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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Artist Drives Home Message With Mural

September 05, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

A colorful new mural on the side of the St. Louis Drug Co. has transformed the corner into a community art center.

Artist Ernesto de la Loza said he chose the site across the street from the Hollenbeck police substation in part to show the contrast between the police and the creative contributions of a neighborhood.

"This is to show a different scene," said De la Loza, 43, a muralist who has done other works in East Los Angeles. "We aren't armed and dangerous, and I want to imply that."

De la Loza has been working on the piece, called "Bridges to East L.A.," for six months with people who live near 1st and St. Louis streets. It was dedicated in July at a block party for the neighbors, many of whom have contributed artwork of their own.

Their paintings and sculptures are also being displayed at the drugstore and at an adjoining studio gallery called URM (Un Reinforced Masonry).

"When you spend so much time out here, people appreciate it," said Sandra de la Loza, the artist's sister. "A lot of people do their own art. It's amazing how creative the community is."

Other artists have also painted murals next to the "Bridges" piece, reflecting different styles.

"We want to link the graffiti artists of the next generation with the formal mural painting as a symbol of our unity," Ernesto de la Loza said. "I'm a person of the calle (the street); I love to be out here with the people. There's lots of energy, the creative energy and everything that's out here."

Looking toward the police substation, De la Loza said he has been greeted by many of the people who live in the neighborhood, but not by the police. He said the police impounded his van the first day he started working on the mural.

Lt. Tom Jones of the Hollenbeck station said he has no information on whether De la Loza's van was towed, adding that it could have also been removed by the Department of Transportation if the registration had expired or if it was parked in a tow-away zone.

"Just because he's painting there doesn't give him special privileges," Jones said.

But Jones said he and the officers at Hollenbeck have a good relationship with the surrounding community. "They're good people here," he said.

"Bridges," which is mostly a spray-paint mural, also includes painted wood panels that depict people through history, such as American Indians and conquistadors. A painting of actor Edward James Olmos in Superman-like tights is near the top, as well as a window scene portraying the parents of David Angel Ortiz upon hearing the news that their son was shot to death by a sheriff's deputy in 1991. (Deputy Jose Belmares was initially fired for that shooting, but was recently reinstated after a hearing board determined he acted reasonably.)

Michael Jacob Rochlin opened the small URM art space a year ago and displays crafts and artwork from the neighborhood, such as painted purses and bugs made of aluminum cans.

"Because I have this space, I get to know people here and I know that a lot of the people have talent. They ask me questions and we get to talking and then they bring their artwork in," Rochlin said.

On the south end of the building, Roberto Rubalcava designed another mural, titled "What Are You Shooting For?" Organizers also want to install a basketball backboard on that wall, which incorporates several messages Rubalcava hopes will cause people to think about their future.

The mural, with the image of a gang member shooting a gun, includes statistics on teen-age suicide, homicide, child abuse and teen-age pregnancy.

"I know that even if it changes one person, I think that's important," Rubalcava, 24, said. "I think when people see numbers, it makes it more concrete and if they pass it every day, just like rap music, they memorize the lyrics. Hopefully, this will become ingrained in their minds."

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