Saturday, March 27, 2010

From the Archives: People's History Mural

(Originally posted on 4/15/2009)

At half a mile long (.8 kilometers), "The Great Wall of California" in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley is the longest mural in the world. Artist Judith Baca created the mural with over 400 local teenagers during the summers between 1976 and 1984. The mural is located along the West wall of the Tunjunga Flood Control Channel and its acrylic paint is resistant to water damage. The mural depicts the history of Los Angeles and California from pre-historic times to the 1980s with a focus on women, minorities, laborers, artists, and everyday people.

A view of the first section of the mural in the flood control channel:

Here is a detail of the mural depicting the 1781 founding of Los Angeles in the Alta California region of Nueva Espana. The mural shows that the founding settlors were primarily of mixed Spanish, African, and Native American descent:

A detail of the mural depicting a wedding at a hacienda during Mexican rule of California, which lasted between Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821 until the Mexican-American War of the 1840s:

Many Chinese immigrants who came to California during the 1850s Gold Rush ended up working as laborers on the California railroads:

A detail of the mural depicting depression-era workers:

In the 1930s, thousands of migrants fled to California to escape from severe droughts and economic hardship in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and the Texas Panhandle:
A detail of the mural depicting the forced relocation and internment of over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans during WWII:

Los Angeles has the second largest Jewish population of any metropolitan region in the United States. Here is a detail of the mural depicting a Jewish family during WWII:

During the Zoot Suits Riots of 1943, white Marines, with the tacit approval of the Los Angeles Police Department, targeted and assaulted young Mexican-American men in Los Angeles:

The beginnings of suburban sprawl and "white flight" out of the urban core of the city:

A detail of the mural depicting the 1950s-era blacklisting of entertainment industry professionals who were suspected of being affiliated with the Communist Party:

The beginnings of the African-American Civil Rights Movement:

The Mattachine Society, founded in Los Angeles in 1950, was one of the first gay rights organization in the United States:

Another view of the mural along the channel's West wall:

These pictures show only a small fraction of the mural. The website of Venice Beach based Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) has pictures of all of the mural's panels, a more detailed history of the mural, and information about current efforts to restore and preserve the mural.

The Great Wall is located along Coldwater Canyon Avenue between Burbank Boulevard and Oxnard Street. There is a walkway along the East side of the channel on Coldwater Canyon Ave. that runs the whole length of the mural.

View Great Wall in a larger map


  1. What an amazing mural and you have done a great job documenting it. Up north where I live there is a town called Chemainus (Mural Town) that has about 40 murals depicting the history of the town. It's such a great way to showcase artistic talent and at the same time curb vandalism.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I had never heard of Chemainus and its murals before. I'll have to go on a road trip up there next time I am in Seattle.

  3. The SPARC web site is great but I really enjoyed seeing the larger version you've provided. Thanks for visiting and I've enjoyed my visit here. You get around. Come back to P Adjacent Saturday (I'll answer your question).

  4. Vanessa, I am so glad that you gave me your blog link during the METRO tour. Today I visited the mural and I realy like this "history book" on the walls. I never heard about it before.

  5. Thorsten - I'm glad you like the blog and got a few ideas from it. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to Los Angeles and get lots of good pictures!

  6. they are/have been restoring the mural in the last few weeks... maybe some new pics are in order?

  7. ...hello,
    I just found your blog again
    I mean, about a year or so I passed by here searching for pacific palisades pict
    and now I was checking other pict in the net and your blog "pop up" right there

    good work,

    may be in the future you can shot pict of other LA neighbourhoods

    Im not an arch but a designer


  8. This project is really inspiring to me as a muralist...

  9. I've been walking on the path at the mural and it is a treat to be able to check out the details of the mural. I see something different everyday. I did not know that this is the longest mural in the world. Most impressive. It's so comprehensive. Outstanding work.