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Remembering 'Public School Mural Donor' David Legaspi

There was an artist known mainly in the Westside for his murals, and the region is mourning his passing.

In a gentler rendition of a street artist working undercover, muralist David Legaspi III spent the last decade painting murals, mostly at churches and schools in Malibu and Santa Monica. He was kept busy, and was working with Brentwood Mural Project, when he passed away of natural causes the age of 51 on June 5. The news was slow to be revealed so his extended family in Australia could be notified, said reports.

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Legaspi's work with murals began as inspiration to paint for schools after visiting his family in Australia. "I began painting with my nieces and nephews and decided to do art with school children on my return since I was away from my family," Legaspi told The Malibu Times in 2003. "In no time I had a connection with the kids."

Born in Manila, the Philippines, on Nov. 19, 1960, Legaspi was the eldest of five siblings. He received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of St. Thomas, Philippines, in 1983. He worked as an architect and visual designer in the Philippines, England, and then finally landed in Los Angeles.

He began to earn a reputation for working with children that strived to "not only to create art that fit the themes of the school districts he painted in, but also to portray themes of people, community, social life and family," reports the Santa Monica Daily Press.

That kept the the artist busy with invitations from other campuses. "I found myself having so much fun that I quit my job," Legaspi told the Santa Monica Daily Press in an earlier interview, in 2006. "At first I told my boss I was going to take a little break to do this, and then I just got taken by it."

Legaspi also stated painting with children, and shaping the importance of the arts in schools was one of the biggest rewards. The work was mostly pro-bono, sometimes funded by his other commissions.

Mural by Legaspi by Leo Carillo State Park | Photo by faria!

When you see his work, it has an illustrative style that shows the environmental spirit of celebrating ocean and land, striking with its use of bold colors of sunlit landscapes. And his profession as an architect gave him a understanding and practice of murals working with the scale of infrastructure.

A lack of social messages may have kept it off the radar of Los Angeles murals. Yet, there is a place for this type of work that can reach children within a community. And it does remind you of the works at Estrada Courts, designed to bring nature to an urban core.

Legaspi's work is clearly a personal expression of what the land meant to him, no doubt an influence of living near bodies of water. Legaspi was also known for painting surfboards, in a series of works that were once showcased in an exhibition.

"He was generous to a fault," recalls Deidra Rooney at Malibu Patch. "He'd take private commissions, yes, but he used that money towards his public projects. He kept almost nothing for himself."

His online resume is simple. The most recent job description was "Present: Full time Muralist. Public School Mural donor."

A celebration of life will be held on Wed., June 27 at Santa Monica High School's Barnum Hall, 600 Olympic Boulevard, in Santa Monica, at 1 p.m. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: David Legaspi III Memorial Fund, PO Box 2863, Malibu, CA 90265. A memorial Facebook page titled "David Legaspi III Memorial Page" has also been created, and included is a map of his murals.


Top: Late Muralist David Legaspi. Photo by Pamela Conley Ulich. Via Malibu Patch

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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