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Judy Baca

Presentation on Wednesday, October 30, 2014 •  Kurland Lecture Hall, Valley Performing Arts Center 

The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication presents Judy Baca, an artist, educator, scholar and activist who works in service of equity for all people.

A CSUN alumna, Baca received her Bachelor’s in 1969 and Master’s in 1980.  Her inspired career, noted for its educational and community-based art methodologies, is a lesson on the integration of ethics and creative expression.   Baca has worked at UCLA’s Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies since 1996.  She founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program, which evolved into the community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).  She continues to serve as the artistic director at the UCLA@SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital/Mural Lab, employing digital technology to co-create collaborative mural designs.


Judy Baca standing in front of mural

Judith F. Baca Artist, Educator, Scholar/Activist and Community Arts Pioneer  

“I want to produce artwork that has meaning beyond simple decorative values. I hope to use public space to create public voice, and consciousness about the presence of people who are often the majority of the population but who may not be represented in any visual way. By telling their stories we are giving voice to the voiceless and visualizing the whole of the American story while creating sites of public memory.”   Judy Baca

Baca is at the top of a distinguished list of artist creators.  What sets her apart from many other artists is an inspired ability to teach and a creative pursuit of relevancy in developing educational and community based art methodologies. Through a lifetime of achievement, Baca has stood for art in service of equity for all people.  She is a lesson for us on the integration of one’s ethics with creative expression, never compromising and never flagging in her devotion to a practice that is committed to public education for all and to pedagogical process for its participants.  Baca is a world-renowned painter and muralist, community arts pioneer, scholar and educator who has been teaching art in the UC system since 1981 (beginning at UC Irvine and from 1996 to today at UCLA Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies.)  She was the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) which was has been creating sites of public memory since 1976.  She continues to serve as its artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the UCLA@SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital/Mural Lab, employing digital technology to co-create collaborative mural designs.  

Baca’s public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and immigrant communities. Throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues, SPARC’s projects have often been created in impoverished neighborhoods that have been revitalized and energized by the attention these murals have brought and the excitement they have generated. Underlying all of SPARC’s activities is the profound conviction that the voices of disenfranchised communities need to be heard and that the preservation of a vital commons is critical to a healthy civil society.  

Baca’s work channels the creative process of monumental mural design to develop models for the transformation of both physical and social environments in public spaces. And they are monumental, both in space and time: The Great Wall of Los Angeles is ‘tattooed’ along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley and employed over 400 at risk youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members.  It is currently the world’s longest mural, at 2,740 feet long.  The Great Wall depicts a multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. It was begun in 1976 and plans are underway for its next four decades of evolution.

Baca’s murals are as much about the process of how they’re made as they are about the end result. She begins as an artist from the awareness that the land has memory that must be expressed and creates art that is shaped by an interactive relationship among history, people and place, that marks the dignity of hidden historical precedents, restores connections and stimulates new relationships into the future.  Baca’s murals and public artworks focus on revealing and reconciling diverse peoples’ struggles for their rights and affirm the connections of each community to that place. She gives form to monuments that rise up out of neighborhoods, rather than being imposed upon them. Together with the people who live there, they co-create monumental public art, places that become “sites of public memory.” 

Baca is one of the most remarkable public artists for social transformation in modern American history.  One of her most indelible quotes is: “Collaborative art brings a range of people into conversations about their visions for their neighborhoods and their nations. Finding a place for those ideas in monuments that are constructed of the soil and spirit of the people is the most challenging task for public artists in this time.” 

In 2010 she completed the Cesar Chavez Memorial at San Jose State University, and the Robert F. Kennedy monument at the Ambassador Hotel site (the site of Kennedy’s assassination), which is now the LAUSD K-12 RFK Community Schools.  She is currently working on a 60ft digitally painted mural for the Richmond Civic Center in Northern California and an interactive digital mural for the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex a social justice high school located in downtown Los Angeles.

----Taken from Nina Simons co-founder of the Bioneers biographical sketch of Judy Baca.  The Bioneers are engaged citizens from all backgrounds and fields who focus on solving our world’s most urgent problems within a framework of interdependence by networking scientists, artists, scholars and others internationally to work together. 

To learn about Baca and SPARC, visit: or
SPARC - 685 Venice Blvd.  
Venice, CA  90291 



[ Background conversations ]

>> Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Cynthia Rawitch. And I am the interim dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication. And it's my pleasure to welcome you this evening to this third and final for the year presentation of our Commerce of Creativity speaker series. I know many of you are familiar with these lectures from having attended before. And I thank you for your continued support for this program. If this evening's lecture is your first in our Commerce of Creativity series, our speaker will provide a great introduction, I believe, to one of our college's goals. To celebrate the women and men who exemplify the connection between the art of creative communication and the art of business, Commerce of Creativity. We strive to provide for our students an educational environment, programs that will help them become like our speakers are--leaders who make creative contributions in a commercial world. I'm glad to see that there are so many students here this evening. I believe more will be coming in. I applaud you for taking advantage of these opportunities to hear from the most esteemed members of the communities you will be going into when you leave our university. Your future professional communities. And to be inspired as you will be tonight by a CSUN alumni. Before we begin our program, I want to introduce one of our earlier distinguished speakers, brand architect and CSUN alum, Tom White. Where are you, Tom? Oh, way back there. Wave, alright? Tom was one of our speakers two years ago, I believe. And he also designed our Commerce of Creativity C2 brand and logo. Thank you very much. A special welcome, too, to the many faculty, staff, administrators and alumni who represent the university. As well as CSUN's other fine colleges--Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences, Technology, and more. Your interest and support inspire us to expand this program and to bring more and different speakers with each passing year. To tell you about tonight's speaker, I will introduce CSUN art professor, Mario Ontiveros. Mario is going to introduce Judy. Mario is an art critic, a curator, and assistant professor of modern and contemporary art history. His research examines issues of solidarity, empowerment, social belonging, and political obligation. And his writings focus on critical art practices since the late '60s, art produced alongside, within, and as part of the feminist, Black Power, Chicana-Chicano and international student movements, as well as the emergence of the HIV-AIDs activism and cultural activism in the United States. Mario recently curated an exhibition in our own CSUN art gallery and created the catalog for it. "This is Not a Self-Portrait: Reflections on Erasure, Belonging, and Solidarity, which focuses on eight Los Angeles-based artists who reconfigure the genre of self-portraiture. Most importantly for tonight's purposes, Mario has worked with and for Ms. Baca. Can you join me in welcoming Professor Mario Ontiveros? Mario?

[ Applause ]

>> Thank you. Thank you, Dean. Before I begin tonight, before I begin introducing our distinguished speaker, I would just like to take a moment to acknowledge the 45th anniversary of Chicana/Chicano studies at CSUN. Congratulations on that.

[ Applause ]

It's an honor to introduce Judy Baca. I owe her quite a bit. Here are a few words to describe her: Artist and organizer, educator and scholar, interventionist and community builder, activist, and mentor. Doing well at any one of these things clearly is worthy of praise. Yet even collectively, these do not adequately describe Judy Baca's extraordinary accomplishments. Baba is, and excels at, all of these of course. Yet she has also radicalized and reimagined the limits of each category. Since graduating from CSUN with her Bachelor in Arts in 1969, and then receiving her Master's in Art Education at CSUN in 1980, Baba has charted new philosophies of art. And developed new ways of linking theory and practice, form and content, activism and esthetics. She has organized centers of radical pedagogy, and forged keen skills to navigate local and national civic agencies. She has served on the front lines of activism. And created ways for imagining solidarity. You can tell where I received my inspiration from. Since 1996, she has been teaching at UCLA, the Cesar Chavez Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies. And also in 1996, she began the UCLA@SPARC Cesar Chavez digital mural lab. Which has re-conceptualized the processes of mural making with digital technology. She exhibits a tireless commitment to empowering, supporting, encouraging, and nurturing those near and far, individuals and groups, and communities and cities. As an artist, she is exceptional. Baca's work asks us to think about art's capacity to effect change. Baca's work encourages us to consider an important question, what can art do? Now, to ask this question is to recognize that cultural production is a social practice. That is, making art is not simply a product to serve desire, capitalism. Rather, it can transform the material realities of everyday life. Perhaps no other muralist painter, scholar, activist has encouraged us to understand art's entanglement in the social realm more than Judy Baca. And importantly and most radically, this understanding of what art can do is not limited to the viewers of her art work. That's typically where it stays. But with Baca's work, it's also an underlying issue of those collaborators working with her to imagine, develop, and produce many large-scale local and international projects. So grappling with art's potential to effect change has been central to her over 40 years of artmaking. In fact, it began right here at CSUN as she was graduating from our program. While her grandmother was looking at the recent graduate's artwork, she asked the young artist, what is it for? And Baca says, "That question really guided me from that point on. I knew my art had to have meaning or purpose beyond my self-gratification. And that it could speak to people I cared most about--my family and my community." Baca's overall project revolves around caring for and responding to another. One of her earliest murals was painted in 1970 at the time the 24-year-old Baca worked as a youth counselor at the parks and recreation department in L.A. A collaborative project involving young adults, mostly gang members, and often rival gang members. Baca made clear that the mural site itself was neutral territory. What can art do? Here art creates a safe space, a neutral space. A space to put aside if, but only momentarily but perhaps permanently, hostilities and conflict. Importantly, Baca's approach to public art production developed alongside and was in dialogue with the Chicano political movement, as well as the emerging Chicano art movement and the feminist movement. Each of these movements--and if you took my class, you know this--stress the need for cultural production to educate, to empower. And what often people forget, to heal. In 1973, one of Baca's earliest installations and performance works which is now housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Contemporary Art's permanent collection addressed issues of empowerment and Chicana subjectivity. And as she points out, it was probably in the first exhibition dedicated or--first art exhibition in Los Angeles focusing on Chicano artists. In 1974, Baca orchestrated Los Angeles' first city-wide mural program. Which was responsible for the production of murals throughout the city. And here's what's significant. That program went to an entire institution. By 1976, that program had developed into the Social and Public Art Resource Center. Which has produced hundreds of murals in Los Angeles. And importantly, has supported thousands of artists and crew members. She continues to serve as SPARC's artistic director. Many here tonight are familiar with Baca's "The Great Wall of Los Angeles." It started in 1976, and located in our own San Fernando Valley. The mural-making process was a manifestation of community empowerment. It employed an economically and socially diverse group of 400 young adults. It included community-based workshops and hundreds of community members. Scholars contributed. Personal experiences and histories were recounted and collected. And the subject matter unfolded across 2,740 feet--which is by the way, a lot longer than that. So the mural charts the multi-cultural history of Los Angeles. But was people tend to not know that's just as significant is the mural's ability to engage "the history of inter-racial struggle between adolescent youths who frequented that site, as Baca has written. I'd like to mention one final and portable project. That's Baca's, "The World Wall: A Vision of the World Without Fear." Which she developed collaboratively with a group of 45 international students. And the theme is probably best illustrated by an overarching question that was raised in one of the mural production workshops. And that was, "If we cannot imagine peace as an active concept, how can we ever hope for it to happen?" The theme is as significant today as it was when the work was installed first in Finland in 1990. Since that installment, this multi-paneled, 240-foot portable mural has exhibited internationally in the United States, as well as in Mexico. Let me conclude by emphasizing Baca's commitment to theorizing and producing a rigorous, socially committed and collaborative-based public art practice. Baca reminds us, "Space is power. Take over a big public space and you've got power." Indeed, her work creates spaces for and even serves as a resource for imagining what is needed to effect change. It serves what is desired, and what is needed to bring about personal and political and cultural and economic transformation. And especially, her work raises the question, what can art do? And it with a great honor, and I ask you to please give an incredibly warm and heartfelt welcome, CSUN welcome, to our distinguished speaker.

[ Applause ]

>> Lights down. Well, I'm very moved. I'm moved because it's Mario. And because the last I saw him, he was a beginning scholar and beginning to know too much about me. Thank you, Mario, for that great introduction. In fact, it's an honor to be here tonight. And I want to say thank you for bringing me, and to all my friends in the audience. It's kind of overwhelming to come back to a place in which you took your first steps toward becoming an artist. There's a time, even, when I didn't know what that meant. There were people who had great influence on me here. And certainly walking these streets reminds me of that particular time. I'd like to thank the Mike Curb College of Arts and Communication. And certainly the Congress of Creativity Distinguished Speaker Series for giving me the opportunity to speak here tonight. And to be part of this series. I graduated and I left here in 1969. And I stepped into a world I was hardly prepared for. It was a moment in which the world was in upheaval, the Civil Rights movement was in action. And I thought that I would try to give you an overview of how I came to be where I am. And what happened in those intervening years. I've come to believe that I'm a political landscape painter. I'll try to describe what I think that means. I've always known the value of art as a tool for transformation, both personal and political. What I've had to learn, though, through being attentive to my own curiosities and artistic focus, is that I choose often to use the land as my method of recording memories and stories. In my paintings, murals, and monoliths. I've learned to listen to the land, to hear the story hidden there. It is this concept that the land has memory, and that learning to put your ear to the ground to listen and to understand the spirit of place that has been the basis of my public artmaking for these last 40 years. This sometimes tends to have political implications, as the land is the very site of contentiousness and struggles. And often becomes defined by territories and borders and walls. In all cases, the land is a site of public memory. It is from this idea that memory is somehow invented in place which reaches across so many cultures that I derived this mountain as a conception model of an excavation of memory in a public artwork. It's a reminder that history does not begin when you arrive. We as humans feel the need to stand where important historical events happen, to understand the event. To feel the story. It's common across many cultures. And in our city of nations, Los Angeles, we see it evident daily as we pass through the shifting languages and cultural markers of our city. This interest in the land's memory and for telling the stories of the people took me to contested gang territories of east Los Angeles. It was in the violence of Los Angeles that I became known as the Mural Lady. I didn't really mind that title, I wanted to be a mural person, but I wasn't so sure I wanted to be a lady. Negotiating between warring neighborhoods, I formed my first teams in the city with 129 different languages. This is the earliest picture of me on a scaffolding looking something like Joan Baez in about 1970. It took me to the agricultural fields in California where Mexican immigrants labored. To the urban gridlock of Los Angeles freeways where I painted for the 1984 Olympics. And around the globe, more recently to El Salvador to work on reconciliation in a divided post-war country. There I worked with over 100 artists to produce the first works on domestic violence against women, and the rights of children to go to school rather than to labor full time in the coffee fields. And it's how the river became my teacher. And the classroom in which to teach. And how I came to spend half of my life in a concreted river bottom just a few miles from here. Actually, most of my teaching and learning has not been in classrooms, nor has it been called education. But instead, art and community transformation. The story of Los Angeles where I was born, like many great cities, begins on the banks of the river. The time with people, the meaning of which was the people of the Earth, accommodated the rising and receding waters for centuries. But as the city grew in the late '20s after a particularly bad period of flooding, it was determined by our city fathers that the river had to be tamed. The river had overflowed its allotted space and destroyed valuable real estate, by then Los Angeles' most valuable commodity. The first settlement was called Sonoratown, named for the people who came from Sonora, Mexico. And note, the doorway is rather high over those buildings. Because of the accommodation of the advancing waters. As a child, I'd watch as the rivers, the arteries of the land, were turned to concrete. I think I can trace the beginnings of my career as a political landscape painter to growing up alongside the Los Angeles River. And watching its transition. Standing at the river's edge on that first day with the Army Corps of Engineers dreaming of what it could become, I saw the concreted arroyos as scars in the land. The 40-year-long concreting project was complete, making it the largest public works project in America. Its completion gave rise to the New Esthetic Recovery Division at the Army Corps of Engineers. Though it only lasted about a minute. Its purpose was to deal with the effects of the concreted arroyos. They were eyesores. They'd have dirt belts along the river. And divided communities. That's why the control channel, of course, had many other serious consequences to the land. The concreted river carried runoff water swiftly to the ocean, bearing pollution from our city streets, affecting the Santa Monica bay, and depriving the aquifer of water replenishment through normal ground seepage. In a sense, the concreting of the river represented the hardening of the arteries of the land. It created dis-ease in the land. What I saw then was this metaphor. The hundreds of miles of concrete conduits were scars on the land. They recalled the scars I had seen on a young man's body in Los Angeles [inaudible]. Fernando, my friend and mentee had suffered multiple stab wounds in east Los Angeles gang warfare. I asked him once how he was feeling after the attack. "My wings are healing," he said, "but every time I lift my shirt my body is a map of violence." So together we began to design transformative tattoos in an effort to make the ugly marks into something powerful and beautiful. Over the year, Fernando liked to brag that he was my greatest artwork. That day overlooking the channel, I dreamed of a tattoo on a scar where the river once ran. As a metaphor for healing our city's divisions of race and class, and proposed the Great Wall of Los Angeles. I dared not speak aloud the thought that generally is accepted today. The concreting of the river was an act of violence against the Earth. And healing was needed for both the river and the people. Here we are, 1976 in our first meetings. For 12 years, 400 young people worked on the recovery of their histories, practicing the connection to each other across class and gender differences. We developed the bike trails and the greening of the park, did segment by segment, team after team came. We worked to tattoo the scar where the river once ran in the San Fernando Valley with images that would remember our dis-membered history. Black, Latino, Asian, Native American. Lifelong connections were made between us all. I was a participant as well as an initiator. The vehicle for this was art. The result still growing, half mile of murals. It was apparent to me then as it is today that this decision to concrete the Los Angeles River would affect the people of the city for generations to come, in subsequent planning and development decisions, and a spiritual discord associated with the land. A relationship exists between the disappearance of the river and the people. If you can disappear a river, how much easier is it to disappear the history of a people. We painted 2,740 feet of mural. A half-mile of imagery in the river. A visual description of the moment here of the people going to Manzanar in a 350-foot segment painted over a nine-week period with about 50 young people. This is inspired by Amy Ishy's [phonetic] book, "Camp Notes," as she came to speak to the kids. We excavated our own family stories to recover history left out of history books. Hundreds of artists, scholars, members of the public contributed time, knowledge, and their own memories for making the mural wall. Chavez Ravine and the destruction of the original Sonoratown in the oldest Mexican community of Los Angeles here depicted in this image of a spaceship entering Chavez Ravine. Today the original children of the Great Wall are grown. And they are returning as alumni to work with another generation of Great Wall youth. I'm proud to announce that the Great Wall has been declared a site of public memory worth preservation by the State of California's Cultural and Historical Endowment, who awarded it a 2.1 million dollar grant to preserve the historic sections now over 34, 37 years old. In 2011, I led a 30-member crew to fully restore the half-mile. And now we are beginning the building of the interpretive green bridge at this site. And so today when you visit the Great Wall, you'll see it in full color as it was intended and was originally painted.

[ Applause ]

What is important also is to restore the story of those who participated in the making of the Wall. This is Ernestine Jimenez. She was one of the 400 youth who came to work at the Great Wall from a juvenile detention home. In this photograph she's 14 years old. I was directed by the director of the detention home to forget Ernestine, she was not a good hire. She had difficulties working cross-racially. Her brother was killed in inter-racial warfare, she was not cooperative, she would not be a good person to join our crew at the Great Wall. She's pregnant here, she's a gang member. She's one of 16 children. And I couldn't walk out without taking Ernestine with me. This is her two years later at 16, with her son born. Who is now a [inaudible] on the Great Wall. This is her at 18 as a supervisor on the Great Wall. And this is her at 44, speaking about the Great Wall experience. I'd like you to hear it in her own words.

>> The way I grew up is, you know, you fight through life. You know, I've got 10 brothers and six sisters. And I'm the baby. And there was a fight in my house all the time. And that's the way I believed you were supposed to have grown up, to fight through life, don't like nobody but your own race. And even sometimes don't even like your own race. There was a lot of tension. I think everybody wanted to fight everybody, just the way they looked. Or the way you looked at them. Or the way they dressed. And after time, you just started getting to know that person as an individual instead of knowing them as you were taught to, you know? And everybody became very good friends. So it took a lot, a lot of growing up. I'm not saying that first year did it, because it didn't. It took a lot of growing up. But I made a lot of friends through four years. And every year I understood something else. Every year. I wouldn't have went back to high school because I wouldn't have had a role model to push me to go there. Education was Judy's number one thing. As long as I stood in school, you could come back and paint the mural. And that's what--even though I got in trouble in school and fought and everything, that was my number one goal. I wanted to come back. I had to come back. What really kind of freaked me out, though, was when I met the people that, when we painted the mural of the Holocaust. And I met the people that had the tattoos on them. That kind of blew my mind. That, actually that made me cry. Because I know there was another world that was harder than mine. And I just really felt for it. This mural opened my eyes so much. Even when I'm down and out, I still walk by here and I think, I did accomplish something in life. And it makes me feel good. And I think if it wasn't for this mural, for me to have my name on it and to have accomplished something, I don't know where I'd be.

[ Applause ]

>> Ernie's on our alumni crew, spoke at our dedication, and is helping us with the next segments of the Great Wall. Before I move forward, I'd like to acknowledge someone in the audience who is here, Yreina Cervantez. Could you wave for everybody? [Inaudible] our crews, she worked with me on the Great Wall. And what summer was that?

>> I think it was 1979.

>> 1979. Ooh, we were younger. About 400 kids, one wall, 1976 through 2011. And new segments to be added. This is us beginning the restoration in the summer of 2011. I'm painting over segments I painted 23 years earlier, watching my hand and trying to remember what I did. And being surprised at what the young girl knew when she was doing those first segments. With parachuting to try and mitigate the heat. As you all know the Valley, it is murderous. Particularly in the sun and in the concrete channel. We reached a record of 110 one day. We used sprinklers to keep ourselves wet the entire time so that we could continue to paint. And we managed to do the entire segment in a four-month period. So this is a work, a segment from 1976 part in disarray, we scraped off all the loose paint [inaudible]. This is a segment of the immigrants working in the fields of California. This is what it looked like when it began. I was, I think I spelled Castro initially. And there it is completely restored. Here's a segment on McCarthyism. The portrait was drawn by a worker who worked with me and who's just won a Pulitzer Prize with his cartooning. And this is what it looked like before. And the blacklist, of course. And the Red scare, completely restored. You can see the figures falling into the trash can made by HUAC, the House on Un-American Activities. And the figures becoming real people. And even the pink typewriter, typewriter is even a communist. And here we are, Chavez Ravine. You can see the work in disrepair. This is where Dodger's Stadium came into the oldest Mexican community in Los Angeles. Here it is completely restored. This is a segment, I'm looking down 2,400 feet of the mural. That's not the entire mural, from one scale to that to pinpoint of the totally restored work. The bridge we are building, there's a rendition of this bridge here made of cementitious material. And the connection for the first time will be made between the river and the images in the great wall. So it is not just about social justice. But it is also about environmental justice. And so we are chronicling the history of the river, beginning with the lower segments of tin cans, ending with water bottles on the top. The integration of debris from the river, which is some of it ground and put into the concrete. And other parts of it, actually we're using the shopping carts as railing systems. We're using a kind of sediment to give you an idea of the history of what has happened along the river. You will be able to go across the river, look down into the water, and see the various conditions. And begin to understand the relationship between the people and the river. Also, we'll reclaim that space for night walking. It will be a place where you will be able to come and in the San Fernando Valley Museum, the director who is in the audience will help lead tours. So people will be able to walk along this site and it will be lit with lights so that the Great Wall will be able to be viewed night and day. The Great Wall led to many other pieces. And it also provided the methodology that I applied in multiple sites. And I'd like to talk about the first time that I told my own family story. Having told stories of many people, I had never told my old or my own family story. And the Denver International piece, "La Memoria de Nuestra Tierra," "The Memory of Our Land," is a piece that begins with my grandmother and is now permanently installed in the Denver International. So if you're waiting in a security line, you'll be standing in front of my grandfather, and you'll be standing in front of the history of Latinos and the Mexicanos. The largest migration that occurred in the United States for the Mexican immigrants. And I'm certain that my memory, my notion that the land has memory came from Francisca, my grandmother. This is her. She raised me. In her world, everything had its place. If something was taken from the land, something was returned. She asked plants for permission before she cut them. And put them into a tin can and made them grow green when they were dried twigs. Everything had meaning. And in her world, she turned the weeds that grew by the water fountain into potions and into healing herbs. My grandparents came from Mexico to La Junta, Colorado during the Mexican Revolution. They followed the course traveled by thousands of other Mexican families from Chihuahua to the United States through the historic northern territories of Mexico (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado), via the Ellis Island of the Southwest, El Paso. This is the piece in full installation in the airport. My mother was born in La Punta, the junction, educated in the Colorado segregated school system. And raised in its segregated housing in the 1920s and '30s. The simple fact that even that the bodies of racially different people were required to remain separate was what moved me to create an artwork that would give dignity to the Mestizo story. And the stories of countless others who toiled in the mines, fields, and railroads of Colorado. This is Jorge Gonzalez and Cesar Chavez bringing [inaudible], a photograph we found in someone's garage. A Cheyenne woman from the Cheyenne massacre that occurred on the corner of the Luis Maria Baca land grant. Now, a photograph found in the museum, the Railroad Museum, with my grandmother, grandfather facing out in his, in the wrong attire as he becomes a railroad worker. And becomes the central image of this piece. These are my grandparents making that crossing as if they're walking on water on a miraculous journey. The purpose of the work was not only to tell the forgotten stories of people who, like birds or water, traveled back and forth across the land freely, before there was a line that distinguished what side you were from. But to speak to our shared human condition as temporary residents of the earth. There's my grandfather. It is a story that has been little chronicled. And one pretty much I was anxious to create a visual record. It is the first work in which I'm incorporating both visual imagery and hand-painted imagery simultaneously in a single image. This is the Ludlow mining strike. Which is depicted here both with photographic imagery and painted surfaces. Jorge and Cesar Chavez as they become mesas, they become mountains in the history of this region. And through the process we were able to do a reconciliation of the Mexican graves in this little town that allowed them to go fallow. And my family is gathered here with a familia Baca headstone, recovering the graves of my mother's sisters, my mother's uncles. And our family moves from a Navajo [inaudible] all the way to my cousins on the right. And the mixture of the Mestizo family of the Bacas. The process of the Great Wall moved into Los Angeles into the Central American community. There, in a place called "The Central American Research and Education Center," I worked again with a group of people to use the same process, the creation of timelines, the creations of collection of family story. And these were a group of young people who were talking to their parents who left Central America during the war in El Salvador. And began to collect their family stories to create a new image that would become a kind of Mayan mouth in the Picot-Union region of Los Angeles. Where the largest diaspora of Central Americans exists. As I collected the photographs and images from the families, some of these were incredibly difficult images. They were images of people's loss. And the question was, how do we use these images? How could we create a story? This is another child in the rosary. These are people, these are photographs taken, and often these photographs were the last photographs of members of the family that they had. These people who would be disappeared and will never be seen again; 75,000 people were killed in El Salvador during this war. And of course the people who came to Los Angeles live in the concentrated region of Pico-Union. These are people who were disappeared from the--on the left are the images of those who've been disappeared. On the right is an image that made it into the mural. Both these images ended up in the mural. It's a drawing from a woman who survived the [inaudible] massacre. The photos of the disappeared on the left. Telling the story, we were directed by scholars and survivors. We found ourselves negotiating between the children of the parents who fled. A generational conflict arose, as the young people argued against the difficult imagery in their mural. And many parents shared their story with their children for the first time, reluctantly. As in the 'caust to speak of the events that unfolded during that time, very much like the Holocaust. The final image was agreed on. And that image with the 26 young people who worked with me over practically a year in negotiations going back and forth, was a resilient young woman standing in front of the paramilitary. With Oscar Romero, Bishop Romero in the background. And the migration of golden people leaving their country, coming to Pico-Union. This is the final image. It's actually 15 feet by 37 feet, installed permanently in the central area of Gaudizenzo [phonetic] auditorium. It's a kind of Mayan mouth. And if you go to this place in Pico-Union, you'll be led on a tour by a young person who will tell you the story of how people came to migrate to Los Angeles. And they are waiting to do the next segment. Which will be called The Mayans in L.A. Throughout this process, I've been working on single piece that I like to say, it's a segment of the Great Wall that gets up and moves around the world. This is a segment that is a 360-foot-long linear work that travels in--we call it "the Scud missile" that travels from site to site. Here it is in Gorky Park. And to each country to which it travels, another work is added. This is actually in an installation in 1990 at the time of the fall of the Communist Party. There will be 150,000 people who will come to see this work. And the Russian work will be added. This is called "Triumph of the Hands." And it's about looking at your capacity as laborers to change what you do. And to break the machine. There's sort of a treadmill chasing the dollar. And to begin to think about the fact that you can do something more with yourselves and with your work. And with your art. And this is a work contributed by a Cossack artist named Alexi Begov, who painted this work called, "Waiting for the End of the 20th Century." Now it is, it's exactly that moment in which I think he pretty much nailed what was happening at that point. I kept saying to him, "Can you see beyond the man with the cane?" And he kept saying to me through our translators, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Not yet." And you'll see the craning necks, the blind man leading them to the future, the crucified Soviet people on the left. And also all the people who are jumbled below are making the sign of the cross as the churches are being opened. The central figure, the little child, is the one that picks up the color of bells in my image, which is the peace image. Which is the hopeful vision of the future that Alexi has painted. You see, these are 10 feet by 30-foot pieces. Each--this is Alexi Begov addressing [inaudible] 50,000 people who came to this opening. It took eight people to carry the flowers that were given to our team. Because people were so grateful to see this work that was looking for cooperation worldwide. The work traveled from there, from Finland to the Soviet Union, to the Smithsonian. And then back to East Los Angeles where my work began. To a place just blocks from where you saw me with the original headband. And we discussed there what peace was. What is peace in our communities? What is global peace? And what is neighborhood peace? And what is the relationship between the two? This is a piece that I painted with my team in Los Angeles. Each of the people are holding a piece of the answer, a piece of the [inaudible]. A young African-American boy walks out into the space reflecting the shadow of Gandhi. The winds of war are on the horizon. Now this is a piece that came about from our discussions with the Hopis. We said, what is peace anyway? Said one of my team members, is it everybody sitting around watching TV? And then we realized that we didn't have any image for it. We didn't really know what that looked like. Couldn't figure it out. And so I invited the Hopis. The Hopi elders came and they said, "Judy, this is easy." I said please tell me, because I couldn't see it. He said, it's about the ever-active moment of the creation of balance. The balance of the sun and the moon. Of the earth and human beings. So this is a birthing image, it's an image of birthing. And it's an image of the balance of male and female. He said, "The world has gotten too male." You see this woman here? The world has become too male. It's time for the grandmothers to teach. So we moved on. And the next place was the Israeli-Palestinian collaboration. We began with artists working in their home communities. And the woman you're looking at here is Suleiman Mansour on the left, who is a Palestinian artist. Who up until this point has only painted in the Palestinian colors of the flag. And in the center is Ahmed Bweerat, who is training, Arab and Israeli. And Adi Yekutieli on the right is an Israeli artist. They agreed to work in their home communities and bring back the imagery to create one single image. And this is that image that is created from images they selected from their sketch books. The figure on the left in white with a broom is Suleiman Mansour's family with their original olive fields. And his father now not having land and becoming a domestic worker. The bridge figure is Ahmed Bweerat, bearing kind of like a Chicano image, a multiple-charactered image. And on the right is the angel figure in struggle with himself. The Golan figure is the mud figure coming together or falling apart. And all the images behind it are children's ideas about peace. And of course you see conflict repeatedly in those images. You see upside-down [inaudible], you see black balloons, you see a kind of a struggle for them to even begin to think about peace. That work was dedicated--oh, I have to say that at the time we began they couldn't finish the painting because the war began. So we had to bring all of them out to Monterrey and to the tank buildings that we had converted into mural studios at California State University of Monterrey Bay. And so I sent them an email, and they say, we can't work, Judy. We have the drawings but we can't make. I said, could you come to California? And they said, yes, we think so. I said, okay. And I waited, did some more work, trying to figure out how to bring them here. And then I went back and I said, could you live in one house? I only have one building. And they said, we think so. And I said, could you finish it in three weeks? And they said yes. And we produced this work with the help of students from California State University in Monterrey Bay. Today we're working on a new piece. This is a Canadian piece. The working title of it is called "The Inuit Sent the World a Canary." And it has to do with the notion of global warming. And Canada's culture of extraction. And the photograph I took over the Queen Charlotte's [phonetic] from a seaplane in which you're looking at a clear cut in the middle of wilderness. And the clear cut has turned the village into an open wound. I didn't Photoshop it. It became, the way the light fell onto the space. And I completely was just sort of amazed by it. I thought, this is really an important image to talk about what we're going to do next. This is a work by a Canadian artist and her team out of British Columbia. And it will become the ninth mural in the World Wall series. And it's in progress right now in a barn on an island off the coast of British Columbia. We're waiting for the freeze to end so they can continue painting. And the notion is inspired by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who brought the international attention to the specter of global warming changes a few years ago, talking about how things were changing in the Arctic. This is the barn that we've done the installation. And Tania Godoroja Pearse, who is leading this work. And it talks about essentially the salmon and their basic importance in the history and culture of the Canadians. And how the salmon actually even are responsible for the growth of the forest. And the interrelatedness between the natural environment and the people. And this is the very first woman, Elizabeth May, who was elected as a Green Party person who has come to the studio to see the work. And here we are as Tania begins her painting. And I am helping instruct her on how to deal with the tar pit mines. And the mouth that is created by the strip mining that is being proposed. And while we are doing this, we are stopping them from destroying a lake. The lake is called Fish Lake. And it's the seat of a culture that is the whole history of these indigenous people are based on that lake. And the environmentalists are working with us. And we're using the internet and social media to call attention to the production and also the attention of current issues. This piece will be dedicated shortly. And we hope will be done within the next months. This is a whole other approach. But very much informed by the Great Wall. This is a piece that's based on a Mayan choral arch, one of my most recent works. This is a piece that is on San Jose State's campus in the Paseo de Cesar Chavez. And it is a 25-foot arch. And it reflects both the Spanish and indigenous roots of Cesar Chavez. But it's a triumphant arch. If you'll notice, it's not a bronze statue to Cesar Chavez. It's not an ennobled man. It is instead--the people on the outside of the arch that are depicted are the farm workers and those who bolstered the movement. In the interior is Chavez. And above him is a three-ton staff glass eagle from the United Farmworkers. We were trying to create the sensibility of reflective light within the architecture. Of course, the eagle is an upside-down pyramid. And it is a reflection of the UFW flag. And as you pass through this, you move from being a worker, a student, to a worker to the other side to become an activist. And on the opposite side you see Dolores Huerta and Mahatma Gandhi. Because we're looking at them as the major inspirations for the development of the United Farmworkers. and Chavez is metaphorically standing among the twisted vines of the grapes in California. These are the portraits that have been turned into Byzantine glass. Each of these pieces over 200,000 pieces. So while we are looking at visual imaging in new technologies, we're also preserving the historic techniques. This is, of course, the inspiration for Chavez' nonviolent actions. And his spiritual practice that is so critical to the Farmworkers' Movement. This is Dolores standing in front of Chavez [inaudible] image. And a very important moment for me is the 200,000 pieces of glass that makes up one of these pieces. And you can really see why people [inaudible]. I have little patience for gluing glass, but what an amazing experience. But my most important moment was this moment. In which I got to show the piece to Dolores. And she said to me, whispered to me, she said, "How long will it last?" And I said, "Dolores, forever." She was just like, really? So here is Dolores with herself as a 19-year-old. None was harder. Perhaps one of the most important sites that I've had to address, and one of the most difficult is the site on which Robert Kennedy was murdered. He came to the Ambassador Hotel in June of 1968, having won the primary. This is actually the kind of posters that I helped hand out when I was a young girl in support of Robert Kennedy. This is the kind of thing that happened all over California as he ran for office, people reaching for him. He was the hope. He was the hope for leadership in America. And some say that things changed forever after he was lost. And that we never believed again in leadership in the same way. And here you can see the Ambassador in its historic beauty as a postcard. This is the famous kitchen in which Kennedy was martyred. Where Sirhan Sirhan shot him as he moved off the podium, having given his speech and stepped into this corridor. It is exactly on this footprint that the new Robert F. Kennedy Learning Center has been built. And I was commissioned to do the embassy ballroom where he gave his last words. And the embassy ballroom includes the site where he was murdered. This is from Julio Romero. I was holding him as he is dying. And here we are in the embassy ballroom with a piece that will be done, the first of my works that is entirely painted on screen, produced in the largest digital print ever made as a single image, in the highest resolution ever made. So this piece is one print. And it is painted. But not with brushes on a canvas. It's painted on a screen. This will become the Paul Schrade Library. Paul Schrade is the man who was shot with Kennedy. He was shot first in the head and fell in front of Kennedy. In fact, Kennedy's last words were, "Is Paul okay? Where is Paul?" So here we are as the pieces are going up. And the large hands are hands of real people. People that support the notions of Kennedy's values. Particularly the values he had in the last part of his life as he transformed to become President after his brother's death. You can see me preparing for gold leafing. We're going to use gold leaf in the historic methods of gold leaf application. And this is the portrait I painted of him on screen. One of the things that people say is that we are still recovering from these deaths of leaders, particularly Robert Kennedy. At the end of his life, he was reading "Siddhartha." And this piece is based on his last speech, or one of his early speeches during the apartheid in South Africa. It's called, "Tiny Ripples of Hope." And he said, "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself. But each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And the total of all these acts will be written in the history of this generation. Each time a person stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest of walls of oppression and resistance." So that was my charge, what did that look like? What do those tiny ripples of hope look like? These are all people that are poets, that are writers, that are activists. Who I photographed and then painted. Here's the final image in the Paul Schrade Library. And across from it is a piece, if this first piece is about hope, this second piece is about compassion. And what is the antidote to sociopathic youth? Hope and compassion. Kennedy said, "I come from tons and tons of gold from questionable sources." And after his brother's death, he begins a quest to become an enlightened leader. At the time of his death at the Ambassador Hotel, he is re-thinking all of his leadership characteristics. He's gone on to talk to people everywhere. Here he is in [inaudible]. He's going to the Indian reservations. He's gone to Mississippi. And he begins to forge ahead with a different notion about leadership. He goes to visit Cesar Chavez on the 25th day of his fast. And he helps break Chavez' fast by breaking bread with him. And this image here is a lotus blossom. It determines the composition. We are on the edge of Koreatown at this site. So both formally and conceptually it's a lotus. The lotus carries these different ideas. And in one of his speeches he says, the most important issues--and he's talking to my generation with this--you will have to face are war, health care, poverty, intolerance or inequity in education, and the environment. He's speaking to these students at this time. And of course he could be speaking to us now. There's more. On the left, the young boy facing the decision about whether he will fight in Afghanistan, would he become a soldier. Health care is depicted by my mother and my aunt who are visiting with Loinvest Royval [phonetic], who is their madrena, who is 101 years old. So it's from the fetus to the aging. Here they're breaking the bread. And behind them is Dolores Huerta leading as an 18-year-old the [inaudible] events in Los Angeles where millions of people marched for the rights of immigrants. And you can see the grapes in the background. This is education, and it's bad education. It's education with young girls crossing their fingers saying, I hope I can make it through this. And there are metal detectors, and crowded schools. And she is facing these things. And it says, "Safe schools, please. Education is a right, not a privilege." On the right is the beautiful rainforest of the northwest. And the melting of the polar ice caps. I'm going to conclude with this piece. And perhaps--it's one of my more recent pieces. And this piece is just about the joy of life. It's called, "Danza de la Tierra," which is about dance. If you think about living, the opposite of dying is dancing. So it was produced for the Latino Fine Arts Museum in Dallas, Texas in the Ricardo Legorreta building. And when I started to think about doing this work and this site, I wrote a piece about the correlation between muralism and dance. A mural is not an easel painting made large. A mural is a work of art created in relatedness. Relatedness to the architecture in which it is placed, to the people for whom it is painted. It is related to those who lift the brushes to help paint it. A mural's compositional lines draw the body of the unsuspecting passerby into the painting by the solar plexus, yanking at their heart. At their best, muralists pass brushes between hands in precise, poetic marks without individual distinction. Where one hand ends, another begins. It is a choreographed dance between team members, community residents, and street life. A mural's scale transforms place and merges the viewer in color. Amplifies community voice. A mural sings gospel from our streets. And preaches to us about who we can be, what we fear, and to what we can aspire. At their highest moments, murals can reveal to us what is hidden, challenge the prevailing dialogues, transform people's lives. Exercise our most important rights of free speech. And indeed be the catalyst for change in difficult times. Thank you.

[ Applause ]