New South Berkeley murals “The Courage to Care”, by Harrison Rappaport and Bella Blu Campise, and “SPILL/DERRAME,” by Juana Alicia, © 2017. Photo: Juana Alicia

Painter and muralist Juana Alicia is one of two Berkeley artists in the running to design a specialty California license plate supporting reproductive rights.

On Tuesday, Berkeleyside reported that pro-choice organization NARAL had commissioned Miriam Stahl, illustrator and Berkeley High School teacher, to create an entry for the license plate design competition. The specialty plates will be sold by the DMV if a bill currently in the state legislature becomes law, and the proceeds will go to a state reproductive health program.

After publication, Berkeleyside reader Amber Evans pointed out that Stahl is not the only longtime Berkeleyan artist involved in the contest.

Alicia, a recently retired Berkeley City College professor, is responsible for many colorful murals around the Bay Area, often dealing with environmental politics. Her latest, painted in collaboration with her students, is in Berkeley on the side of Black & White Liquors on Adeline and Emerson Streets. The striking image of skeletal fish and streaks of oil was inspired by the Gulf oil spill and is dedicated to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Alicia said. It includes the words to a poem by her student Harrison Rappaport.

Despite her decades of experience as an artist — Alicia was part of the collective that decorated the Women’s Building in San Francisco — coming up with an entry for the license plate project was not easy.

“I work on a monumental scale. It was a case of having to edit, edit, edit,” Alicia said.

Juana Alicia’s license plate design is a portrait of a “strong woman” she admires. Photo: NARAL

She ultimately submitted a portrait of a female colleague she admires gazing out at a natural landscape. Alicia said the California landscape holds a lot of significance for her, as she spent her teenage years and young adulthood as a farmworker and United Farm Workers organizer in the Salinas Valley.

Alicia said she was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the license plate initiative.

“I thought it was a cool idea,” she said. “I think it’s important to represent women’s power and contributions in the state, country and world. I’m talking about all kinds of women, not just cis-gendered women — and women of color.”

Berkeleyside reached Alicia in Mexico, where she has been living with her husband since retiring in the spring. In the Yucatan, she is conducting research for a book and for a mural she will paint upon her return to the Bay Area in January. The Women’s Building project will also soon be documented in a book from Berkeley’s Heyday Books, she said.

Voting on the license plate designs is open at least until the end of July, and possibly through August and September, according to a NARAL spokeswoman. To vote, one must become a member of NARAL, but there are no associated obligations or fees, she said.

The third artist in the competition is Mimi Pond, a cartoonist in Los Angeles.

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...