8-month mural project beautifies LA school

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1884 full

After eight months and more than 500 gallons of paint, two Los Angeles artists unveiled Friday a mural project that’s reshaped the climate at an 82-year-old middle school. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Surrounded by dozens of middle school students, painter Raul Baltazar describes the design elements of a new 40-by-125 foot outdoor mural at Johnnie Cochran Middle School in L.A.’s Mid- City.

Raul Baltzar: That earth becomes the head of an elephant and then you see the tusks that are coming from that. And with the background, there’s these cobras, I don’t know if you noticed that, and then the feet of the elephant that’s coming out towards you.

Guzman-Lopez: Cal State Los Angeles art professor Barry Markowitz says he’s impressed by the imagery and technique.

Barry Markowitz: These are all daunting tasks because you’re not working on a surface that’s receptive to paint. So you have to learn about surfaces and what will happen and how you treat the paint, and not only that, what kind of brushwork you’re looking at.

Guzman-Lopez: School administrators commissioned Baltazar and fellow painter Melly Trochez to beautify a campus plagued by tagging and vandalism. Trochez says the campus they encountered looked sad.

Melly Trochez: When we came in when understood that the kids were tired of what their environment looked like, but at the same time they weren’t really ready for the change and weren’t ready for what we were willing to offer.

Guzman-Lopez: Someone tagged Trochez’s and Baltazar’s first work at night. So the artists gathered students, neighbors, and nearby Buddhist monks to ask what they’d like to see on the walls. The six outdoor murals and paintings in the library mix images from Hindu and Native American mythology with more familiar icons – the school’s cougar mascot and a student viewing a Facebook page on a laptop.

Painter Raul Baltazar told students the main work is called “The Good Luck Mural,” meant to be touched. They didn’t have to be told twice. Students touched the wall for luck with their hands, limbs, and then some.

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