UCLA Professor Wants to Turn Great Wall of Los Angeles Into living museum


Los Angeles has a long and colorful history of racial and gender revolution.

In the 1970s, Judy Baca, a local artist gathered fellow members of the craft to preserve LA’s history and culture in the form of a wall – the Great Wall of Los Angeles.

The wall runs a half mile long along the Tujunga Wash Flood Control Channel in the San Fernando Valley.

Baca, a professor from the Department of World Arts and Cultures, and the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies in the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) is now leading the restoration of the Wall after many years since it was first made.

The wall represents murals about the area’s history from ethnic, prehistoric events to those in the 1950s. The painting began in 1974 and was finished around 1978. Over 400 people, many young students and their families, worked together to make the wall a reality.

The wall is taken care of by the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), led and founded by Judy Baca. In 2013 and 2014, SPARC received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Now, though, instead of the just preserving the wall, Baca and her co-workers want to restore the wall’s purpose and turn it into a living museum.

The Judith F. Baca Arts Academy, which opened five years ago, sits just a few blocks from where Baca was born, and for her, the area has immense sentimental and historical value.

The area had witness two riots, with problems that have not yet been resolved. Baca says it’s time to address such issues and make the community grow and develop.

Baca and her UCLA students from her “Beyond the Mexican Mural” courses, the SPARC artists, for four years now, have been collaborating with her Arts Academy 6 th grade students to come up with the Emancipation Project, a mural to be placed in the Judith F. Baca Arts Academy.

The project is to be done within two weeks, and will showcase the young students’ struggles, triumphs, and aspirations. When the academy was built, Baca didn’t even know that it was named after her, as the school was built to be part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

When she found out, she was surprised to learn that the school didn’t even have an art curriculum, which she found ironic and disappointing.

The Emancipation Project will serve as part of the students’ new art curriculum and will, Baca hopes, enliven the former gray walls of the school.

Twenty-seven years after the first mural was created on the Great Wall of Los Angeles, Baca still continues to advocate for the arts in schools.

The arts curriculum and courses, according to her, is a way to preserve the area’s history, to promote its culture and society, and to help students find their passion and develop their talents.

In a personal message on the SPARC website, Baca says that she is neither a social worker or a teacher, although people consider her as both.

She acknowledges, though, that she wants to use her art for the betterment of her society.

Fortunately, others have taken up the campaign and are also using their artistic skills in the development of their communities.

Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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