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Writing on Wall for Mural Program

March 16, 2002|JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A mural inspired by North Hollywood community members and unveiled Friday will be one of the last funded by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, marking an end to the Great Wall Unlimited Neighborhood Pride Program.

The 8-foot-by-13-foot mural, painted by Chicano artist David Zamora Casas, covers a wall outside the Valley Recreation Center's swimming pool building. It's one of 15 that the Social and Public Art Resource Center has commissioned for each of the City Council's districts.

"We're joyful for the celebration, but we're also sad because it's the end of an era of these kinds of murals," said the center's founder, Judith Baca.

The Neighborhood Pride Program began in 1988, creating 105 murals from Watts to Chatsworth, in an effort to give community members a voice in the artwork in their environment. "This program is really important because it's grass-roots," Baca said. "Pieces are made out of a relationship between the community and the artist."

The city, which provided $189,000 for the 15 murals, decided to stop financing the program in order to focus on conserving and restoring existing murals, said Pat Gomez, city art collections and murals manager for the Cultural Affairs Department.

The program is also meant to help fledgling artists get noticed. This is Casas' first mural.

Casas, who is from San Antonio, moved to North Hollywood in July to begin gathering input from residents.

"The community wanted me to do something with sports," Casas said. "That's why I chose spheres--to represent circles and cycles."

Three local students assisted the artist. "It's about peace and love and to respect other people," said 11-year-old Milton Reynoso, one of the helpers.

Made up of a series of 10 circles, the mural depicts such themes as birth, death, war and maternity, Casas said.

He said a colorful pinata painted in the upper-right corner symbolizes "life filled with sweets and surprises, but sometimes destined to be smashed."

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