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Cultural Awareness In The Community

The Social and Public Art Resource Center

Mural painting in Los Angeles and Southern California demonstrates the potential of public art to become an important part of our cultural heritage. Though murals had been present in the area since the early 1900's, the Hispanic community has played the leading role in the mural painting revival that emerged from the national civil rights struggles of the 1960's. Murals became an important tool for social and political expression and a symbol of Los Angeles’ social and ethnic change and diversity. In the 1970’s, young artists in Los Angeles including Kent Twitchell, Judy Baca, and Alonzo Davis built on the legacy left by the Mexican painters of the 1930’s. Soon, a new generation of West Coast US muralists was creating work to represent contemporary ideologies.

Founded in 1976 by muralist Judy F. Baca, painter Christina Schlesinger, and filmmaker Donna Deitch, the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) is an arts centre that produces, preserves and runs educational programmes about community-based public art work. SPARC has three main areas of activity: production, education and preservation. SPARC’s signature piece, "The Great Wall", thought to be the world’s longest mural, was started in 1976 and completed in 1984 with the collaboration of 700 painters including 400 underprivileged teenagers. It stands 13-foot high, 2,470 ft long and runs for half a mile along the Tujunga canal in North Hollywood. The painting represents the history of ethnic peoples of California. SPARC is renowned for producing and promoting work that reflects the lives and concerns of America’s ethnically and economically diverse communities. The movement has created murals and other forms of public art in neighbourhoods throughout Los Angeles and more recently in national and international locations. Key to the Center is the deeply held belief that cultural expression is a basic human right and that everyone can participate in the creation of art.

“Division of the Barrios and Chavez Ravine” 1983 by Judy Baca, segment of the Great Wall mural in Los Angeles, USA (1940s - 1950s, Section 3). Sponsored by SPARC. (Photo Great Wall Images © Judy Baca 1976-2001)

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