe in.” 

 At the same time, Landeta recognizes the potential unsafe presence of dancing in a public queer venue. The Pulse nightclub incident that occurred in Orlando, Florida in 2016, along with recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric, give credence to their concern. 

Alma Landeta, left, and, SF LBGT Center staffer Miguel Raphael Bagsit pose with the completed “Joy Is The Fuel” mural. (Courtesy SF LGBT Center) 

“It’s something that I think about literally every time I go to a dance party. I feel hyper-aware that these spaces are under threat, that just by showing up, …we are in defiance in some ways, whether that’s a conscious choice that everyone there is making or not,” they comment. 

Every time one of these dance parties takes place and the people in the queer community move their bodies to the music, it matters. “Joy is the Fuel” celebrates that notion.

Landeta completing the mural by the unveiling event deadline also was cause for celebration. With help from friends—and in a true showing of queer unity—it came together. From stopping by so that Landeta could take a break, providing food or painting a section of the mural, their presence was invaluable. 

Landeta says, “I’ve had so many different hands of my friends on the actual mural, and that just brings me so much joy knowing that the piece really is about the queer community. Knowing that they’re not only reflected in it but they’re actually a part of making it is pretty incredible.”

Working on the mural, Landeta connected with Juan Manuel Carmona and Simón Malvaez, the artists behind “Queeroes”—the previous mural on the site depicting influential LGBTQ+ individuals, including local standouts Harvey Milk, Juanita MORE!, Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Honey Mahogany. 

Passing the mural torch, Carmona and Malvaez expressed appreciation for Landeta’s piece. 

Malvaez said, “I see my friends in your mural. I see my friends in this design. Even though I know it’s not literally them, there’s a way that it feels so familial and familiar.’” 

For Landeta, Malvaez’s response to “Joy is the Fuel” is meaningful and entirely on point. They say, “That’s exactly what I want all queer and trans people to feel when they see this piece. I want them to be like, ‘That’s me. That’s my people. That’s my community. That’s us, thriving and living.’” 

“Joy is the Fuel” is on the SF LGBT Center, 800 Market St., San Francisco. For more information about the center, visit (