Artist Judy Baca


When I first became aware of the Chicano Movement was watching the walk-outs in East Los Angeles. I watched on television and began to wonder and question what I was doing as an artist. I came to muralism by virtue of writing in the street.

I remember specifically one piece of writing that was very influential and someone had scrawled in giant words, “I would rather live one year as a lion than a hundred years as a lamb.” And when I saw that I thought look at that, this is the most powerful thing, its public, its not on a canvas, nobody owns it, and yet it is speaking to the community. And I thought that is what we should be doing, making images that speak to the community.

Sy Griven was a man who believed in urban wildernesses. He came from the Kennedy administration and became director of Parks and Recreation in Los Angeles. And he saw me doing this [mural] work and I thought he was going to tell me to stop because I was

Wall Grafitti "One Day as a Lion"

ruining his park walls. So I was prepared to be scolded. Instead he said, “What are you doing and how can we do more of this? How can we bottle this?”I said I could use some more paint and scaffolding. He ended giving me a job as the director of the Eastside murals.

By 1974, we had a full blown mural project. We were able to give artists things that they needed to produce their works throughout the city.

The reason I made the images I made when I made the Great Wall was that I was pissed off. I was pissed off that I could not find the kinds of historical records that would say what we had contributed to society. So, the great wall is a great giant testament to interracial harmony.

Judy Baca and Muralist Team

It’s a history that includes the story of the people, people that have been left out of the history books for the most part. It examines what was not told in that history and it looks very specifically in the face of things like Chavez Ravine, or the story of the Zoot Suit riots or for that matter the black coveted laws of Los Angeles. It tells the story of race but it also tells the great history of amazing people who came through great struggle to contribute to our society.