Northeast Los Angeles Placemaking Competition: Riverbank Murals


Project Submitted by: Jonah Olson

Project Summary and Scale

Two opposing 500 foot long murals on the banks of the L.A. River directly to the north of the I-5 viaduct and "Egret Park," signifying the end of the dirt-bottom section of the river as well as the end of the L.A. River Greenway Trail, as well as symbolizing the conjoined cultural and geologic histories of the area surrounding the confluence of the L.A. River and the Arroyo Seco. The mural is simple and abstract but conveys a sense of movement and geology specific to the river here. It is is based off a drawing I made in 2011 about the faulting and erosion that created our surrounding mountains as well as the landscape around us. my work: jonahfernandezolson.com

Why are you committed to this project?

As a Los Angeles artist and a member of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe, I feel a deep connection to Northeast Los Angeles. I believe the history of the river is the history of Los Angeles and by extension, my history. I've always wanted to contribute something to this land.

What are the most relevant characteristics of project site and scale?

The landscape is so tied into what Los Angeles is about that I want this work to be viewable on many levels, as a destination, microcosmically and from space. There is a story about how they were going to once paint the river blue. The fact that this city even has a river that can be painted, is something that makes this city special. The concrete banks of this river allow these neighborhoods to exist.

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Describe how this project will reinforce a sense of place or enhance the built environment.

The location of these murals will be at the southernmost end of a very significant stretch of the L.A. River. This is the section that has a dirt bottom coming out of the Glendale Narrows which, even before the concrete, was the only section of the river that contained above ground water all year. I want this mural to serve as a symbol for what was before and as a arrow to where this river is headed, pointing downstream. I believe this will not only beautify the river but create a consciousness for our communities of its existence downstream.

Provide a description of the project's necessary planning activities.

The murals can be completed by myself with the help of 2-5 assistants. Each side of the river will probably take 1 month to complete (2 months total). I do not believe the path will need to be closed during the work, only the bank itself will be roped off. It will involve a ground layer of primer, sketching the design based off a smaller piece I created, then black paint, then a couple coats of sealant (including graffiti washable) to preserve the painting against graffiti and water/debris flow.


What is a rough estimate of your project budget?

Under $10,000 (about $5000 per mural).

How does this project leverage existing resources and efforts?

This project will employ several working artists living and contributing to the cultural fabric of Los Angeles, as well as patronizing the local Home Depot next door. No other resources are required.

What community need is your project serving?

Primarily Frogtown and Cypress Park, but also Atwater, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Highland Park, and Lincoln Heights because these neighborhoods (as well as others) all use this zone as a means of travel and leisure.

If your project is realized, what does success look like?

Success will be an everlasting and beautifying mural that gives the residents of Los Angeles a new symbol of identity in step with our history. We can participate in the history of our river as well as admire it's beauty and not feel shame or disgust at it's structure, but instead feel uniqueness and pride. This mural is based off a drawing I made in 2011 about the faulting of our surrounding mountains. This is the action that created this land and I believe it is significant to our culture.

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