Writing on the Wall
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a nonprofit community-education and arts organization, was cofounded
by Baca in 1976 before she became one of the few tenured Chicana
professors of visual arts in the nine-campus University of California
system. Through SPARC, students create digital murals using Baca's
approach of delving deeply into a project through intensive research
before generating a single image.
learned that art is not about the final result; it's the process
that counts," says UCLA senior Jennifer Araujo. "Rather than just
making art and imposing it on the community, it's about including
the community in what is to be created."
six digital murals created for the California Plaza amphitheater
titled Witnesses to the History of Los Angeles, students tell the
personal histories of people of color - a Filipino farmworker; a
former slave who became a beloved community worker; a "cholo" in
other student murals hang in the community center of Estrada Courts,
one of the oldest housing projects in East Los Angeles. Baca and
15 students worked with residents to create the artworks. "The students
literally adopted these families. They ate Sunday dinners with them.
They listened to their stories," says Baca.
images that emerged from Estrada Courts are poignant symbols of
the people's lives: A photo of a young girl, seen against the backdrop
of a bullet-shattered window, dominates one work, while around that
stark frame are arrayed images of smiling families and children
at play, symbolizing hope for a more peaceful future.
latest student work ties directly into the rich history of mural-making
in Los Angeles, specifically a piece by the late Mexican muralist
David Alfaro Siqueiros, América Tropical. In 1932, Siqueiros, whose
work is considered on a par with that of Diego Rivera and José Clemente
Orozco, was commissioned to memorialize tropical America on an Olvera
Street building. Civic leaders envisioned a scene of lush jungle
beauty, Mayan temples and happy natives. While those elements emerged
as the work progressed, the finished mural - completed by Siqueiros
the night before its unveiling after he sent everyone else home
- offered a much harsher interpretation: a crucified Mexican Indian
with an eagle perched vulture-like above. Siqueiros would say later
that he never intended to portray "a continent of happy men, surrounded
by palms and parrots, where the fruit voluntarily detached itself
to fall into the mouths of the happy mortals." América Tropical
was almost immediately ordered whitewashed.