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Saving L.A.'s Olympic Murals One At A Time

The mission to recover lost murals on the Los Angeles freeways has moved on to restoring kids playing on the freeway.

It is an ambitious program by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. They hope to restore all the historic murals created for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, or at least as many as possible, said Isabel Rojas-Williams, MCLA Executive Director.

Glenna Boltuch Avila's "L.A. Freeway Kids" is the current mural under restoration -- a work that was buffed away in 2007 and made a stir when commuters no longer saw children playing. Restoration was just completed on "Lita Albuquerque Monument," one half of Kent Twitchell 1983 "7th Street Altarpiece."

Twitchell and Avila are overseeing the restoration led by Willie Herrón III, who was commissioned by MCLA. His team consists of artists Carlos Callejo and Raúl Gonzalez. They all share the common goal to bring back murals to their "original glory" and hopes to recover more works by 2014, the 30th Anniversary of the L.A. Olympic Games that spurred the Olympic Arts Festival.

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The works dotted the 101 and 110 Freeway around downtown Los Angles until tagging took its toll. The murals were whitewashed by Caltrans due to constant vandalism -- a surrender after state money was invested then lost during previous restorations. Now Caltrans is helping by obtaining permits for freeway access, and assisting with scheduling. Without them, "this fabulous project would have not been possible," said Rojas-Williams.

This restoration was able to move forward because of a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural affairs, and from private donors, said Rojas-Williams, whose lectures on public art on behalf of MCLA also provide some funding, as well as mural tours conducted by herself and MCLA staff.

The next mural along the 101 freeway to be restored is under wraps for now.

'L.A. Freeway Kids' under restoration | Photo © Ian Robertson-Salt

'Lita Albuquerque Monument' restored | Photo © 2012 Gil Ortiz

MCLA's Facebook page is documenting the project through their photo albums. To donate or become members, you can find more information at MCLA

Top: "'Lita Albuquerque Monument' restoration is approaching the finish line," wrote MCLA on Facebook | Photo © Ian Robertson-Salt"

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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