Debra J. T Padilla - Executive Director, SPARC

  • Art

Chicana activist Debra J.T. Padilla drove her 1964 Ford Galaxy from Tucson, Arizona to Venice to become the new Executive Director of SPARC in 1993. In her first week, the accidental murder of a young Latina girl at the hands of neighborhood gangs at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln Boulevard solidified her reasons for taking the job. The role of public art as a tool to organize, empower and promote cross-cultural dialogue for the disenfranchised has been Padilla's goal since arrival. SPARC's role has since expanded to embrace three main areas of development: production, education and preservation.

"SPARC is a part of Venice, and the kind of art that we do, while it may not speak entirely of Venice, it speaks to the City of Los Angeles."
The Truce
"What I remember was the parking lot... all these gang members, totally silent just sitting there, standing by their car... waiting for the word of what was gonna come down."
The Wall
"Every mural in this city tells a particular story, a particular moment in time."
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Debra, I am delighted about the three segments you did for KCET. I am constantly meeting artists who, at one time or another and because of their connection with SPARC, found their voices and their sense of identity through the murals they helped to create. Many of us, if not all of us, have been inspired by what we have seen in our Los Angeles "open air" galleries. SPARC’s seminal role in our communities parallels that of your definition of how muralism is taught, from mentor to mentee; SPARC has inspired people such as me to help others to find their voices through art and to help empower them with a sense of belonging within our L.A.’s diverse communities. What could be more fitting than for SPARC to have the gang truce peace meeting at its headquarters in the early 90s; for Judy Baca to create “The Wall” mural depicting our history, and mostly for SPARC giving a voice and a sense of identity to all those young people from underserved communities that helped in the creation of “The Wall?” Thank you and SPARC for the great job you do in our communities throughout Los Angeles! Art heals, art saves, art empowers, art inspires.