Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific Northwest » Judith F. Baca: 1946—: Muralist, Visual Artist, Educator Biography - Raised In A Female Household, Began Working With Underprivileged Children, Launched Great Wall Project, World Wall Established In Jerusalem

Judith F. Baca: 1946—: Muralist, Visual Artist, Educator - Launched Great Wall Project

angeles ethnic california city

Baca's next project, and the one for which she was best known, was the Great Wall of Los Angeles, a mural that provides 2,435 running feet of art. To create the Great Wall, more than 400 young people, ages 14 to 21, worked for seven summers, from 1976 to 1984. Baca described on her website how she "coordinated the efforts of scholars, oral historians, local artists, and hundreds of community members to create one of the nation's most acclaimed monumental cultural projects dealing with interracial relations." Baca conceived the Great Wall as a tribute to California. At more than 13 feet in height and nearly half a mile in length, the Great Wall tells the story of Los Angeles's history from Neolithic times through the end of the 1950s.

The wall also captures the ethnic diversity of the many groups that shaped California's history, and thus, it narrates a story that is less well known than the stories of the gold rush era with which so many people associate California's chronicle. In an essay that she wrote for Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Baca told of the destruction of many of the old ethnic neighborhoods and landmarks as Los Angeles began to sprawl to meet population demands. In particular, Baca noted the concreting of the entire Los Angeles River, upon whose banks the city was originally founded. The site of all this concrete provided Baca with the site for her Great Wall: "Just as young Chicanos tattoo battle scars on their bodies, the Great Wall of Los Angeles is a tattoo on a scar where the river once ran. In it reappears the disappeared stories of ethnic populations that make up the labor force which built our city, state, and nation." From these words, it is clear that Baca used her mural as a way to resurrect what the city was destroying in its everlasting expanse of cement—the city's diverse ethnic and cultural history.

While still working on the Great Wall, Baca founded the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in 1976. Although located in Venice, California, SPARC has maintained a website that has provided extensive information about Baca's commitment to public art. The creation of the website has helped to bring Baca's work to both a national and an international audience, which further emphasized the value of her mural projects to an audience that extended beyond Los Angeles. For instance, the work on the Great Wall established the importance of working with diverse ethnic and social groups to create public art, and as such, it was an idea that could be applied to a more global project. This experience, which led to the creation of SPARC, then led to Baca's plan in 1987 for the creation of a World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear. Baca was inspired to undertake this huge project after reading Jonathan Schell's, Fate of the Earth.

The themes of the World Wall included global interdependence, peace, and an end to racial hatred. Unlike the Great Wall of Los Angeles, which was a permanent part of the Los Angeles landscape, the World Wall was a portable mural, consisting of seven 10-by-30-foot panels, arranged in a 100-foot semicircle. The advantage of this portability was inherent in its themes—a mural that was global in nature must reach a global audience. As the World Wall traveled around the globe, new sections were added by artists in each of the countries it visited.

Judith F. Baca: 1946—: Muralist, Visual Artist, Educator - World Wall Established In Jerusalem [next] [back] Judith F. Baca: 1946—: Muralist, Visual Artist, Educator - Began Working With Underprivileged Children

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