One of America’s leading visual artists Dr. Judith F. Baca has been creating public art for four decades. Powerful in size and subject matter, Baca’s murals bring art to where people live and work.  In 1974, Baca founded the City of Los Angeles’ first mural program, which produced over 400 murals and employed thousands of local participants, and evolved into an arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). She continues to serve as SPARC’S artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the UCLA@SPARC Digital/Mural Lab, employing digital technology to promotes social justice and participatory public arts projects. She is an emeritus Professor of the University of California Los Angeles, where she was a senior professor in Chicana/o Studies and World Art and Cultures Departments from 1980 until 2018.

Beginning with the awareness that the land has memory, she creates art that is shaped by an interactive relationship of history, people and place. Baca’s public artworks focus on revealing and reconciling diverse peoples’ struggles for their rights and affirm the connections of each community to place. She gives form to monuments that rise up out of neighborhoods. Together with the people who live there, they co-create monumental public art places that become “sites of public memory.”

Baca has stood for art in service of equity for all people. Her public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and immigrant communities, throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues.

Her most well-known work is the Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is located in San Fernando Valley, the mural spans half a mile and still is a work in progress engaging another generation of youth. The mural-making process exemplified community involvement, employing more than 400 youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds, artists, oral historians and scholars. In 2017 the Great Wall of Los Angeles received national recognition on the National Registry of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District named a school after her called the Judith F. Baca Arts Academy, located in Watts, her birthplace. She is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship and over 50 awards from various community groups.

“I want to produce artwork that has meaning beyond simple decorative values. I hope to use public space to create public voice, and consciousness about the presence of people who are often the majority of the population but who may not be represented in any visual way. By telling their stories we are giving voice to the voiceless and visualizing the whole of the American story while creating sites of public memory.”  

– Judy Baca


I am beginning to believe I am a political landscape painter. I have always known the value of art as a tool for transformation both personal and political. What I have had to learn through being attentive to my own curiosities and artistic focus, is that I choose often to use land as my method of recording memories and stories in my paintings and murals.

The concept of the Land’s memory is not new for me. I can first remember my thoughts that the land could remember all that had occurred in a particular place when I was a small child. I walked to elementary school across hot fields of weed and grasses in the burning Southern California sun through agricultural fields. A plant grew in the fields that we called “clocks” and as children we would snatch a tiny stem and hold it to the light, each child watching the slim weed with a seed at its end, release small hair like outgrows to turn the seed into the earth and plant it. The stem began turning, as soon as it was separated from the pod on which it grew. Sometimes the wind would snatch the seed from our tiny fingers and it would become airborne planting itself despite our interventions.

I still don’t know the official term for this weed, so common in the San Fernando Valley were I grew up. My home was called Pacoima, named by the original people, and in open fields the clocks still grow there, despite the fact that Pacoima gained a reputation as a dangerous barrio. Long ago, we stood in a circle each with our tiny seed stem held high and raced each other to see whose stem could turn the most times. As we watched the amazing plant literally twist in our fingers, it was like the turning of a hand on a clock.

I knew then, that there was an intelligence to living and growing things and to the earth that nurtured them. I would pass along trails and the temperature would change from hot to cold and sometimes there were stories associated with the temperatures of different places. This slight incline in the path was cold. It harbored a dark secret because someone once found human bones there. We would shout the story to each other. which never ceased to scare us, even when told repeatedly. The story was recalled by our passing through the cool spot.

I thought the land was, nevertheless, recording all that had occurred there in the field. I needed only to listen to the land to hear the story. It could have been the fact that my grandmother was an indigenous woman who asked a plant’s permission to transplant it. Or when taking a clipping from a branch of plant, she spoke kindly to the plant and asked first if it did not mind, she would coach a new plant from it. Everything she touched grew in coffee cans on our porch, before they were replanted into our lush garden. This did not seem unusual to me. It was normal.

– Judy Baca

Audio of Judy Baca’s Grandmother


What sets Baca’s work as a visual artist apart from many other artists, is an inspired ability to teach and a creative pursuit of relevancy in developing educational and community based art methodologies. Baca has stood for art in the service of equity for all people and the integration of one’s ethics with creative expression. Baca is a painter and muralist, monument builder, and scholar who have been teaching art in the UC system since 1984. She was the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) which was has been creating sites of public memory since 1976. She continues to serve as its artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the UCLA@SPARC Digital/Mural Lab, employing digital technology to create social justice art. Baca’s public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly, LGBT and immigrant communities. Throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues, Baca’s projects have often been created in impoverished neighborhoods that have been revitalized and energized by the attention these works have brought and the excitement they have generated. Underlying all of Baca and SPARC’S activities is the profound conviction that the voices of disenfranchised communities need to be heard and that the preservation of a vital commons is critical to a healthy civil society. Baca’s work channels the creative process of monument design to develop models for the transformation of both physical and social environments in public spaces. And they are monumental, both in space and time: The Great Wall of Los Angeles is ‘tattooed’ along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley and employed over 400 at risk youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members. The Great Wall depicts a mile long multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. It was begun in 1976 and plans are underway for its next four decades of evolution. Baca’s artworks are as much about the process of how they’re made as they are about the end result. She begins as an artist from the awareness that the land has memory that must be expressed and creates art that is shaped by an interactive relationship among history, people and place, that marks the dignity of hidden historical precedents, restores connections and stimulates new relationships into the future. Baca’s public artworks focus on revealing and reconciling diverse peoples’ struggles for their rights and affirm the connections of each community to that place. She gives form to monuments that rise up out of neighborhoods, rather than being imposed upon them. Together with the people who live there, they co-create monumental public art, places that become “sites of public memory.”

Portions of this bio taken from Nina Simons co-founder of the Bioneers biographical sketch of Judy Baca. The Bioneers are engaged citizens from all backgrounds and fields who focus on solving our world’s most urgent problems within a framework of interdependence by networking scientists, artists, scholars and others internationally to work together.

Curriculum Vitae

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I am an interdisciplinary artist and scholar who works in large-scale monuments produced for public sites, locally, nationally and internationally. I have in the process of creating my work been engaged in the development of collaborative methods to arrive at consensus between communities in conflict. Often this work has the intention of reclaiming the “commons” or sites of public memory for communities. My recent work has included the development of new multimedia and technologically based methods of community engagement and visualization through the use of film, 3D animations, augmented reality and social media. My artworks have moved increasingly toward the architectural in scope and scale.

– Judy Baca


Full Professor IX, Chicana/o Studies and World Arts and Cultures Departments, University of California, Los Angeles, California 1994-present

Full Professor IX appointment to Chicana/o Studies (CS) and World Arts and Cultures (WAC) departments in 2014. Full Professor VIII appointment in 2010. Joint appointment to WAC department in 2002. Appointed to Vice-Chair of the Cesar E. Chavez Chicana/o Studies Center in 1998. Full Professor VII appointment to CS and WAC departments in 1996.

Full Professor, Visual and Public Art department, California State University, Monterey Bay, California 1994-1996

One of the 13 Founding faculty members for the University. Developed the Visual and Public Art Program currently implemented. Designed conversion of military tank buildings into mural studios.

Consultant, Antioch University, Los Angeles, California  2006

Developed a Masters in Fine Arts in Public Art and Community Cultural Development (MFA PACD).

Professor, Studio Arts department, University of California, Irvine, California 1986-1995

Professor appointment in 1992. Associate Professor appointment in 1990. Assistant Professor appointment in 1981. Chairman appointment to Studio Arts department in 1986.

Co founder and Artist Director, Social and Public Art resource center, Venice, California 1976-present

Co Founder and first executive director of Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) from 1976-1979, establishing one of the nations leading multiethnic arts organizations in community cultural development, public art projects focused on Los Angeles neighborhoods and in national and international venues. Artistic Director from 1981 to present. Artistic Director/Initiator of Neighborhood Pride Great Walls Unlimited Mural Program, a model citywide program that integrated 95 artists and the community, to produce over 105 murals citywide from 1988-2003.   3-Year Mural Training Program: Fipse Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education/ U.S. Department of Education that conducted with 5 art schools and universities at SPARC from 1984-1987. Muralist/Director of “Great Wall of Los Angeles” half-mile mural, which developed a participatory public monument and public education project on ethnic history of the United States focusing on California, incorporating over 400 youth, 100 scholars, and 100 artist assistants and was painted during the summers of 1976, 78, 80, 81, and 83.


2016     United States Artists Fellowship

2015     Distinguished Alumni Award, California State University, Northridge

2014     Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Judy Baca artifacts acquired for permanent collection.

2013     Latino Spirit Award for Achievement in the Arts, The California Latino Legislative Caucus

2012     Urban Legend Award, for Lifetime Achievement

2012     University of California Studies Consortium Award

2011     Trailblazer Award, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Los Angeles, CA

2011     “Judith F. Baca Arts Academy” in South Central Los Angeles named by LAUSD

2011        Outstanding Latino/a Cultural Award in Fine Arts, American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

2010        National Award in Public Art, Americans for the Arts

2009     Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez Activist Scholar Award, InnerCity Struggle, Los Angeles, CA

2009     “Through the Flower” Feminist Pioneer Award, Judy Chicago Foundation

2009     Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios & Champions of Change Award, Corky Gonzalez, Denver, CO

2009     Artist of Distinction Award, California Senator Jenny Oropeza                 

2008     Dedication of Cesar E. Chavez Monument “Arch of Dignity, Equality & Justice,” San Jose State University

2008     Keynote Address: Imagining America, Los Angeles, CA

2007     Madrina Award, UCLA Latino Alumni Association, Los Angeles, CA

2007     The Brian P. Copenhaver Award: Innovation in Teaching with Technology, UCLA

2006        KCET Local Hero of the Year Award: Women’s History Month, KCET

2004        Featured in May 24th issue of People Magazine, “Back to the Wall, Artist Judith F. Baca“

2002        National Hispanic Heritage: Educator of the Year Award, John F. Kennedy Center, D.C.

2001        Upton Sinclair Creative Vision Award, Liberty Hill Foundation


2007     Provincetown Residency: Gaea Foundation’s Sea Change Residencies

2006     Stanford University Residency: Diversity in the Arts Program

2005     McKoll Art Center Artist in Residence Fellowship

2004     John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

2002       Dartmouth College Residency: Distinguished Scholars/Artists, Montgomery Fellow

AWARDED COMMISSIONS (Works in Progress, selected)

2015-ongoingWatts 50th Anniversary” Public art commission via the office of Councilman Joe Buscaino and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to produce a new
mural within the neighborhood of Watts, in the 15th Council District, to commemorate the Watts Riots/Rebellion of 1965.

2015-ongoing               The Azusa Street Wall Project” Etchings and panel reliefs will be used to transform the wall into a memorial that brings the Azusa Street Revival to life and sets it within the larger context of the history and development of the Los Angeles area and Little Tokyo. Los Angeles, CA.

1986-ongoingWorld Wall:  A Vision of the Future Without Fear

Nine 10 ft x 30 ft. portable mural panels on canvas exhibited at the Smithsonian and multiple locations in the United States, in Joensuu, Finland and Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia, D.F Mexico.  The theme of the piece explores the material and spiritual transformation of a society toward peace.  A native artist adds a new panel from each country to which the Wall travels.  A new 10 ft. x 30 ft. panel as unveiled by an Israeli-Palestinian team at California State University, Monterey Bay in April of 1998, and a panel by the Mexican and Canadian teams have recently been added.

1976-ongoingThe Great Wall of Los Angeles

Restoration and Extension of the ½ mile mural and addition of a 90ft interpretive pedestrian Green Bridge” over the Great Wall of Los Angeles is currently in progress. The new bridge over Great Wall site will serve to make a relationship between social justice (the story of the people) and environmental justice (the story of the LA River) The bridge is an artist/ Architect collaboration and is constructed in part with debris from the LA River.  The Great Wall is located in the San Fernando Valley

AWARDED COMMISSIONS (Completed Works, selected)

2014       National Endowment of the Arts Award: Received funding to create design concept to extend “The Great Wall of LA” by 350 feet to reflect the 1960’s.

2013      Richmond Civic Center, Richmond CA: Commission to create a digital mural, “The Extraordinary Ordinary People of Richmond Ca.” 8ftx70ft in the Civic Center consisting of five identity cards representing the diverse people of what is known as the poorest, most violent, and most diverse city in the country.

2012      Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, L.A, CA: 18ft x 33ft Digital Mural sponsored by the Miguel Contreras Foundation, on impediments to graduation in the school with a 56% dropout rate. Installed in a cafeteria at the request of Maria Elena Durazo, of the AFL-CIO at the Contreras Learning Complex (MCLC). Participants included High School Students and UCLA students entitled: Gente del Maiz.

2011      Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural: Complete restoration.

2006-10      Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, CA: Commissioned by Kennedy Commission and LAUSD at the former Embassy Ballroom, where the Assassination of RFK took place. The Two-mural memorial to RFK, is entitled “Tiny Ripples of Hope” & “Seeing Through Others Eyes” on the topics of Hope and Compassion. Two arches are 15’x55’ at the Paul Schrade Library in the Ambassador Hotel, now converted into the new RFK LEARNING CENTER for K-12.

2010      Ataco, El Salvador: Invited by the US Embassy to serve as a cultural ambassador and to produce 300 feet of murals in the town of Ataco on UN designated issues affecting children of the coffee fields of El Salvador. 

2007-09      Dallas Latino Cultural Center, Dallas, TX: Mural Commission: “Danza de La Tierra” 10’ x 15’ Acrylic on canvas for entrance to performing art center.

2008      Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA: Visual presentation in collaboration with Mexico City’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the premiere of composer Steve Loza’s piece, inspired by David Alfaro Siqueiros “America Tropical.” Designed a10min 40ft projections in Disney hall accompanying performance of the Philharmonic. 

2004-08      San Jose State University, California: Sponsored by San Jose State University Art Committee to create “The Cesar Chavez Monument Plaza.” 25ft Arch containing six byzantine mosaics murals, 100ft plaza design of mosaic tiles. Began production in 2005. Unveiling and Dedication, September 2008.  

2005-06      “The Great Wall of Los Angeles:” Mural restoration.

2004-06      “For the Children Coming On: Freedom is an Empty Bus.” 50th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott Digital Mural. Produced in 4 cities; Installed at schools in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

2003-04      Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon. Completed restoration.100Ft x 25ft work originally commissioned by the Olympic Organizing Committee for the 110 freeway 4th street exit during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Selected by a committee of artists and public art specialists for preservation, Spring 2005. Five-month recovery led by Judith F. Baca and artist team.

2003      Central American Resource & Education Center, Los Angeles, CA: Digital mural, “Migration of the Golden People.” 37ft x 14ft on the migration of Central Americans to Los Angeles’ Pico Union district located at CARECEN on Hoover and 7th St. Created with the Central American community including youth, scholars, and their families.

2002      Durango Mural Project: La Memoria De Nuestra Tierra: Recollections.”Commissioned by the Latin Education Project for the City of Durango Fine Arts Center. 25ftx 35ft Digital Mural with Southern Ute, Anglo and Chicano Youth of Durango Colorado to mitigate conflict between the groups. The work recalls each groups unique relationship to what is known as either “Mother mountain” or “Silver Mountain” central to the Durango landscape depending on when your family arrived in Durango.

2000      Denver International Airport, Central Terminal, Colorado: Commissioned to create “La Memoria De Nuestra Tierra: Colorado” (The Memory of Our Land). 10ft.x 55ft. digital mural on aluminum substrate. “The Memory of Our Land” explores Chicano/Mexicano history of the southwest, in particular the passage through El Paso, the “Ellis Island” of the Southwest, in the 1919-23 Mexican migration north to Colorado. This work represents the artist’s family story of migration from Chihuahua to Colorado.

RECENT EXHIBITIONS (Group Shows, selected)

Oct.11 – Nov. 22, 2014                          Maestros y Mas (where we began): 12th annual Aztlan Exhibition, dA Gallery, dA Center for the Arts, Pomona,

March 17 – May 14, 2014                     Women in the State of Grace: Transforming Adversities to Resounding Victories!, Ventura College, Santa Paula, CA

March 7 – March 30, 2014 Mujer! (Woman!), Museum of Ventura County. Panel: Women in the Arts, Tool Room Gallery, Bell Arts Factory, Ventura, CA

Aug.16, 2013 – Jan. 5, 2014                 LA Woman: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Forest Lawn Museum, Los Angeles, CA

April 27 – May 26, 2012                         Urban Legends 45 Years of Public Art Around the World, LA Mart and Design Center, Los Angeles, CA

January 22 – May 20, 2012              LA RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980: From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA (Getty Foundation’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980)

Dec. 15, 2011 – Jan. 31, 2012         Lasting Legacies: Chicano/a Artes during the 60s and 70s, La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes, Los Angeles, CA

Oct. 16, 2011 – Feb. 26, 2012         Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (Getty Foundation’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980)

Oct. 1, 2011 – Feb. 13, 2012          Under The Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA (Art Talk: January 2012)

Sept. 9, 2011 – Jan. 1, 2012                  Adelante! Mexican American Artists: 1960s and Beyond, Forest Lawn Museum, Glendale, CA

Oct. 31, 2010 – Jan. 31, 2011         The Artists Museum: 147 of Los Angeles most influential Artists, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA. Curated by Jeffery Deitch.

Sept. 24, 2010 – Jan. 9, 2011          Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, California

Oct. 4, 2008 – Jan. 18, 2009           WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, 1965-1980, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


California State University, Northridge — Masters of Fine Art, 1979

California State University, Northridge — Bachelors of Fine Art, 1969