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San Francisco Chronicle: Emmy Lou Packard, chief assistant to Diego Rivera, gets her due at Richmond Art Center


Tony Bravo | July 1, 2022

Bay Area artist and mural advocate Emmy Lou Packard is the subject of a timely exhibition at the Richmond Art Center titled “Emmy Lou Packard, Artist of Conscience,” which centers her place in art history.

A native Californian who studied art at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1930s, Packard went on to work as famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s studio assistant, eventually living with him and his wife, Frida Kahlo. Packard became the chief assistant on Rivera’s “Pan American Unity” mural in 1940 created for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.

During World War II, Packard worked at the Fore ‘n’ Aft, the Kaiser shipyard’s newspaper in Richmond, and was known for drawing illustrations supporting causes like racial integration and voting rights. Packard also worked as a printmaker. One of her signature images, “Peace Is a Human Right,” depicts an Asian child, a Black child and a white child seated together around a sunflower; it became known around the world.

Packard was a pivotal supporter of the Mission mural movement and advocated for the preservation of the Coit Tower murals in the later 20th century. She was also a key figure in saving the Mendocino headlands.

Packard’s exhibition, curated by Robbin Légère Henderson and Rick Tejada-Flores, will be on view at the same time as “Diego Rivera’s America” and the “Pan American Unity” mural at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Emmy Lou Packard, Artist of Conscience”: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Through Aug. 20. Free. Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond,. 510-620-6772.

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

Top image: Emmy Lou Packard and Frida Kahlo in a photograph taken by Diego Rivera. Packard is the subject of the exhibition “Emmy Lou Packard, Artist of Conscience” at the Richmond Art Center.


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