[Mellon Foundation] Voices: Painting in the River of Angels

Grantmaking area Arts and Culture
Author Judy Baca
Photography Emily Shur for Mellon Foundation
Date March 11, 2021

A grant through the Monuments Project has enabled artist Judith F. Baca and her community collaborators to add chapters to the “Great Wall of Los Angeles.” In this guest essay, Baca describes the impetus behind the decades-long project.

Bienvenidos a El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles del Río de Porcincula, otherwise known as “El Lay” in street vernacular. I am a born and raised Angelita, increasingly a minority in our city of immigrants, where most Angelenos are now from elsewhere and do not know its original name or History.  

I was born in Watts, where I lived with my mother, grandmother, and two aunts, at a time when Watts was largely African Americans who migrated from the south to urban centers after the war. The 1965 Watts uprising, still charred into the city’s landscape, was one of the largest in American history, and was caused by the same inequities that led to subsequent uprisings in 1992. My first experience seeing art was watching Simon Rodia climb the towers in Watts (named “Nuestro Pueblo” by the artist) with broken dishes strapped to his belt to create one of Los Angeles’s first public artworks. Today there is a school named for me just five blocks from my family’s tiny one-bedroom duplex. In the intervening years, the community has shifted demographically in that Watts is now over 74 percent Latino, but it has remained largely unchanged in its poverty status and living conditions. The Judith F. Baca Arts Academy, an LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) school, is a statement from the community about their aspirations that their children be encouraged to defy expectation and to dream creatively. 

[Read the full article here]

Similar Posts