Adorning a nearly mile-long stretch of the concrete sides of the Los Angeles River, the Great Wall was started by local muralist Judy Baca in the 1970s as a way to aesthetically improve the unappealing appearance of the river. Inspired by a vision of communal space that expressed a shared history of Los Angeles, Baca developed a design that incorporated many of the controversial issues and racial conflicts of Los Angeles' past in hopes of teaching future generations about compassion and understanding. In order to carry out the project, Baca enlisted a diverse team of over 400 residents - mainly school kids - to paint the mural, bringing together and strengthening the communities adjacent to the river. The mural itself took 13 years to finish, and there are currently plans to restore and add to the mural, hopefully using the Great Wall's previous contributors to teach a new generation about the importance of the painting and the histories it tells.
By Angel Prieto, Student Producer from LA Leadership Academy
The Great Wall mural was part of a summer job program that helped keep troubled teens off the streets and help teach them responsibility. The mural consisted of different historical events that impacted the race or religion of all the different employees. We met up with Bea Rully who was a supervisor during the production of the mural and she told us that she seen a change in everyone of the teens after they completed the mural.
During her time as supervisor those summers ago she had many crazy stories about the mural, one story that really stood out was how she nearly died on the job. Due to rain her and her staff had to end the day early and she needed to get all the equipment out of the river as fast as possible, while doing so the rivers current swept her down about 8 miles where she was later rescued. We also met a man Hector Martinez who actually worked on the mural. He explained how he would wake up early in the morning to go to work and that by doing the summer job it helped him realize what responsibility is all about.
Both Bea and Hector told their stories but overall the Great Wall to them met the starting of new lives and opportunities and I'm sure that all the other workers took something from their work as well .
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Above are several videos of Bea Rully and Hector Martinez on their participation of working on the Great Wall as teenagers. Also included are audio slideshows of Judith F. Baca explaining the Great Wall and the its future Green Bridge.