The Great Wall of Los Angeles is one of L.A.’s cultural landmarks and one of the country’s most respected and largest monuments representing the history of ethnic and marginalized communities in California. The Great Wall began in 1974 and was conceived by Judith F. Baca, the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Social and Public Art Resource Center’s (SPARC). Artistic Director and Co-Founder Judith F. Baca.
Measuring a half-mile in length, the first half of the Great Wall was completed over five summers from 1974 to 1983. During this time, the Great Wall employed over 400 youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members from 1974 to 1983.
In 2017, the Great Wall of Los Angeles was declared a National Historic Site by the U.S. Department of Interior.
Through the Great Wall Institute, the Great Wall will expand to depict the histories of marginalized communities in California from the 1960s to 2019.
The Great Wall requires ongoing stewardship. In 2011, SPARC completed a major restoration of the Great Wall of Los Angeles. A massive undertaking, every segment of the 2,750ft was cleaned, examined, and treated to bring it back to its original state of brilliant color.
Restoration of the Great Wall was completed racing against a clock that is determined by the difficult conditions of heat, water flow, rain and other factors of the unique site in the Los Angeles flood control channel. The site channels the main water flow through the San Fernando Valley to the ocean and becomes extremely perilous in a rain storm so weather watches and evacuation methods are a constant worry.
The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) co-founded by artists Baca, Donna Deitch, and Christina Schlesinger was established to support this artist-initiated project and has helped steward, maintain, and expand The Great Wall.
The Great Wall Bridge
Destroyed during the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, the new Great Wall Interpretive Bridge will replace the former bridge which crossed the Tujunga Wash Flood Control Channel. The new bridge will function not only as a point to cross the Tujunga wash but also as a viewing station and interpretive center to view the Great Wall of Los Angeles mural and the Los Angeles River.
Interpretive Stations & Lighting
As part of SPARC’s ongoing stewardship of the Great Wall site, a half-mile length of mural lights will light the wall at night, providing enhanced visibility and safety to the site. Monumental Signage and six interpretive stations are in production, marking the site and providing additional context for understanding the artistic process and histories that have informed the Great Wall.
Working in the Tujunga Wash is a dangerous place and has become even more tenuous with climate change. In 1983, the Tujunga channel flooded abruptly. Artist and assistant project director Beatrice Plessnor ensured all the young mural makers made it out of the channel safely, but she was swept seven miles down. Rescued by the fire department, Bea survived.
The Los Angeles flood control channel presents unique and difficult conditions of heat, water flow, rain and other factors. SPARC is currently in the process of identifying an indoor painting facility.