Monday, June 8, 2009

Great Wall of Los Angeles

What: The Great Wall of Los Angeles
Where: San Fernando Valley, along Coldwater Cayon between Oxnard and Burbank Blvd.
Hours: Whenever the spirit moves you . . . although the view is better during daylight hours.
Cost: Nada
Why: Half a mile of Los Angeles art and history
More Information: Web Site

My Experience

The Great Wall of Los Angeles is a little-known monument to Los Angeles history painted along the inside wall of a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley. The mural was dreamed up in the 1970's as a part of a beautification project (a bike path and some foliage surround it), and, as a collaboration of over a hundred youths, artists, and historians, it has become a visual study in cultural relations in this diverse city.

The wall begins at the corner of Burbank and Coldwater Canyon with Prehistoric LA, and the journey toward Oxnard Boulevard takes visitors through the experiences of nearly every ethnic group who has found its way to LA, from the Chumash Indians, to the Spanish explorers, to the Chinese railroad workers, to the post-WWII Jewish immigrants. The Great Wall also acknowledges (sometimes sadly) the philosophies, movements, and minds that have governed Californians over the years.

The mural is bright, beautiful, and enlightening. It is, of course, in a flood control channel, so I could only view it through a chain link fence. I should also mention that it's not in an area that inspires peaceful contemplation. The trees and bike path do add something in the way of atmosphere, but you will not forget that you are sandwiched between an active street and a flood control channel. Nevertheless, it is worth making a quick stop.

Before I went, I read the "about" section of the website, which enabled me to recognize people and events in the mural that I might not have understood otherwise. But even if you choose to make a cold visit, you'll still get a lot out of it, especially if you paid attention in your American History class.

What I Missed

SPARC Walking Tour Guide of the Great Wall

If you really want to know all you can about the scenes in the mural and the work that went into creating them, you can contact SPARC (The Social and Public Art Resource Center) to purchase a Walking Tour Guide.

The 1960's and On
The Great Wall of Los Angeles is already the world's longest mural. But even with half a mile behind them, SPARC still has almost five decades to go. If you fall hard for this little monument of art, you can contribute to the work and restoration of the Great Wall through the web site posted above.