What you can do!
Please help us show our support for the mural remaining at its original site. You can make a quick call to The Help Group’s VP/Public Affairs, John Farrimond, or contact Councilmember Jack Weiss at District 5 where the mural is located. Please let them know that you support the mural and encourage them to preserve one of many endangered murals in Southern California being lost to building ownership change, tagging, or city policy. John Farrimond can be directly reached at (818) 779-5212. Councilmember Jack Weiss can be reached by phone at (213) 473-7005, by fax at (213) 978-2250 or email at email@example.com. Letters can also be written to Councilmember Weiss at 200 N. Spring Street, Room 440 Los Angeles, CA 90012.
On July 16, 2008 pursuant to the Visual Artist’s Rights Act “VARA” and the California Artist Preservation Act (CAPA) the artist John Weber received 90 day notice of intent to remove the mural. The letter was sent by Mr. John Farrimond, VP of The Help Group.
The Help Group’s position is that the mural it is not consistent with their mission and non-sectarian status. Although the artist is willing to work with The Help Group and has shared with them that “the mural is in no way “sectarian” and that I might be willing to modify it, by agreement, to further remove specific symbols which you believe to be “sectarian.” In keeping with SPARC’s 32 year old tradition, the way the mural was originally designed and vetted had deep community involvement and participation. It makes absolutely no sense that this mural would not be appropriate as a teaching and learning tool to all children.
Here’s what SPARC’s Founder/Artistic Director Judith F. Baca writes about this:
“What is important to note is that the community around this mural has a large percent of JEWISH residents. We held community meetings and brought people together to discuss the content of the mural. It is a mural not contracted for a specific group who purchased it as a vanity piece for their building but public monies paid for a work by a major artist, conceived in a community process and vetted through public review. It is a specifically focused work for a community that wanted the work and had opportunity to express approval or request changes. This is the SPARC process. The mural was approved by the Cultural Affairs Commission. It is not a privately contracted work. It also is a universal story and relevant to all people including the children who will use the new building. What is the “help group” teaching the children by destroying art? Who are they helping but themselves at our expense.”
-Judith F. Baca, July 21, 2008
A Brief statement from artist John Pitman Weber about the significance of “Toward Freedom” 1992:
“There is a LOT more that can be said about the specific images, not one of them is there by chance or personal whim, they all tie together, starting with the references to the Sephardic synagogues at the eastern end-remember it was being designed in 92, the 500 anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews and the “Moors” from Spain, a tragedy which changed the history of Europe, of North Africa and the Balkans, of the “new” world and of Spain forever. And then the 10 plagues, shown as if in Grenada style tile work and so forth. It was all thought through. The exile image (woman carrying a mattress, girl carrying a suitcase,) was based on a combination of Salvadoran and African refugee images, and so on. Let me know if you want a step-by-step explanation of the imagery. I don’t think that providing that makes it either more or less “Jewish”- although certain details were used in order to code the mural for specific ethnicities within the Jewish community (the traditional floral pattern at the West, dance section, is from the middle east, though it is not a specifically Jewish pattern- I had used it one year earlier on an Islamic community center outside of Paris)—the intent was to touch on UNIVERSAL themes of human history, which resonate in the Haggadah (Exodus) story, but also in the histories of virtually every group in the US whether they got here as immigrants or as enslaved or conquered peoples. The use of the Exodus story by so many groups seems to confirm that resonance.”
-John Pitman Weber, December 7, 2007
Daily News Article: Mural of Jewish exodus could soon be whitewashed – July 25, 2008.
89.3 KPCC Report by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez