Making of the mural

the great wall of Los Angeles

“In today’s society where there’s not many constructive and positive activities or happenings, this mural is a very positive thing. Where else can kids from all kinds of cultural backgrounds come together and work towards a goal.”

– Michelle Russell, age 21

Each mural segment first began with extensive research. At a time when recorded histories of communities of color were barely emerging, historians, artists, and community members with first-hand accounts were invited to the Mural Talleres (workshops) to help the past come to life and inform the imagery.

The first 1,000 feet of the mural is completed entirely in 1976. Ten artists led the design and painting: Kristi Lucas, Christina Schlesinger, Judith F. Baca, Judith Hernandez, Ulysses Jenkins, Gary Takamoto, Arnold Ramirez, Olga Muniz, Charlie Brown, and Isabel Castro. The artists led teams made up of 10 youth, who impacted the development of the images. Their familial histories, experiences, artistry, and likeness are incorporated into the mural.

In an effort to make the mural more stylistically cohesive, Judy Baca began exerting more control of the overall design in 1978. Having returned from El Taller Siqueiros, a mural workshop by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Baca began to employ the puntos system, which uses mathematical ratios that create a musical harmony and alignment and give the mural movement and three-dimensionality.

With no prior mural making experience, pairs of youth translated blueprints of images to scale. While one measured the blueprint, another outlined the image on the grid-like pattern on the wall. The process became like connecting the dots as the youth brought the mural to life.

“Hardship that’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about working down here. and the hassles that we went through with the people.”

– Brenda Jackson, age 15

“When we painted the mural of the Holocaust and I met the people that had the tattoos on them…that made me cry, because I know there was a world that was harder than mine”


– Ernestine Jimenez, age 18

In the last summer of production on the mural’s first half-mile, 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. 

“Because of the unity we shared, I feel now that everything on the mural is my history, in a deeper way than I think I felt before.”

– Todd Ableser, age 18