By Matt Pawlik
You’ve heard of the great outdoors, but what about the great artdoors? We all know Los Angeles is a hiking haven — coastal, desert and mountain habitats are all easily accessible by trail — but our urban landscapes provide for some truly beautiful scenery too. My favorite? “The Great Wall of Los Angeles” by Judy Baca. Supported by the Social and Public Art Resource Center, the half-mile-long mural in the Tujunga Flood Control Channel chronicles the history of ethnic peoples of California from prehistoric times to the 1960s. This week, I visited Claudia Bosschaerts, SPARC’s social media and communications manager, to learn more about the cultural monument.
“It inspires people to learn about the real history,” Bosschaerts tells me, pointing to a beautiful painting of Chumash women next to a depiction of the legend of Califa. “It’s not what you’re going to find in a textbook.” As we take the walk under sycamores, palms and even pines, Bosschaerts and I experience hundreds of years of California history, from the founding of Los Angeles in 1781 to the Chinese Massacre of 1871 to the Mexican American heritage of Thomas Edison, symbolized by the Chichimeca corn goddess.
The project was started in 1975 with a beautification request from the Army Corps of Engineers, and it currently is in a research phase for expansion to modern times (there’s a bridge coming soon). A team of more than 400 contributed to Baca’s vision, including many students, some of whom were so inspired by the project that they became artists and activists.
“Allowing people to learn about themselves through history is so powerful,” Bosschaerts says. “By understanding the past, we can begin to understand the future.”
LACMA is currently showcasing a cool Snapchat augmented reality experience to view the wall from different perspectives along your walk. To see more works by Baca, check out her current “World Wall” MOCA exhibit (free), now through February 2023.