Highland Park AT&T Building Mural Finally Restored
She took all her friends to see it — that is until it became an eyesore covered in graffiti.
But today, that has changed.
The restored “History of Highland Park” mural on Meridian Street, near North Avenue 56, was unveiled Saturday morning by Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar (pictured below).
“To see it disappearing was a big heart break for me,” said Torres, 64, who has lived two blocks from the mural since moving to the neighborhood just north of Downtown Los Angeles. “I am so proud of it today.”
The mural was originally finished in 1978 but had suffered extensive graffiti and weather damage and was described by resident as “blighted.” The unveiling Saturday was the result of four years of effort by community organizations and Huizar to restore it.
The mural spans two sides of a building owned by AT&T Inc., which funded the $78,000 project. It is painted in rich sepia tones and depicts historical parts of the community, including streetcars that used to run to Downtown, Hispanic workers building a railroad and a Sparkletts water tower all woven together by indigenous flowers and plants.
The restoration project is the success of residents banding together not only to raise awareness but also to take action. Residents took part in a day-long cleanup project in January and took turns providing refreshments for the artists during the 40-day painting process this summer.
Several of the original artists, including Judy Baca, Joe Bravo and Sonya Fe, undertook the restoration.
“The graffiti and vandalism gave the impression that people in our neighborhood don’t care how they live — which is simply not true in Highland Park,” said Janet Dodson, director at-large of the historic council. “We wanted to show people that we can change the way we live and that the way to do that was to get the community involved.”
Highland Park is slightly more than 70 percent Hispanic, according to Census data, and though it’s a primarily residential neighborhood, York Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main road, is filled with Mexican restaurants and taco stands.
Currently in Los Angeles there is a ban on private murals, which was part of a sign ordinance that was passed in 1986. At that time city officials wanted to control what was displayed around Los Angeles and they have only been allowing city-appointed murals since.
Artists want that ban revoked.
Huizar and others on the city council are working to lift the ban and voted Wednesday to allow the drafting of a vintage mural permit for restoration projects such as this one. The proposal would help protect established works on private property from fines or removal from the city.
“I grew up with murals in Boyle Heights and I know how important they are to a neighborhood,” Huizar said. “We will lift the ban soon. We are going to do more for the city’s artists.”
Reach reporter Molly Gray here.
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