Local muralist Joe Bravo--one of the key contributors to Judy Baca's History of Highland Park Mural at the corner of Ave. 56 and Meridian St.--remembers the first time the sprawling work of art was unveiled to the community in 1977.
"It was raining outside, and it was cold," he said. "We were all huddled inside the AT&T building with Mayor Tom Bradley. I don't think I had any idea I'd be back here again or that this would become an historic mural. As a young artist, you're always looking for the next thing."
For original artists Baca, Bravo, Sonya Fe and Arnold Ramirez, there would be many "next things," as each would go on to have their work shown in galleries around the world. Baca, in particular, would go on to complete the massive Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural in the summer of 1979.
The artists would eventually be called back, though, as years of vandalism and neglect would transform the iconic mural into an unrecognizable eyesore.
On Saturday, local Councilman José Huizar credited community groups like the and the Highland Park Heritage Trust for bringing the mural issue to his attention.
After nearly a half-decade of wrangling, Huizar's office was able to strike a deal through which AT&T--the owner of the building--would foot the $78,000 bill for the restoration effort.
"Today is the culmination of literally years of work," Huizar said.
For Baca--who coordinated the actual work of restoring the mural through the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC)--Saturday's ceremony was not only an opportunity to unveil the restored mural, but also one to state her dedication to maintaining it.
"Because we've used the best techniques possible, this mural can last another 40 years if maintained properly," Baca said.
She called for increased vigilence in the area and the cleaning of any vandalism--though the restored mural has been treated with a graffiti resiliant coating that should make tagging less of a concern.
"It's the old broken windows theory," Baca said. "If we don't take care of it, it just shows we don't care."
The Community's Mural
Spanning 250-feet, the History of Highland Park mural captures key icons in the neighborhood's history. Influential Arroyo artists William Lees Judson and Charles Fletcher Lummis are depicted alongside historic images of the Sparkletts bottling company and the old trolley car that ran through the neighborhood.
On the shorter portion of the mural that runs along Ave. 56, a group of teenagers who assisted in the original mural are captured in a candid moment leaning on a car beneath a Coca-Cola sign.
Raul Gonzalez--who worked extensively in the restoration effort--said that the youth of Highland Park were vital to the process of brining the mural back to life.
"We received a lot of support from the community while we were working on the mural," Gonzalez said. "The youth who came to help us are now playing a key role in preserving our murals."
Bob Bailey--who has lived directly across from the mural on Meridian St. since the early 1980s--said he was thrilled to see it restored to its originally beauty.
"Me and my wife are so stoked," Bailey said.