Raising Community Consciousness with Public Art The Guadalupe Mural Project

uadalupe, California, is a sma ll rur al town, located at the no n hem mosr rip of Santa Barba ra County. Drivers zipping alon g Highway I, aiming for the surf at Pismo Beach or the Mission architect ure in San l uis Obispo so me 7'- kilo meters (45 miles) away, can cru ise th rough Guadalupe in about ten seco nds flat. After they cross the county line right o utside town , they' re usually surp rised that the place they've just passed throu gh is even a pan o f rich , Republican Santa Barba ra County. Man y Guada lupe resident s (approx imately 5,479 in the 1990 census) wa nt eo cha nge those impressions.' Th ey anti cip ate the day when a ll those fleet ing ca rs and RVs will slow down, take a left at leRoy Park, an d spe nd some time savoring o ne of the best thin gs that their town has to o ffer: a four-pa nel mural depicti ng the histori es a nd ho pes o f this primadly agr icultural, and mostl y Mexican American co mmunity (Figs. 48 and 49), Designed and pai nted by Los Angeles artist Judy Baca from 1988 to 1989 , in co llabo ratio n with literally hundreds of the to wn's in· habitant s, the C lladalulJe Mural seems to testify to the possi bilities of publ ic art a nd cultural democracy in co ntempo ra ry America. Baca spenr months in G uadalupe , see ping OUt its streets and psyche. Headq carrered o n Ma in Street in the a bandoned audito rium of the United Ancient O rde r o f Dru ids (a defu nct fraternal dub dating to



Spirit Poles and Aying


• -i8. Judy a aca.. Guodoollpe Murol, Panel I: '1he Founde" of Guathlupe,M1988-89; H (8 feet) by 2.1 meterS (7 feet ), Guadalupe, Calif. Copyright Judy Baa .

I 88-i), s he sought out public inte res t and input as the essential iugredienrs in Gua da lupc's f irst pub lic a rtwo rk. " Successfu l integration of a public artwo rk req uires the peo ple envision ing what a mon ument should be in their town, " rem ar ks Beca.! To find ou t what that was in Gua da lupe, Baca talk ed with everyo ne, with Gua dal upe's mo vers and shako ers [t he post mistress, t he mayo r, tht public health officer ) an d with migrant laborers and civil rights activists. " I went into the fields and look Pola roid s and gave them to the Iarmwo rkers, " Baca recalls (Fig. So ). "Th ey got Interested in what 1 was doing with the mur al project and wo uld come visit me at t he Druid Temple, right down the street from all t he restaurants wh ere they ate t heir lunches and dinners.... 3


• 'I'. JudJ 6aca.,
J<><ly Boa .

Murci, Pmel 2: "The Ethnic Contributions,M 1988-89: acrylic/panel, 2.4 meten. (8 fMt) by' 2.1 meten (7 feet), Gu.adalupe, Calif. Copyright

She ate her meals at those restaurants, too. in the Imperia l Ca fe an d the Far Western Tavern and the Taco loco. She hired teenagers from severa l Chicano and Filipino farm fam ilies to help co llect historical informatio n and ma ke a town time line. She rep hotog raphed thousand s o f pictures cu lled from local scrapbooks and school yearboo ks, all loaned to the project by interested citizens and arts enthusiasts. Finally she called a town meeting and drew o n t he insights of a d iverse audience to choose the imagery for eac h o f th e 1. . .. - by a. r-roerer (8- by 7-foot) panels. Hired by the Santa Barbara Co unty Arts Co mm ission simply to paint a mural. Baca turned Guadal upe's pub lic art project into co mmunity co nsciousness-raising. "T he processes of co ming into, und erstand-


·- ->

• so. Judy Baa in fields with farmwort.:ers. Fall 1988. CopyrfJht Judy Saa.

ing, and successfully mo bilizing an entire co mmu nity," writes cri nc and art ist Suzanne Lacy, "a ne intrinsic aspects o f :1 co mplex artw o rk, aII pa rts o f which d early bear the stamp of Baca's socio-aesrheric intention..,4 But in the process o f creating co mmunity t hrough public a rt, Baca did not armcipare how a symbol o f civic pride and solida rity wo uld a lso beco me so highly prized as an art object. Meant for Lekoy Par k, in a sped all y designed gazebo in fro nt of the to wn's co mmunity cente r, the Guadalupe Mural is currently insta lled at City Hall. Many Gca dalupeans say th at that 's JUSt tempor ary, until enough money is raised to bui ld the mu ral shelter in the park; funds from the Sant a Barbar a Co unty Parks Depa rtment to aid wit h the park 's rehabilita tion were withdrawn oudpro ject, and residents arc now ra ising the mon ey co mplerely on their own. Others feel th at the mura l sho uld stay at City Hall . "A lot o f peop le are worried t hat it might get damaged, vanda lized, if it goe s into t hat park, " Mayor Renaldo (Rennie) Pili remarks. "T hey say it is so beautiful that they wa nt it to sta y here, at C ity Hall, where it can be protected ." Issues of agenc y of how people make and remak e their lives, thei r

• • • Rarsing Com munity Consciousne ss

identities, and their sociocultural a nd political environments, are central to contemporary debates surro unding public art. If artists, government arts agencies, and corporate sponsors tend to devalue the dialogue and debate necessary in the development of public a rt, the model tha t Judy 8aca followed with the Guadalupe Mural was clearly that of co mmunity engagement. Still, while she trea ted Guada lupe's public art process as a forum for civic dialogue, the tow n's focus on the mural's preciousness may have tempered its own political and public agency. The Guadalupe Mural project started in 1987, when EI Comite Crvico Mexicano de Guada lupe (known locally as the Comire) too k on a twenty-year lease to manage and maintain leRoy Park, a I .a-hectare (3acre) park and community center at the western edge of town. Located abo ut a block off Main Street (most of Guada lupe, in fact, is concentrated in a square kilometer and a half [1 squa re mile) along Main Street), the park was officially under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County Parks Department. Rife with spray paint and broken glass, viewed as "an eyesore and a disgrace to the county park system," the park had been more o r less aba ndo ned by both the county and the city.s leRoy Park was a teen hot spot, the place where local kids liked to sa. cialize, drin k beer, and tag some graffiti. Aside from schoo l and church functions, there was little o rganized activity for Guada lupe's kids; except for the bars along Main Street and the weekly bingo game at City Han, there weren't many places besides leRoy Park where they could hang out. Some outs iders (especially those in Santa Barba ra] suspiciously viewed l eRoy Par k's youthful habitues as crack-selling, gun-toting gang members; in co ntemporary America, it seems, any group of kids larger than twa hysterically gets labeled a gang. Most Guada lupeans laughed at the idea of local gang activity (Guadalupe has never seen any drive-by shootings o r Uzi fusillades), and many rightfully bristled at racist accusatio ns likening their Mexican American community to a rural outpos t for juvenile terrorism. They knew tha t leRoy Park was teen central in Guadalupe, and that some teens had contrib uted to its vandalism. They also knew not to co nfuse teen angst with gang wa rfare. Members of the Comire, a nonprofi t group that started in 19 2.} with the goal of promoting Mexican American culture and recreation, were eager to refurbish the park and the community center (built in 1955), and to provide some ou tlets for Guada lupe's kids. In 1980 Guada lupe's population was three-qua rters Mexican, and leRoy Par k was their primary public space: the site of frequent qui ncenedas [traditional "coming

Spirit Pdes and ffyin&

f'I&s •••

o ut" celebrations fo r teenage girls), Sunday rard eadas (social gatherings with live music and food boo ths), and, especially, Fiestas Patri as (threeday festivals with parades held every year arou nd September 16, commemorari ng Mexican Independence Day). Basketball games, wrestling matches, wedding receptions, and fam ily reunions had once been common at leRoy Park 's com munity center, but by the mid-198os the vandalized and dete rio rating building was deemed unsafe and unusa ble. The Comlte aimed at cleaning up the park and building a better community center, add ing an audito rium a nd theate r, rest roo ms, and din ing and day-care facilities. The y also wante d to have so me SOrt o f mural, a history o f Guadalupe, displayed at the park in an outdoor gazebo o r'" colo nnade covering the sidewalk to the comm unity center's front doo r. Seeking fOf'iloR.oy... ParFs rejuvenation, the Co mite turned to two unty agencies-the Santa Barbara Co unty Arts Co mmission and the >Parks Department. To their surprise, bot h pledged substantial financial su ppo rt for the mural project: $1.0,0 56 from the Arts Commission and about $ 15,000 from the Park s Department, which a lso promised 10 subsid ize leRo y Park's predicted $400,000 refurbishment COSts. Santa Barbara Co unty prevailed thro ugho ut the 1980s as one of America's wealthiest districts, a lthough almost all its money was concentrated in the so uth-in Santa Barbara, an upscale ocea nside resort with a population of about 75,000, so me 104 kilometers (65 miles) south of Guada lupe. Self-procla imed birthplace of the hot tub and the Egg McMuffi n, center stage for one of daytim e TV 's most popul ar-and gfiraiest-soaps, host to Nancy and Ron ald Reagan (whose Rancho del Cielo was JU St 46 .7 kilo meters 119 miles) away), and cbcckful o f a ffl uent renrees, in the 19805 Santa Barbara embodied Reagan-era prosperity and privilege. "The re is little or no indu stry here," wrote one resident-journalist, "and everyone seems to be wor king, full-time, on his life-style." Not exactly everyone's lifestyle: In the 19805 Santa Barbara was also the site of one o f America's "most poiso nous" battles over homelessness. When the city too k aggressive measures to ban outdoo r cam ping and sleeping for the town's ) ,000 or so "vagrants" and tried to deny voting rights to those without an address, homeless activists reacted by mar ching on the Reagan ranch and raking their case to the U.S. Supreme Co urt.' Santa Barbara's Shangri-Ia-Ia image was further tarnished by the huge Chevro n derricks that were erected in the early 1980$ on ly a thou sand meters offshore, and their attendant oi l spills. Guada lupe was-and remains-Santa Barba ra's antithesis. Situated in


the fertile Santa Maria Valley along California's central coast. Guadalupe revolves almost entirely around agriculture. Multiple crops of lettuce, cauliflower, artichokes, and strawberries arc: grown annually, and the town prides itself on being " the broccoli capital of the world." In 1980 dry statistics claimed a median income of S I ",4 1.4, but a majoriry of Guadalupeans are Iarmworkers, and in 1988 the average annua l income for a farmworker household (approximately s.) persons, with one primary wage earner) in Guadalupe was S I ),4 16, or about S1,000 less than the federal guidelines that year for an impoverished household. Moreover, as ant hropologist Victor Garcia discovered, in the 1980s resident farmworkers in Guadalupe (as those in California's other Chicano! Mexican agricultural enclaves) were largely displaced by migrant laborers who were contracted at much lower wages and whose numbersand annual household incomes-were not the stuff of officia l statistics.7 Simply in terms of 1980s economics, the contrast between the two towns could not have been greater: Santa Barbara brashly embodied Reagan-era wealth and arrogance; Guadalupe-where hundreds of farmworkers tried to survive underemployment, unemployment, and low wages-showed the broader impact of the so-called Reagan Revolution. Before the Guadalupe Mural project, little of Santa Barbara County's wealth ever reached this northernmost part of the district; indeed, leRoy Park's planned restoration was the first time in years that county agencies had even expressed any interest in Guadalupe's public and cultura l welfare. Guadalupe had not always been so impoverished or insignificant, as Baca and the townspeople found when they sifted through local history searching for stories and themes that might shape the mural. Located just 8 kilometers ( s miles) from the Pacific Ocean, the area was once flush with Chumash Indians, whose shell middens can still be found along the Nipomo Dunes, a 2.9-kilometer (l 8-mile) stretch of stunning coastline (with the highest beach dunes in the western United States) now managed by the Nature Conservancy. The background of the mural's initial panel shows the local dunes and features a large portrait of a Chumash hunter wearing an elaborate a balone necklace: (see Fig. 48). "Tbe Indian is an appari tion," Baca notes. " You can't paint him solid. or he'll stop looking like a spirit and mote like a mud monster.". Similarly ghostlike, a brown bear-the Chumash totem- peeks from behind. Brown bears were once plentiful in the dunes and hills fringing Guadalupe; locally they are commemorated at Oso Flaco ("skinny


5f)lrit Poles and Flyin g Pip • • •

bear " ) Lake outside to wn, which Baca painted on [he picture's right side. Th e remaind er of th e first panel, called "The Founders of Ouadalupe," concentrates on th e town's Hispanic roots-and q uite literally: Evok ing historical links and relationships, plaerlike forms leech from the lettuce fields and the adobe ho use in the panel 's center and reach for the Chumash Indian o n the left and the vaqueros (cattle handl ers ) on 01 Virgen the right. Named after Mexico 's patron saint (N uesera Senora 1 de Guadalupe ), Ranch o Guadalupe was a 13, 12j-hectar e (32,40 8-acre) land grant given in 1840 to Teodor o Arellanes and Don Diego Olivera , who int rod uced cattle to the region; Arellanes can be seen roping steers at the right. Th e redwood shingle- roo fed ado be houses they built near Par k we among the ea rliest in Califo rnia, and the site of roday's in the midd le o f the panel. Here she Baca the loca l legend o f rwo lovers-an Anglo soldier a nd an Indian woman-so passio nately romantic they burst into fl ames. Baca thi nks t he ta le proba bly stems fro m memor ies o f John Fremo nt's 1846 exped ition into the area, which left the Guada lupe ado bes razed and the Chumash population decimated. The Arellanes and Olivera families rebuilt, but in the 18705 rhe ranch was so ld to Teodore leRoy, a French trader and bank agent who founded the town of Guadalupe aro und the o rigina l adobes and subdivided the ranch into farming plots. In 1881 leRoy donated 1.6 hectares (3.9 acres) of his land " for the use and enjoyment of the inhabita nts o f the Village of Guadalupe for recreat ion and healthful amusements." Th e deed furth er sti pulated that t he park's trustees were respon sible for preventin g and exclud ing " all rioto us and disord erly persons and all conflicts and Despite such provisos leRo y Park, not unlike Guada lupe itself, was occasionally the site o f violent, usually racially motivated, outbursts. One of the park's larger oaks, for instance, was called the " hanging tree" and was used. [Q lynch several Chinese wo rkers brough t into the area in the 18905 to build the Southern Pacific Railroad . Banned from residential areas of the community, those Chinese laborers who remained in Guadalupe o pened sho ps along Main Street and lived above or in back of their businesses. T he second panel of the C lJadalllpe Mural (see Fig. 49 ) tells th e sto ry of the town's d iverse erhn iciry and its long history o f racial conf li ct. During the Gilded Age, Guadalupe's fertile so il att racted Chilean, English, Italian , Peruvian, Portu guese, Scotch, and Swiss-Italian immigrant s who operated family farms and da iries. Th e railroad o pened in 190 1, and Guadalupe became a ma jor center for vegetable shipping, alth ough it


••• RaisinI Community Consclousness
was always overshadowed by Santa Mar ia, a town 11..8 kilometers (8 miles) awa y and mo re in the middle of the valley's nu merous farms. Packing sheds and ice docks were built close to Guadal upe's rail yards, employing hundreds o f farmwcrkers and shipping thou sands o f ca rloads o f produce annually to metropolitan markers. Beet prod uction for Union Sugar (now Holly Sugar), a la rge facto ry esta blished in near by Betteravia in 1897, was met by Japanese farmers who, within a few decades, dcrninat ed area agriculture. Circumvent ing antia lien landownersh ip laws by purchasing property under the names of their Amer ican-born children, Japanese workers owned more than half Guadal upe's farm land and co nstituted mor e than S 1 percent of the city's population by 1940 . Many lefr farm labo r and set up businesses along Main Street: H . Y. Kata yama owned a successful jewelry Store; Harold Shimizu managed the city's Chevrolet franchise. Sersuo Ararani (aka "T he Boss") was the era's most prom inent grower, and Tani Vegeta bles were o nce a dieta ry sta ple t hrougho ut Ca lifornia. Guada lupe's richest resident, Ararani do nated several hectares o f his own land in the late 19 1.0$ 10 th e Guadalupe Jo int Union Grammar School to build a baseball diamond , then spo nsored a local team's tour o f Asia . " Ma rvelous has been the sense of responsibility of o ur Japanese friends," boasted the priest of Our Lad y o f Guada lupe, the tow n's Ca tholic church, in 19) 6. "Towards their fellow citizens, they have been fair, honest , and sincere." IO Yet by March 1941. most of Guadal upe's japanese popu latio n were incarcera ted at internment ca mps in Califo rnia and Urah. Few returned to Guada lupe after the war, especially aher learn ing th at much of th eir property had hem seized by other local gro wers and merchants. Framed by a view down Guadalupe's Main Street, the seco nd mural panel shows the Druid Temp le and the Co mmunity Service Center on the left, and the City of Guada lupe water to wer, Nero's Bakery, the Imperial Ca fe, and the 1894 S. Campodonico building, once the tow n's largest general sto re, on the right. In the background another view o f the dune s shows how they were used when silent fi lm d irectors shot desert scenes for movies such as The Ten Commandments ( 19 2) }, The Thief of Baghdad ( 19 24), and Son of the Sheik ( 19261. Th e " City o f the Phar aoh " set for Cecil B. De Mille's The Ten Commandments, the largest silent movie set ever constructed, was built and buried in the sands of Guada lupe; curre ntly a Hollywood gro up is trying to raise funds for an archaeological excava tion of the site, no w littered with the


Spirit Poles and

Arinc PIp


remains of rwen ry or so giant s phinxes and severa l rc .r -merer {J S-foot ) sta tues o f Phar aoh Ramses.'! Fixing Guadalupe's mom ents of movie fame in the back o f the mu ra l panel, Baca filled the foreground wit h po rtr aits of contem po rary C hica no an d Filipino G uada lupea ns. This second pan el, ca lled "The Eth nic Cont ributions," is further filled with blue-green gh osts-figures fro m Guadal upe's past inte rmingling wit h the town 's pr esent -da y residents. Th e ghost of a sma ll Chi nese girl reaches out to grab the han d of a Mexican child being tugged do wn the street by her farm wo rker mom - ident ified by a gimme cap with a United Farm Wo rkers (UFW) logo (Fig. 51). The ghost o f a G.1. rests his foot on a red Toyota pickup. The ghost o f Feod oro Arellan es rides a hor se down the main stree t of the town he helped found. The ghost o f a Dru id peeks from his former temple rooftop, wh ile next door j ohn Perry stands in fro nt of t".c: N.t.P. auto-panr store he manages. The ghos t of bOlding a da ted .. t941." and with a tag on his £' back reail ing " Ma nzanar" and "Topaz" (the rwo inte rnment camps wh ere mos t of G uadal upe's j apanese citizens, incl ud ing Aratani, were imprisoned du ring World War 11 ) gazes at the figures commanding the pan el's foregro und: M anuel Magana (t he Comiee's current head ), a youthful po rt rait o f Ariston julian (Guadalupe's director of pu blic healt h), and a farm wo rke:r (also wearing a UFW gim me cap). O t her ghosts of Filipino, M exican , an d Okie descent-a ll of whom foun d farm work in Guadal upe in the t 92.OS and 1930$, when large-sca le: vegetable grow ing intens ified-sta nd o n street corners watching co ntemporary field workers, lunch boxes in hand, and j inn ie Pon ce, G uada lupe's postmist ress, stride to work , Mixing the blue-green ghosts of the past with figures from t he present , Baca illustrat ed G uada lupe's racia lly diverse yet interlinked history, rem ind ing viewers th at yeste rday's racial co nflicts conti nue to shape attitudes and behaviors. The elimination of j apanese workers in t942. created a huge labor shortage, remedied for several decades by the Bracero Program ( 194 2.1964 ), an "emergency" bilateral labor ag reeme nt betwee n Mexico and the United States th at brought tho usands of Mexican migrants into California agriculture on six-mo nth visas. G uada lupe's ag roindusma l eco nomy boo med in the postwa r years, and t ho usan ds o f braceros were employed in the fields and packing sheds, as well as in the fifteen o r so area agri busi nesses ran ging fro m flower and vegetable seed processing plants to fertilize r factories. Even afte r the program was terminated , Gua dalupe's Mexican pop ulat ion climbed -from 18.6 percent in 1960 to 75.0



• •• 1QiVl& Community Consciousness

• 51. Judy Sua, GuodolJpe Mural, detail Panel 2: "The Ethnk: Contributions." Copyright J udy & ca.

percent in 198 0 and 8).0 percent in 1990-a5 fermworkers f lowed into the area in search of jobs. During the bracero era they ha d ofte n lived in labor camps provi ded by th e growers; when the progr am ended the city of Guadalu pe sa w massiv e Mex ican sett lement, and whitt' flight to newer hou s ing developments in nea rby Santa Maria. With on ly a handful of growers an d ag ribus inesses owning most of th e fa rmland. Guada lupe in a sense beca me a bedroom community for the region 's far m laborers. The mur al's third pan el, «T he- Parmworkers o f G uada lupe" (Fig. 52). focuses o n the Mexicansc--and also the numerou s Pilipinos- who came to work in th e vegetable fields an d rema ined to live- in town, It sho ws a t ypical ca uliflower harvest crew organized aro und a mobile field a ppa ratus-a gigantic machine that facilitat es the cutti ng, baggi ng , packi ng, and loa ding of vegeta bles. Sta rting in tht' 19 50S gro wers had tu rned to field packing, a process of harvesting and packing vegetables in the field , which eliminates the need for packin g sheds and their crews. Each season huge field -pack ing apparatuses ente r the Santa Maria


Spirit P'*s and Ffyinr; Pip • • •

• S2. Judy Bae a,. ""'rot Panel J: "The of Guadalupe." 1988-89: acrytidpanel. 1.4 meters (8 feet) by 1.1 meters (1 feet). GuadWpe.. Calif . COJ'Yri&ht Judy 8aca.

Va lley. Cutters-mostly men-wa lk in back of an apparatus. which is pulled across the fields by a tracto r. They cut, trim, and tOSS cauliflower heads onto the conveyor belt, where baggers-mostl y female-wrap them in plastic bags marked with company logos. They usually bag twenty to rwenry-five heads per minute. Packers behind them grab the plastic-wrapped heads a nd place them in cartons, assembled by one worker and loaded onto pallets by another. In this panel the packers and loaders, and the tractor, a re obscured by the rows of cauliflower carto ns, often sucked twelve high. In the picture's background lush acres of harvest-ready vegetab les bump up against Guadalupe's hills, while farmworke rs up front place


• • • Raising Community Consciousness

cauliflower heads o nto an end less blue belt. A fema le worker on the right wears a red banda nna decor ated with symbols of the Virgin o f Guadalupe. Above these views Baca painted an eno rmous o range arch, a ro lling co nveyor with six old-style wooden crates {replaced in today's fields by waterproo f ca rdboard ca rtons). Each crate has a colorful pictu re postca rd-like label with a typical scene from Oil Guadalu pe farmwor ker's daily life. Each has a cheerful "greeting," the visualiza tion, says Baca, o f the "Mexican ra dio voice," the boom ing, cheesy speech that bellows from the bor der radio stations tha t man y field wor kers tu ne in to when they get off wo rk. " Bienvenidos" (" Welcome" ) shows the typical farm worker's arrival in to wn after hopping a freight, bedro ll and belongings in tow; " Vivienda '" ("Accommoda tio ns"') shows the overcrowded and unsa nitary co nditio ns o f migran t housi ng; " EI Sueldo " (loose ly transl ated as "Wages") shows a picker swearing pen nies fro m a handful o f freshly harvested srrawbe rries; " Ne blina Peligrosa " (" Dangerous Fog" shows the to xic pesticides and fertilizers that helped generate Guadalupe's agricultu ra l bonanza but now dangerously affect t he hea lth o f farmworkers- and of the whole to wn; " Dolor de la Espalda" (" Back Pain" ) shows the back breaking stoo p-and-cur labor o f lettuce picking; and "Ayuda Exrran jera" (litt rally translated as " Foreign Aid " ) shows the far mworker writ ing a letrer and send ing a monty order-probably most of his wages-to his fami ly in Mexico . Most of Guada lupe's ca uliflower and broccoli crews art resident farmwo rkers, but lerruce, strawberry, and a rtichoke crews con sist of migrant s who move from one harvest site to the next th rough out Centra l Ca lifornia and claim Mexico as their borne. Despite local gr umbli ng today th at Cesar Chavez " just co uld n't organize farm labo r" in Guada lupe, in the 19705 resident farmw orkers saw bette r pay and improved wor king con ditions as a result of UFW activism in the area. In the recessionary 1 980s, however, growe rs fought the f inancial (and political) impact of such union success with agribusiness contractors, who o rganized migrato ry crews of undcxumented, minimum-wage, wo rkers. Thi s, and t he to tal shift to field packing (the last of Gua dal upe's packing sheds was torn down in the early 19 80s1 so dramatica lly affected the local economy t hat by the mid-198os the once flourishing City of Guadal upe was suffering serio us economic blight. Today mor t crops than ever are harvested in the Santa Maria VaUt y, but less agricu ltu ra l wor k has become avai lable for resident farm wcrkers, Guadalupe's majo rity population. Dependeor on, yet displaced from



Spirit Poles and flying Pi gs •••

51 Jud y Raca. Guodolupe: Murol, Panel 04: "The Fuwre o ( Guada lupe," 1988--8'; acrylic/panel, 2.04 mete rs (8 (eet) by 2.1 mete rs (7 (eet), Guadalupe , Cala. Copyright

Judy Boo .

farm labor, Guadal upe's resident farmworkers now work sporad ically, and fo r significa ntly lower wages than a decade ago , as " reserve labor" when con tractor-hired migrants ar e unava ilable. Still com mitted to the value and integrity of " har d work," they supplement their incomes at area fast-food resta ura nts and Wal-Mans and speak harshly o f those " who can work but prefer to go on governrr ene-rehef.t "! Still committed to American prom ises of opportunity and eq uality, they dr eam of a better futu re for their families and their community. Th e Guadalupe Mltrafs founh panel (Fig. 5.3 ), titled "Th e Future o f Guada lupe," depicts those dr eams . It is dominated by a female angel, co pied from one of the large nineteenth-centu ry marble tombstones so il


Community ConKiousoess

• 5'4. Rod Rolle , StnlWberry Prdd ofDreom$, 1988. PhotO of female fll rmwor1<er with t».by In field. Photo: Rod Rolle.

stan ding in the Guada lupe Cemetery. Perched amid that cemetery, hcr bod y is circled by symbols o f plenty and privation, by scenes o f Gua dalupe's lush fields and its dilapidated shacks - ro ugh wooden huts built for migrant laborers in the 1 91.05 and still inhabited . Her real-life coenrerparr, a fem ale fannworker wit h a baby fi rmly snuggled to her back, is seen at the left of the panel , stooping and cutting an infinite loop of verdam crops . Field conditions are extremely dangerous-wo rkers [ell of losing fingers and limbs , of being dusted by pesticides and getting bad heada ches and rashes- but, without adequa te da y-care opportunities o r the money [ 0 pay for sitters, ma ny women must bring t heir babies [ 0 the fields (Fig. 54 ). Making direct eye cceracr with t he viewe r, the angel becko ns us into Guadalupe's wo rld. Her ha nds spill an inviting stream o f unpolluted water, a symbol of nourishment indica tive o f Guadalupe's bounty and potential Guada lupe's angel spreads her wings ove r the to wn, its seemingly endless and uncha nging cycle of harv est, farm work, an d poor hou sing at


Spirit Poles ..0<1 Flyinl Pip • • •

her feet. Her ancillary wings picture t he dreams o f the female: farmwor ker, dr eams shared by all G uadalupeans: affordab le hea lth cart, improved living co ndi tio ns, bette r schools, a healthy environme nt. Each wing sho ws a specific scene: a doctor listening [ 0 t he heartbea t of a farmworker; a planned residential community; a boy kicking a socce r ball at a new high schoo l; a tern and several otte rs-some of the area's rare and

endangered animals- thriving at the Nipo mo Dunes. Like the other
panels, t he mural's final pictu re features specific local derails-Gua dal upe's hills in the: background, its cemetery in the center, its fields and shac ks-c-ehar ground those dream s in the rea lity of local circ umsta nces.

Guadalupe's future is nor, in other words, Baa 's vision of a utopian idea l but 3 hopeful poss ibil'o' priso b l and public desires
for civic a;;-a ;om munity agency, In each of"them ura l's fou r panel s, Baca dr ew on specific formal devices that help the aud ience become hooked into her socia l and po litica l agenda. Each panel is large and brigh tly colored, with a cent ra l co mposi tional focu s tha t draws viewers into scenes of Guadal upe past, present, and futu re. Th ree of the four panels are st ructured wit h dom inant foreground figu res (the Chumash Indian, M an uel Magana, the female farmworker] who hel p guide viewers to look dee per in. The final panel is missing that fo regro undcd fo rma l element (t he angel occ upies a middlegro und posit ion ), perha ps beca use Baca wanted to enco ura ge viewers to guide them selves th ro ugh the picture and personally co nsider the soc ial and political action req uired to create Guadalupe's futu re. Colo red, of co urse, by public inp ut, the fo urt h mural panel was also shaped by Baca 's analysis of G uadalupe's recent histo ry. In 1 9 7 0 Mexica ns an d Mexican Americans made up ove r 66 percent of G uada lupe's po pu latio n, yet t he police fo rce, city government, and school boa rd were primarily Anglo. Racial tension s heated up as an gry parents co nfronted the school board about the segrega tio n of M exican and Anglo pupils, the excessive use o f co rpo ral pu nishment for Mexican stu dents , the paucity o f Spanish-spea king reachers and biling ual education, and the fact t hat 10 0 percent of the st udents in special ed ucation classes were o f Mexican ancestry. Arlsron j ulian , who went to G uadalupe'S junior high in the 1960s, recalls reachers telling rhe child ren o f loca l growers " to sit up fro nt and lead th e rest o f the class, beca use they would lead the co mmunit y w hen they grew up." Anger bo iled ov er in 1972, w hen st uden ts wal ked o ut o f school protestin g con d itions and when , 011 a PTA meetin g a few mont hs lateE:, ten



Commun ity ConKiousflU5

people were arrested for "disturbing a public meeting." Police reports reveal that the arr ests were motivated by fea rs that " radica l" UFW and Brown Beret activists had linked ar ms with Mexican parents to ta ke over the school, and maybe the town. Eventually, while seven of the Guadalupe Ten were found guilty and served time in jail, the California State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission o n Civil Rights, in a lengthy monograp h titled The Schools of Guadalupe. _. A Legacy of Educetiona! Oppression, concluded that the school district had indeed grossly violated Mexican American civil rights, and superintendent Kermit McKenzie resigned (after forty-two years in the dismcn.'! Ironically, in the 1980s Guada lupe's J unio r High School was named after Mcx eeeie. The case of the Guadal upe Ten was a turn ing point in the town 's life. Encouraged by the success of the UFW and the growing political power of the Chicano movement, Guada lupeans pressed for significant institutional changes; by 1975 bilingual teachers and classes, for example, had been added to the distr ict. T he case pushed the town (o r at least the school board) to confront its racism. It also stimulated o utsider views of Guada lupe as deeply divided and debased. A "three-year investigation into a lleged prostitution, drug trafficking and public corruption" led to the infamous-Guadalupe Raid of J983, when more than 130 police officers, Santa Barbara Co unty sheriff's dep uties, and DEA and FBI agents -i n seventy police cars and several helico pters-stormed the town in search of whores, dope, and political payoffs. While some prostitutes and pot were uncovered, the sting of the century came off as a scene o ut of Police Academy when only eighteen arrests were made (two on o utstanding traffi c wa rrants), and most charges were later dismissed. Another raid, in 1986, led to forty-six arrests- most for illegal immigrado n." Still, media appetites through the 19805 continued to exaggerate Guadalupe as the Vice Capita l of Central California in hysterical headlines and exposes. " Guadalupe is like other small towns, It co mments J ulian. " Its bad reputation was enhanced by its minoriry reputa tion. There was lots of unrest because Mexica ns were the new presence in an older community. " Some reacted to Mexican demands for equality by reasserting their own authority-naming the junior high after McKenzie, for example. Ot her xenophobes alarmed by Guada lupe's swelling mino rity population automatically eq uated Mexicans with mari juana a nd money laundering and used those popular racist stereotypes to their own advantage; it is interesting how Guada lupe's raids always seemed to occur during the county



s heriff's reelection ca mpaign. likewise, overstated accoun ts of a Guadalupe Carte l came primari ly from newspapers in Santa M aria-the town's econo mic rival since the t urn of the century, Equally sensationalized reports of Guadalupe's guerrilla ga ngs ste mmed fro m outside r octogenarians chilled by glimpses of Mexican American teens "hanging out in LeRoy Park and doing god knows what." By 198 8, when Judy Baca arrived, Gua dal upe, o nce described as "the most progressive little town in Santa Barba ra Co unty," was widd y conside red a cesspool of crimina lity. U Wo rse it, c;l?u ld n'[ its new mean streets image: Stricken n o f agri business an d the consequences of racial struggles and racism, Gua da lupe seemed to ha ve succu mbed to historica l amnesia an d forg onen the labor and ed ucatio n gain s mad e on ly a few years ea rlier. EJ Comitr Civico Mexicano de Gua da lupe: hoped to revive t he town's civic sp irit with their refurbishmen t of leRoy Park , and they turned to Baca for help. Well known as a " muralist, activist, and spokesperso n for the Hispan ic co mmunit y," Baca has utilized publ ic art as a means to co mm unity engagement since th e late 19605, wh en she began paint ing mura ls in Ease Los Angeles. A second-generatio n Mexican American, born (in 1949) and raised in Southern Cal ifornia, Baca ha d experiences no t unlike those of G uadal upe's resident farm wo rkers: " When I went into the school system, I was forbidden to speak Spanish.... In elementary schoo l, most o f the Spanish-spc:aking kids were trea ted like they were reta rded an d held back. I thought to myself, they ' re not going to be able to do this to me. I' m go ing to learn what they' re sa ying." Her mother encouraged her: " Like a lor o f imm igran t people, she felt tha t educati on was the key if I was to avoid suffering the kind of things that she had suffered." She a lso encou raged Baca's pursuit o f a pragmatic, socially responsible art: " My fam ily d idn't want me [ 0 be an artist beca use: it was a crazy thi ng to be. What impact does your art ha ve on real life? I th ink a loe of the ethic seeped into me: it's not good enough just to be an artist. .. . Wh at does it mean to the people yo u live around? So in co llege I also mino red in history and in educatio n. " I' Grad uating from Californ ia State University, No rt hridge, in 1969, Baca taught school and then headed the Cityw ide M ural Pro ject , a Los Angeles City Council-funded o utfit that eventually produced more th an :tjO murals in var ious L.A. neighborhoods (Baca herself directed mo re than I SOof them ). C itywide was advised by SPA RC (the Social and Public Art Resource Cente r), wh ich bro ke off in 1976 to beco me a mulncul-


• • • Raising Community Consciousness

• 55. J udy Baa, GrtcJt lM:lI o(Los An,eks. 1976-8) ; oYerview of 762 meters (2.soo feet) Iont in Tujunp Wash Flood Conuol Channel. Van N uys, Calif. Copyright

J udy &a.

rural arts center commirred ro " producing, exhibiting, distributing, and preserving" public art. Under Baca's direction SPA RC has involved hundeeds of artists and community groups in public an projects ranging from AIDS awareness exhibits to multimedia progra ms on dr ug rrearmem. The Grear Walls Unlimited: Neighborhood Pride program of SPA RC has produced 50 murals in locales from Venice Beach and Little Tokyo to Ho llywood and Sourb-Central. As testimony to the "grassroots process of public involvement" that shapes these murals, not one was da maged during the L.A. Uprising of 1992.17 The largest project SPARe has undertaken . and the wo rk for which Jud y Baca is probably besr known , is the Great Wall of Los A"geles, a mammoth mural in Van Nuys (Fig. 55)' In the mid- 1970S Baca was approached by the U.S. Army Co rps of Engineers at the outset of their reclamation of the Tujunga Wash Flood Control Channel in the San Fernando ValJey. In the '930S the corps had chan nelized rhe Los Angeles River, lining the riverbed with conc rete and constructing Ilood -conrro l


Spirit Poles ;and AyinJ

Pies •••

d itches some 4.6 meters (15 feer) deep and 1.:1.9 meters (75 feet) wide. This hardening of the river's arteries actuall y ca used more flooding, left unusable d irt belts o n each side of the channels, and divided the city into distinct ethnic nelghbor hood s-c-Chicano, African American , Asian, and Anglo. Fifty years later, blend ing land preservation with civic improvement, the corps began turn ing rhese channel gro unds into recreation areas with sma ll park s and bike paths. Because of her success with Citywide, Baca was hired to pain! wha t would become the world 's largest mural -4.} meters (14 feet) ta ll and 76 2..0 meters (2.,500 feet) long in the (1000 control chann el. The Great Wall is a " monumentally scaled history painting depict ing the panorama o f events that contributed to Los Angeles' distinctive profile."' 1 A visual hisrc ry of Ca lifornia, the mural emphasizes the role of racial minor ities. Baca conceived the epic wall as a paiming describing the diverse co mmunities of Los Angeles: " When I fi rst saw the wall, I envisioned a long narrative of another history of Ca lifornia; one which included ethnic peoples, women and minorities who were so invisible in conventio nal textbook accou nts. The discovery of Califo rnia's mulriculrured peop les was a revelation to me." \' The San Ferna ndo Valley, ho me of " Valley Girls" and a fierce ant ibusing coalitio n, was the destinat ion of Anglos fleei ng inner-city Los Angeles in the 1950S. With the Great Wall, Baca, who grew up in nearby Pacoima, proposed to restore to public conscio usness the ar ea's d iverse ethnic and cultural histo ry. The cont ent o f the mural easily conveys that history. Viewed by walking or biking along a pat h parallel to the wash channel or by driving along adjacent Coldwater Canyon Avenue, the mura l open s with scenes of prehistor ic creatures in the La Brea rar pits and currently closes with pictures of African American and Chicano O lympic cham pions from 1948 to 1964. Chumash theology and industry dom inate early mural panels, and the destru ction of Nat ive American culture is depicted in scenes of the arr ival of the Spanish; a derail shows a huge wh ite hand uproo ting a native durin g the Span ish conquest. Colonizatio n, Mexican rule, and the presence o f Ca tholic missionar ies conti nue the sto ry. The Treaty of Guadalupe: Hidalgo, by which Mexico ceded Southern California to the United Sta tes in 1848, is followed by srerehood , the gold rush. massive immigration from Europe: and Asia, the building of the railroad with Chinese labor, and the beginnings of woman suffrage. Twenoeth-cent ury scenes trace the early years of the aviation and mo vie industries, Prohibition, and the impact o f the Great Depression on

• 56. Judy Baca, Gtecn WoI. 1976-83, detail: "Depomtion 01 Mexican-Americans." Copyri&tlt Judy Baa..

various ethnic gro ups: blacks segregated in South-Central, Indians selling their land for fe rry-fi ve cents an acre, and the H O,o OO Mexican Americans deponed to make room for Dust Bowl refugees (Fig. 56). The 1940S a re demarcated by scenes of the j apanese Fighting H l.nd, the mOSI deco rated infantry division of the U.s. Army d uring World War IJ (Fig. 57 ). a nd of their families exiled 10 California imemme m camps in Manzanar and Tule Lake. Women wo rking in factories are juxtaposed with the helmets of dead soldiers. O ther 19405 panels include j eannette Rankin, Inc o nly member of Congress to vote in o ppositio n to a declaretion of war against j apan, and the building of the Califo rnia Aqu educt , which aided develo pers by tr anspo rting water from north to south hut created a desert in the O wens Valley. Th e mural's fi nal sections range from the baby boo m and white flight to McCarthyism and the civil rights mo vement, with cultural referents to Elvis, Charlie Par ker, and Big Mama Thornto n. The Great Wall currently ends with positive pictures of opportunities found and rights gained by minorities in the 19505 and


SpIrit Poles

Flying Pip • • •

RegimenQl Combit

• 57. Judy Sac&, Gmn WoII, 1976-83, deuil: Copyright Judy & 0. .

Amef'iQ n Fighting 112M

I960s., and Baca hopes eventually 10 include Los Angeles's recent history and projecr irs image in the next millennium. Scattered througho ut the Creal Waif are the names of those who helped plan a nd paint it. Although Baca is ofren given sole artistic credit for the Van Nuys mural, hundreds aided in determining its nar rative structure and overall aesthetic. In addition to a handful of arts professionals and co nsultants, Baca recruited 2 15 teenagers ro work on the wall du ring the summer months of 19 76, 1978, 19 80 , and 1. 98 ). Treating the Great Wall as an educational project and a vehicle fo r "the rehab ilitation of self-esteem," she hired kids ranging in age from fourteen to rwenry-ooe as a rtistic contributo rs and cclla borato rs.P Their ethnic and racial backgrounds varied; many were gang members o r on proba tion. The Mur al Makers, as they called themselves, received instruction in drawin g and pain ting and were taught math skills oriented to grid making and design. Job counseling and d rug therapy were also provided. Mo ndays thro ugh Thursdays the crews worked on (he mural, co mpleting almost 30 5 meters ( 1,000 feet) du ring the first summer. On


••• Raisirl& Community ConKioosness
Fridays Baca arranged for university teachers and community act ivists to discuss ethnic history, economics, and politics with the kids. Combining their art training with ideas about cultural self-determination, the Mu ral Mak ers researched and designed much of the Great Wall. Baca insisted that they be paid for their wo rk, knowing " it nor only gives them sorely needed income but also tells them their work is valuab le to the community." 21 Initially a Los Angeles youth cou nseling group called Project HEAVY (H uman Effons at Vitalizing Youth ) made its CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) monies available to Bace's teams. But in the 1980$, when neoconservati ve politics dom inated and social service dollars were axed nationwide, salaries were paid with grants from the ational Endowment for the Arts, the California Council for the Human ities, and the Los Angeles O lympic O rganizing Committee and donation s from local businesses. However, because of proh ibitive insurance rates and a lack of dependable fi nancing, work o n the G reat Wall came to a halt in 1983- about the sa me time that a similar sort of antipublic, antiethnic backlash occurred in Guadalupe:. Involvement with the G reat Wall provided youths with summer jobs, and, equally impo rtant, as Mural Maker Todd Ableser wrote in 1983, it generated " feelings of identity and pride": "After my first year o n the mural, I left with a sense of who I was and what I could do rhar was unlike an ything I'd ever felt before. The feeling came fro m . .. seeing what I was personally capable of at a time in my life when my self-confi dence had been extremely low." Baca is proud to tell the success stories of the Mural Makers she has guided through the Great Wall, which transformed not only the Tujunga Wash Flood Control Channel but also the lives of hundreds of former juvenile delinq uents. Like lim Rollins's collaboration with K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) in the Bronx, Baca's work with the Great Walrs Mur al Makers helped unleash potentia l and empowe r a gro up that many had declared irredeemable .P The G reat Wall cata lyzed a tremendous feeling of group consciousness, of community, amo ng the Mur al Makers, many of whom returned year after year to wo rk on the project. As sevenreen-yeer-old Nancy June Avila recalled in 1983, after her first summer on the project, "There's one way to describe the worksire of people and that is we're o ne Big Family a nd I hope when the public comes to ad mire o ur mural they'll share the magic and emotion that ou r crew shared with one another. " U Baca's basic intention in persuading teenagers such as Ablese:r and Avila to revisualize California's history was to push them to confront


Spirit Poles and Ayina Pip • • •


th eir o wn racism. "The black, Asian , and Chica no co mmunmes are miles apa rt." not es Baca . "-The re's ter rific geographical and cultu ra l isclation ; the people just ca n't read each other at all. "2. Such separat ism contributes to igno rance a nd stereotyping. the main co mponents o f racism . To co mba t racism, Baca o rganized racially diverse crews, arr anged th e Friday history lessons, and used ro le playing and improvisational t heater to unmask the dangers of racist beha vior . One young Chicana started a summe r declaring, " I ain't never gonna wo rk with them niggers!" After wo rk ing wit h Baca on the Great Wall for three mont hs, she had changed so much that she was promot ed to head an all-African American crew that was video ta ping po rtions of the mural, an assignment she ent husiastically accepted.v Bro ught togeth er in multicultu ral awa reness and respect, the C reat Waifs Mural Makers became a family, a co mmunity. TIll: co llectivity inherent in the Great Wall, and in subsequent works suc h as the GuadDlupe Mural, stem s from Baca's insistence that a socia lly co mmitted art ca n " break down the d ivisions among ... people, give them information and cha nge their environment." Her convicti o ns stem from her identity as a C hicana artist and feminist. She says.
I have been called a Spanish-speaking artist, a Spanish-surname artist, a Mexican artist (in the early '60sI, a Mexican·Amerk an artist, a cultural worker (in the lare '60s), a Chicano artist. a Chicana artist (during the discovery of gender), a Latino artist, II Latina artist (during the discovery of women in Latin America). an ..other" (as in check one), an eehnk artist, a folk artisr, a Hispanic artist, a barrio artist, a primitive artist, a neighborhood artist, a sereet artist, an urban arrisr, a multKtiltural artist. • • . All these terms have bent coined. in essence, to define my relseioeship to a border mygrandparents came across during the revolution in Mc:xico.u

Reclaiming the forgotten histor y o f that bordered relatio nship was a centra l co mponent of the Chicano movement in the 1 960s an d 19705. whic h foc used on the co nstru ctio n of a mo ra l co mm unity based on collectivism and cultu ral empowerment. Man y Chica no activists so ught inspiration in a " hero ic Aztec past [that] emphasized the virility of wa rriors and the exerc ise o f brut e force." Ma ny Chicano a rtists symbolized that past in murals reso nant with images o f powerful Pre-Co lumbian deities such as Quena k oatl an d with sloga ns such as "Viva la Rn a," crea ting a gende red vision of masculine autho rity, writes histori an RamOn Gutierrez, rhat " rar ely extends to women. " 21

• • • Railing CommuniryConsciousness

Baca's a rt , as the Great Wall a nd the Guadalupe Mural attest, is an enco mpass ing a na lysis of po wer and poss ibility based on a feminist c ritiq ue of cla ss and racial oppression. No less com mitte d to E/ Mou;miento's visio n of cultural nationalism, Baca's aest hetic e mploys narrative structures and socia l critiq ues to envision a broadly defined co mmunity free from bo th racism a nd sexi sm.It She follow s neither an assimilationisr nor an '

opposition al model but creates public art that addresses collectivity, honors difference, and encourages dialogue. In bot h the Van Nuys and
Gua dalupe mura ls, from o ne scene to t he next, Baca offers images of di verse cultural rea lities a nd models o f soc ial change, images tha t " bind toget her disparate histories a nd adv ersar ial constit uencies!' Thi s is not to sugg est that her public a n: projects emphasize a ki nd of broad unity that ab sorbs dive rsity. Rath er the y enco urag e a kind of m ulticultural tol erance. As she rem a rks, W in the case of Th e G reat Walf t he met ap hor really is the bridge. It's about the inte rr elationship between et hnic a nd racia l groups, the develo pment of interracial ha rmon y .. . there are really rwo products-the mural a nd another product w hich is invisible, the inte rracia l harmon y between the peop le who ha ve been invol ved . "29 The G reat Wall actually engages several com munit ies: the kids w ho pa inted it a nd the resid ents of the San Fernando Valley w ho see it every da y. Th e brigh t co lo ra tion of the panels, t he dy na mic and fluid st yle, a nd the easily recogn izable and evoca t ive images dem an d att entio n. Baca stud ied at the Taller Siq ueiros in C uernav aca in 1<) 77 and inco rpo ra ted the paint ing styles o f Los Tres Grandes (jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera , and Da vid Alfar o Siq ueiros) in the G reat Wall a nd subseq uent publi c art pro jects . Like th e subjects of t heir m urals, the G reat Walts images are big, and pu rposel y so; says Baca, W By taking a small o bject a nd tra nsfo rming it into a giant ima ge, yo u tea ch people to look at it in a different wa y. Claes O ldenburg knew about th at . Wh en your whole body fits into the eye of a mon umentally rendered head, yo u are go ing to loo k at it in a way you never looked at the eye before. Th e sa me thing is tr ue of the issues included in the mural. "30 T he G reat Waif s style, in other words, is the principal tool used to engage a nd raise the co nsciousness of its a ud ience . Th e process of c rea ting the Great Wa/l was inst rume nta l to that co nsciousness-raisi ng. Throughout t he project Baca an d t he cr ews int eracted wit h the co mm unity: giving numerous talks, co nd ucting o pen fo rums on the mural, posting the designs in public places. Resea rc her s tracing the history of Califo rnia's minorit ies inter viewed Van Nu ys residents and presented their stories at the Friday lect ures; these reclaimed

II .


• 58. J udy Ibca, Grtot Waf, 1976-83, dewt: "Laundry Unes . Copy right Judy 8lIa.

memori es often wor ked their way into the Great Wall. Trying to visualize Ca lifornia's migration patterns in the early 19 405, especia lly those of Dust Bowl refugees and Japanese American deportees, Baca asked her assistants, '"What did the Okies and the Nisei have in common?" One respon se, stemming fro m community conversa tions, was an image of laundry, and, as a result, lon g clotheslines of pants and shins were symbolically used to link several mural segments (Fig. 58). Donat ions of paint, brushes, tools, scaffolds , po rtab le toi lets, food, and ot her supplies were a lso so licited fro m t he communi ty, fro m local schoo ls and neighborhood groups. Baca knew thai most of these materials cou ld have been purchased, but asking the commu niry to co ntribute to the project gave residen ts a sense of ownership in the Great Wall as substantia l as that o f the kids who painted it. At fi rst some Van Nuys residents feared the presence of " hoodlums" in th e wash channel and arrributed neighborhood crime to the M ural Makers; at one point " narcotics agents watched with binoc ulars to catch the mar ijuana smokers they were! sure were th ere! ." J I But because o f Baca's insistence on co llaboration between community residents and the


Commu nity Con sciousne ss

kids in the development of the Great WaU, the former have come to embrace the mural as an emblem of collective identity. Local high school teachers use it to supplement (or replace) textbooks, and an informal survey reveals that those who walk along the mural or drive past it on a daily basis consider the Great Wa/l "their Story, their history." The mural has had an impact, then, in raising community consciousness about the changing histo rical role, from dispossession to empowerment, of California's ethnic minorities. But, more significant, it has tru ly succeeded as Beca intended, as a "catalyst for the regeneration of the community." )2 Th is is precisely what Baca intended in Guadalupe. In late 1987 the Comire asked Santa Barbara County's Arts Commission and Parks Department to help finance an original mural painting by Baca at Lek oy Park, and in January £988 Baca made her first visit to the to wn. Her presenrano n in the gym of the park's community center, a slide-lecture on public art, was well attended by members of the Comire and county agencies, the junior high school principal, the postmistress, the head of the Guada lupe Chamber of Commerce, several city council members, and representatives from the American Legion, the Senior Citizens Center, and the Community Service Center. Convinced of civic inrercsr, the Arts Commission and Par ks Department agreed to help fund a mural project, and contr act negotiations began over salary, assistance, materials, insurance, maintenance, and copyright. The problem of where to house the project was resolved when John Perry, a Guadalupe histo ry buff, loaned the Druid Temple, a deserted building with a cavernous second-floo r auditorium next door to his auto parts sto re. Finally, in August 1988, Baca accepted a salary of $1.0,056 from the Arts Commission and signed a contract promising to produce a mural fo r leRoy Park . She reta ined copyright on the mural, and the co unty Parks Departm ent agreed to pay fo r project assistants, materials, and maintenance. They a lso agreed to help with leRoy Park 's overall refurbishment-the park, after all, was an official county entity. Baca rook a sabbatical from the University of Califo rnia, Irvine. where she has taught since 198J , and moved to Guadalupe, where she lived (on and off} for the next year. "What I found when I arrived in this town only three hours from Los Angeles," Baca recalls, " was amazing.. .. Guadalupe's history paralleled the history of California that I had depicted in The Great Wall of Los Angeles." It is not surprising, then, that Baca followed this public art model in Guadalupe, first o rganizing crews of teenagers to help and then o rienting the project toward an examination of Guada lupe's racial



and fIyinJ Pip •••

att itu des and behav iors. " I' m very att ached to yo ung people," she.says, " because I ident ify with their rebellion, t he st ruggle they're going thro ugh. I believe that t hey have a future, that t hey the ga uge o f what the socie ty is doing ... they are the ba ro meter of racis m. " )J More speci fically, Baca wor ks with teenagers beca use she views public art as an educational ente r prise, a critica l for um for discussion s of race, erhniciry, gender, and class. She wo rks with kids becau se they are often the public sphere's largest audience: They ha ng o ut in the park s and streets where so much pu blic an winds up, and sometimes they get in tr ouble in those parks and st reets. In Guada lupe, Baca worked with four high school students: Mila Cast ro, Ga briel Esrubillo, Alejandro Pereira, and Adria na Q uezad a. All were the child ren o f resident farmworkers, an d a few had co ntri buted to leRoy Par k's gra ffiti " pro blem." " It is interesting working with kids who get in tr ouble wit h the law, " says Baca , "because they'll know wh o the po wers are and maybe how to beat the bureaucratic system." Rel ying on them as liaisons betw een herself and Gu ada lupe's figures of autho rity, Baca offered the kids sala ries and art tr ain ing. She also offered an educatio n in empo werment. Th e Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the Parks Depa rtment were interested in G uada lupe's teens, and ebe entire GUQtUJlupe Mu ral pro ject, for somewha t different reaso ns, After news pa pers ran upbeat articles o n t he Great Wall with headlines such as "Teenage Gangs Put Dow n Knives for Brus hes," arts age ncies aro und the count ry flocked to Baca and begged her to " bott le" her fonnula for deflat ing juvenile delinq uency an d cleaning up gra ffiti. Thinking th ai G uada lupe was under siege by " fierce" gan gs and seeing leRoy Park's gra ffiti as a sign of "a lienated yo uth trying to take possession of its co mmunity" (which, in a sense, the y were), county agencies asked Baca to redirect the town 's teen spirit in a mor e const ructive manner." They saw the GU Q dalupe Mu ral pro ject as an answer to van dalism and Baca as an o rchest rator of graffiti aba tement. But Baca's intentions are ultimately much mor e revolutionary than curtailing property dama ge. She enco urages the kids she works with , and everyo ne else, quite literally to take possessio n of their co mmunity. If arts agencies tr eat her mural p ro jects (a nd those of other artists) as social Band-Aids, she views them as instrumen ts of socia l reform . "S hould publ ic an and public good be equated ? My answer has always been ' Why not ?' " says Baca . Adam antl y oppose d to the a rtisr-kncws-besr syndro me of much pu b-



• • • 1Qi 5ina: Community Consci0u5ness

lie art, Baca and her studen t assistants began th e Mural proje<:t with a critical study o f the town's social context . Having spenr twenty years in the public sphere, she know s the failure of imposed styles and sensibilities:
The notion that we can impose: ideas of beaury in neighborhoods., for ex-

ample, could be as "colonizing" as any previous conquest of our ancestot'S. For inherent in this ideaof Great An from the powers that be is the belief that the people- the indigenous pcople-do OOt have a culture or tradirions of their own. It is precisely this idea that made the burning of the Mrso-Amcrka n codexes possible soc years ago. Cultural imposition is hardl y an Anglo mo nopoly: Wh ile di recting the Citywide Mu ral Project , Baca saw so me artists doing "awful things," such as "c oming into an et hnically mixed community and, because the artist was Chicano , pain ting a Chicano piece with o nly C hicano kids." Baca's version o f public art, in co ntrast, is that of cultural democracy, the product of a long a nd involved process of civic dialogue and participation .lS Determined to avoid accusations of personal o r aest het ic bias and to discover Guadalupe's own cult ural auto no my, Baca spent months in town simply talk ing wit h people, co llecting information an d ideas. Atte nding community meeti ngs, going to ch urch, visiting schoo l classroo ms, hanging out at dan ce halls on Saturday nights, spending time in local diners, watching workers jump o ff freight trains, frequ enting the vegetable fields, ca lling on growers, showi ng up at swa p meets, walking door to door, and roaming the streets, Baa met most of Guadal upe. She posted signs all over town inviting people to the Druid Temple, where she and t he students co nducted oral interviews and amassed historical material: o ld newspaper clippings, phot ogra phs, fam ily albums, posecards, police reports . Th e temple itself proved a t reasure trove, full of the Druids' cost umes (lots of robes and paste-on beards), correspondence (reese letters about membership and d ues), and the st uff of t heir mont hly rituals (mysterio us pictu res of fraterna l han dsha kes and initiation protocol). Once it had been the site of the secret ceremo nies of Guada lupe's elite, a place where grown-ups played dr ess-up . No w t he Dru id Temple became t he clear inghouse for a broa de r and more democr atic conside ration of Guadalupe's histor y and identit y. Com munity response was overwhelming. Asked to participate in Guadalupe's C hristmas Parade in Decembe r 19 88, Baca an d t he studen ts deco rated her car with ornaments and pinecones (Fig. 59 ) and rode


Spirit Poles and Ayinz: Pip • • •

• 59. Roat entered by Jody &.a
and students in GuadJ,lupe C hristmas P:lrade , December 1988. Copyricht Judy 8K1.

behind the Ierrilizer truck ("a place of prestige," she says, laughing). As the C,IQdalufU Mural project grew, Santa Barbara photograph er Rod Ro lle was hired to reshoo t loaned materials; eventuall y an archive of 3,000 slides was established from the pictures that Guadal upe residents eagerly shared. In April .1989 hundreds turned OUt for a com munity po rtrait (Fig. 60) that Rolle shot from a cherry picker in the midd le of Main Srreet (" £S invitado para asisrir LA GRA FOTO GUADALUPE, Sea parte de la hisecria," announced the posters that the mural crew dist ributed a ll over [Own). After spending mont hs withou t lifting a paintb rush, Baca called a town meering and invited everyone to contribute to the mu ral project. More than tOO people came to the Druid Temple that night, each speaking for fiv e minutes about their memories. experiences, and hopes fo r the future of Guada lupe. Older residents recalled pageants and para des, May Da y picnics at leRoy Park and fireworks on July Fourth (a ho liday


• •• Raising Community Consciousness

• 60. Rod Ro lle , Guodolupe T own Photo. 1989. Photo: Rod Rolle .

mostly replaced in today's Guadalupe by Fiestas Parriasl. The y spoke of the Swiss Celebration , when thousands o f Swiss Guadalupeans gathered to commemora te t he found ing o f (he Republic of Switzerland, and of the l ad y of Fatima Celebration o bserved by Gua dal upe's Filipino population each December. T hey to ld of their membe rship in long defunct Guadalupe clu bs-the United Ancient O rder o f Dru ids, the Sons of Italy, the Japanese Associatio n. The ir sto ries were of Guadalupe's rich history, and much of what they remembe red wound up in the first two panels of the mura l. 6 uI rhc do minant story rhnr emerged that night, and in all t he months of the Guadalupe Mural project, was of a city hemmed in on all fo ur sides by agricultural co ncerns with litt le interest in co mmunity welfare. Guadalupeans told sto ries of their town's lack of ho using, of families living in buses and gara ges, on back porches and in the fi elds. They ta lked abou t hea lth care, about how farrnworkers so ught medica l service in

' 17

Spirit Poles V\d FIyW'lt Pip • • •

Mexico because t hey co uld not affo rd treatment in the United States. They sha red th eir wo rries about pestic ides and pollution, and recalled pre-UFW la bor co nditions when toilets and drin king water were unava ilab le and wo rk with the co rriro (sho rt hoe ) caused serious back injuries. They spo ke of the to wn's need for a high schoo l (teens are currently bused to Santa M aria schools) and expressed their concerns about ed ucatio nal and recreationa l o ppo rt unities for Guadalupe's kids. Ca reful to avoi d favoritis m, Baca mad e a point of moving "between all the factions of the city" and listened to everyo ne's story. She heard landowners boas t o f growing crops from seed to full flower in seventy days and of harvesting four to five full crops a year. She heard an t hropologist Victo r Ga rcia call Gua da lupe a "far m labo r ca mp " and ex plain th e enormous profits growers were ma king, especially with the incorporat ion o f co ntrac t labor. She heard people who harvest food tell of not having enough to eat, a Story especia lly ho ned on a day near Ch ristmas when her st udent crew begged o ff work and she discovered they had all gone to get hol iday food baskets for their families from the Community Service Cente r. After listen ing to all these stories, Baca and her crew bega n to shape the Guadalupe Murafs story. Centra l to thai Story was G uada lupe's history o f racial diversity- and animosity. As the mura l pro ject progr essed, Baca discovered the town's com plex cas te system, driven by the relation ship betwee n grow er and farmworker and furt her measur ed by t he length of a farmworker's stay in the United States. As is typical of American immig ration pattern s, each o f Guadalupe'S et hnic groups encountered an entrenched politica l structure and bigotry; eventu ally most infiltra ted that st ruct ure an d undercu t racism. Today in Gua da lupe, desp ite the appeara nce of racial homogeneity in a dominant Mexican po pulatio n. eth nic relationships are hard ly smoo th. Th e a ut hority of Anglo growers, of course, has the most ubiqui tous im pact on Ihat relatio nship. but bigotry is prevalent among farmworkers themselves. Mexican immigra nts and Chicanos slur new migrants as friio/edos (bean eaters) a nd moiados (wet backs), and migrants retort with labels s uch as agrigando (Mexican gr ingo) and poc ho (culturally dispossessed ind ividual). Eschewing the polemics of blame o r a conde mna to ry visual style thai might rum audiences o ff. {he Guadalupe Mura l. like t he Crea l Wa/l, focuses on t he resolution of racial conflict as a step toward civic empo werment . As Baca com ments:




Community Consciousness

Tnt deep-seared social 1sslleSand problems in Guadalupe arc historic, and this history it is how they are derived. Califoronce one nia-not just Guadalupe- has a history, a long histo ry, o f interracia l probkm: How do people from very struggle. It is cssmrially 1M different places COrM rcgether, and develo p some kind of respect fo r oee aOOlM.r's cu ltu res and thei r d iffttfllccs ? Perhaps Ihis has been the central tMIM of my work forever, and maybe: will be: until it's over.'"

Clearly comrnirred to socia l reform, and pinpointing racism as Guadalupe's (and America's) o utsta nding social problem, Baca shaped the town's public an project around that problem. Ca refully illustrating Guadalupe's complex histo ry of ethnic diversity and agricultural labor, she went beyond mere narration to critique the race, class, and gender dimensions of that history and to imagine (in the ancillary wings of the fourth panel) Guadalu pe's redefi ned future. A few townspeop le accused her of neglecting what they considered Guada lupe's " real" hisrory. Joh n Perry complained that the mural " focuses so much on the race thing instead of the history of Guadalupe. The dairy industry, yo u know, is completely left ou t, and there a lot of dairy farms around here." Hank lawrence, Guada lupe's fire chief, objected to the seeming paucity of Portuguese and Swiss-Ita lian historical referents. Ken Rosene, Guadalupe's public defender and the head of the cham ber of commerce, commented that some residents wondered why "so many Mexicans" were depicted in the MUTQI. " I didn't assume tha t the mural was just for the mostly Mexican pop ulation," counters Baca. " I think there's a fair presentation of all the people in Guadalupe- loo k at Panel 1., for insta nce." She also points ou t that " the race thing" is Guada lupe's histo ry and that to assume that history and race (o r histo ry and class) are separa te is to ignore the realities of American identity. Likewise, a few people q uestioned the Guadalupe MUT ats focus on farrnwc rkers, but Baca argues that agricultural labor has been Guada lupe's defining experience. " I got a tremendous amo unt of material retared to the problems of the far mworkers," she says, notin g that the fi eld wo rkers were some of the mural project's most responsive participants: '" remember o ne evening when a Filipino brocco li crew came after a long day's work in the fi elds to demonstra te the d ifferences between historical and contemporary techniques for cutting lettuce and brocco li ... ten f ilipino workmen in my studio, gesturing while squatting on the


Spirit Poles and flying Pigs • • •

floor, as historical slides projected in the background. " Moreover, man y of the Comnemembers who had initiated and supported the Mural project were or had been farmwork ers, Manuel Magana, the Co rmre's president, immigrated from Mexico in 1963 and worked in the fields for several decades until an injury forced him to retire on disability. Guadal upe's resident fermworkers are, and alwa ys have been, the tow n's majority popu lation, and it made sense that their sto ries dominate the Guadalup e Mural. Mostly, though, community reaction to the Guadal upe Mural was (and rema ins) overwhel mingly enthusiastic. Baca worked towa rd that civic acceptance with a well-orchesrrared campaign that concentrated on gaining community access and integrating the art and the process with grassroo ts concerns. "Be prepared , be a good citizen, and know how the pow er structu res wo rk." Baca advises. "And no surprises. Always give adva nce warning of what you' re up to. so tha t peop le don't feel imposed upon ." On e reporte r suggested that the Arcs supporred the Guadalupe Mural because they want ed to reach o ut t'O"a small community with a multi-eultural art project that will serve people nor usually to uched by mainstream art programming." ] 7 Bur the impetus for the Guadalupe Mural came from Guadalupe itself, not from Santa Barbara County agencies that had ignored the town for decades. And this is central to the mural's local success: People in Guada lupe are proud of the mural they helped create. Concomitant wit h that pride is a sense of ownership and responsibility. That doesn't mean that the Guadalu pe Mural is typical of the upbeat, feel-good , PIM (Positive Image Menta lity) placebos that account for a lot of contempo rary pub lic art-such as the cutesy bron zes tha t Glenna Goodacre churns o ut (see Pledge Allegiance, Fig. 6) o r the colo rful turds in the civic/corporate plaza created by George Sugarman and Alexander Calder (see La Grande Vitesse, Fig. 17). Author Nelson George w rites that a lot of public culture consists of civic cheerleading rather than critical debate about public needs.J ' Bace's public art cannot, obvio usly, be described as an world o r even civic boosrerism-c-ir raises qu estions and concerns rat her than mo uths platitudes, and it is ultimately absorbed less with itself than with irs audience. Enthusiasm for the Guadalupe Mural can be attributed to Baca's serio us and intelligent trea tment of both local history and the locals: The mural doesn 't gloss Guada lupe's history, and it doesn't treat Guadalupeans as o ne-dimension al do lts. It doesn't exaggerate o r romanticize the a bility of "the people" to outsmart


••• RaisingCommunity Consciousness

"the system," and it doesn't underp lay the very real pro blems o f race, class, and gender in Guada lupe. It is, rather, purpose ly complicated by layers of visual references and socia l possibilities. " If I do my job right," says Beca, " the guy walking dow n the stree t with little or no ed ucati on can read it. If I do it really well, it will also appeal to the more educa ted person, who will set references to Los Tres Gra ndee, to fi lm, and to co ntempo rary art. And if 1do it even bette r, the work will stand without the product- without the physical mura l." The strength of the C uadalupe Mural, Like that of the Great Wall and other examples of Baca's publ ic an, lies in its ability to com mun icat e on d ifferent levels to different peo ple withou t losing its "hberaror y vision. "J' School kids, resident farmwcr kers, migrants, growers, and a rt cr itics may all respond to the mura l differentl y, seeing it as painting, as local history, as a visual pun, as art, as a call to action. T he crates in Panel 3. for instance, show real-life minidramas and also pro vide biting critiques of t he cond itio ns of agriculrural labor ; similarly, their dou ble-enreedre labels can be read eit her straight or as farmwor ker (and grower) injokes. Yet the mural's metaphor o f interracial and class struggle, and comm unity ethos, remains embedded in all these readi ngs. Beyond, o r perhaps over and above the Guadalupe Murars compelling sto ry and visua l ap peal, is, as Baca says, " the wo rk" thar went into it -t he wo rk of com muniry building and th e com plicated process of cultura l democ racy that embod ies her definitio n of public art. Beyond its large scale, its beautiful jewel-like colors, and irs familiar scenes, beyond its art style and subject , the Guadalupe Mural has been em braced in Guadalupe because it is plausibly prescriptive. Through the medium o f public an, Baca co nvinces aud iences o f the possibilities o f social change. She says, I want 10 convey the beauty of the farm workers . . . while at the same rime revealing the harsh conditions that Ihis surface beaut)' belics-the low wages, health problems.substandard living conditions. Caughl up in the immediacyof their material crisis, it is often difficult for these farm workers to articulate the issues Ihat are of concern to them, 10 makeconnccrions that will allow them to orpnize their thoughts. I am hoping that the murals will help them to do this." Baca trea ts pub lic art as civic const ructio n: " I believe pu blic art is about inspiring. If you JUSt go to peo ple and give t hem somet hing o r make so mething for them, you have much less of a dialogue o r a part icipator)'


Spirit Po&es and

f¥nc Pip • • •

publ ic art project. You need to inspire them, not simply give them an.With some degree of bitterness, she also makes the comment that ccetemporary public art is increasingly used in ethnic and minority comma, nine s as a "colo nizing device." " Public art agencies talk a lot about multiculturalism," she remar ks, "but when it comes right down to it, they're most interested in silencing the people and keeping them quin.· Clearly, Baca imagines a mo re co mplex pub lic art of community engage-ment and civic agency. Emplo ying " mechanisms of persona l agency· that enco urage people to think and act politically, Baca tried to convince Guadalupeans to think of themselves as active citizens- not just passiw spectato rs...1 Mayor Rennie Pili concu rs that the Guadalupe Mural project stimulated civic dialogue, noting, "There was a lot of energy here when the mural was being made." Aristo n Julian adds that it "generated a lac of internal thinking" and "c reated a new sense of community." As Baca intended, the process of creating the C IUldalupe Mu ral fi red public imaginations. A proposal was made to develo p 8t hecta res (200 acres) on the town's south side for low- and middle-income housing. Guadalupe's tina historical society was formed to house the thou sand s of slides that were raken for the project and the numerous ot her artifacts that were collected. Several of the teens involved with the project went on to college; one former graffiti writer is no w studying a rchitecture. Baca talked abo ut sett ing up a permanent public art studio in the Druid Temple for future projects. Peo ple d iscussed selling "l-shirrs and postcards of the four panels, cond ucting mural to urs, and starting a silk-screen business to print scarves wit h the Virgin of Guadalupe o n them- like the ant worn by the female farmworker in the ir third panel. And recently other pub lic murals have sprouted in Guada lupe: Teacher Liz Dominguez. instigated a mural painted by her students at the Mary Buren Elementary Schoo l, and a long row of colorfu l scenes of local history covers a fence at the edge of town. Local optimism was infectious, and Guada lupe's former noto riety was undercut by outsiders who no w found the place appealing. The Nature Conservancy proposed a youth hostel and ecology center in one of Guadal upe's vacant buildings, and linking the rown more with its acrivities at the Nipo mo Dunes. Variou s Los Angeles outfits became interested in Guadalupe's small-town scenery: GTE filmed a phone ad on Main Street in September 1993. and Ken Rosene nores that rhe California Film Counc il has scouted rhe a rea more tha n a few times- and that the 1991.


• • • Raisine Commun ity ConKiou5neu

movie: O f Mice and Men was "almost" filmed in Guadal upe instead of nearby Santa Ynez. From insider co nversatio ns to outsider perceptio ns, the Guadalupe Mural project certa inly reshaped the mind-set and image of the community. If the sto ries of contempo rary public an in Concord, Cleveland, and Ona wa (and elsewhere in America ) seem to substa ntiate J urgen Habermas's sense of an a lienated and victimized citizenry conco mitant with the model of the: passive and detached public sphere, Guada lupe's public an: story is that of an active citizenry engaged in a longtime, ongoing, a nd unfinished conversation. Indeed, Mikhail Bakhrin's concept of the "dielogic imagination" can certainly be applied to an analysis of the: Guadalupe Mural project, which clearl y demo nstrated a dialogue between history. affect, and agency," Baca reco vered and reframed symbols and stories from Guadalupe's past (fro m Chumash Indians to Ja panese American depo rtees] to make contempo rary discourse abo ut the: town's interracial struggle comprehensible and legitimate. Utilizing rbese symbols in a particularl y accessible and appealing (and often humorou s) visual language, she shaped Guadalupe's public an process around a civic dialogue: thai encouraged townspeople to remember their past and imagine their futu re. Ultimately the prod uct of innu merab le (and even contra dictory ] conversatio ns, the Guadalupe Mural mediated between the town's past histo ry, its present circumstances, and its futu re possibilities. " One: of the most dangero us, condescending assumptions" abo ut publie art, writes Michael Kimmelman, "is ghere oizaucn under the guise of public ourreach-c-thar an for lower-income communities, immigrant co mmunities, mUSI ta ke: the form of social activism, that the history of Western cultu re as presented in museums is irrelevant to such people. "4J Separa ting "a n " {real an:, the an of museums) from "social activism," Kimmelman arg ues thai aesthetics and social change are distinct and that "art " is primarily property-the painted or sculpted products of solita ry a rtists. However, the real issue for the public artist committed to social reform is making an art of social act ivism that goes beyond commod ification and into the realm of social change- which is exactly what Baca aimed to do with the Mural. Moving beyond the "colonizing" level at which man y arts agencies treat inner-city public an -as an anngraffi ri. barrio beautification device, a son of pictur e-making social service that keeps juvenile delinq uents off the streers-c-Baca created a visually compelling. fi nely crafted, work of " an " that embodies issues of


Spirit Poles and Ayifl& PIp •••


social agency. Certa inly. people in Guada lupe are entitled 10 "art " as much as those in Manhat tan . Perhaps the more significant issue is why a rt world critics tend to igno re what Baca and other activist arti sts are up ro in t he public sphere. Th e Social and Public Art Resou rce Center unveils dozens of murals eac h yea r in Los Angeles. and similar arts groups do the same across the cou ntry. Th ey arc ra rtly reviewed in the art press. When they show up in newspa pers, it's usually as the stu ff of local color; when they ' re ana lyzed with an y dept h it's usually by ur ban sociologises loo king for wa ys to quantify socia l change. The "ghen oiaation" of an art world committed mainly to issues of artistic pro perty (such as style, qu ality. and, ultimatel y, cost) seems to prohi bit the serious aesthetic anenrion that these public artworks deserve. After t he process of making the Guadaillpe Mural ended, in 1990. a number of issues ca me into play. Th e first was the mu ral's location. In September 1993 over 5.000 people turned OUI in leRoy Par k for Fiestas Parries, the largest crowd the three-day festival had ever seen. Manuel Magana and ot her Comite members proudly showed o ff the community cente r's new kitchen and rest room facilities. and the: new bleachers and retracta ble basketball hoops in the gym. But festival goers didn 't see the Guadalupe Mural in leRoy Park. Despite the fact that Baca's contract with the Santa Barbara Co unty Arts Commission specifically ca lled for "a visual rep resentation o f the interracial diversity and histo ry o f the city o f Guadalupe for the leRoy Par k... the mural was insta lled at City Hall in 1990. Baca and arch itect Paul Libowicki had propo sed housing the mura l in a plaza in front of leRoy Park's co mmunity center, in a semicircu lar adobe building with severa l windows. Standing in the center of the gazebolike structure, the viewer co uld compare the scenes illustrated in the Guadalupe Mura f s fou r panels with those outside the windows. AI· though thei r proposal was moderat ely priced at arou nd $10.000. t he Santa Barba ra Co unty Parks Department refused to fund it. Th e Parks Department had generously endorsed the C wu:lDlupe Mural p roject by paying for materials and stu dent salaries. But, apparently in a show o f strength over park jurisdictio n as the proj ect was drawi ng to an end. the departm ent withdrew fundin g to house the mural or to help with the park's refur bishment. Cur reerly, funds to build Lt Roy Par k's intended gazebo have yet to be secured; the Comire have concentra ted on raising money for the rest of the community center's resto ration. "The mural wasn 't mad e for City Hall," says Guadalupe postmistress j innie Ponce.


• • • fbisint Commu nity Consciousness

" It was intended for leRoy Park, and tha t's where: it shou ld go . Baca adds t hat. on aesthetic gro unds alo ne, City Hall is "defi nitely the wrong place" for the: mural. "There is a shadow th at run s across the panels there,.. she complains. " U they were: meant fo r that place, I would have: designed them for that space. But they were meant for Lc:Roy Park." Mo st Guada lupeans agret. A few, howeve r, look upon th e four panels o f the Guadalupe Mural as valuab le art o bjects t hat need to be protected o n the secure walls o f City Hall. Hand in hand with th e issue of where the mura l should be placed has arisen th e issue of its wo rth, or its place within a " hierarc hy of preciousness," as Baca describes it. T he mura l itself, in other words, may now outweigh the collaborative process of cultura l democracy that created it, or the community revitalization it embodies. Some of those who had heralded it as a viral symbol of grassroots Guada lupe now express grave concern for its "safety" when talk of moving it comes up. Ob jections have been raised abo ut puttin g the mural in leRoy Park because: it might "get damaged " there: by graffiti writers o r vandals. Conscious or not, such sentiments reveal the depth of the town 's abiding racial tensions: The few who say they want to S« the mura l stay at City Hall are older and more estab lished residents; those who want to see the mural placed in leRoy Par k include Guada lupe's newer Mexican immigrants and migrant workers. During the process of making the mural, Guada lupe's histo rical baggage was dragged o ut of the closet and d usted off. Townspeop le analyzed their social and political histories and conf ronted Guadalupe's legacy of interra cial struggle. Newly atten tive to issues of race and class, they openly discussed the dynamics of their past, present, and future: relation ships. The mural project clearly raised civic consciousness about Guada lupe's deep-seated racial problems-which became the driving metaphor in each of the mural's four panels. But, when the process of making public art in Guada lupe came to a n end, civic dialogue about race was supplanted by ta lk about art and about protecting valuab le comm unity property. The town's sense of personal and political agency, in other words, became stalled at a level of commod ification that, writes critic David Trend, " frustrates co mmunity ethos by enco uraging competitive acquisition" and demonstrations of " It's ironic," says Baca, reflecting on the co mmunity's str uggle to define the mural experience and lind an appropriate place for the mural itself: " My d ream was to have them in the park, where the people are. But they've got them in a place of protection-not the park. but City Hall. I


mad e a mistak e in making them mobile. Now they a re open to appropriat ion by Cit y Hall an d the like because they can be moved around. " Baca had hoped the process of ma king the G uadalllpe Mura l would inspire Guadal upea ns to wo rk tow ard social cha nge! (" If I do my job ... even better, t he work will stand withou t t he product-withou t the phys· ical mu ral" ], But to chastise the people of Guadalupe for their desire to protect the physica l object, th e mural, that bro ught them toge ther and inspired levels o f persona l and civic revisio n is perhaps un fair. Th e reason that the G'loda/upe Mural currently bedecks the walls of City Hall, of COUrK. is that the Santa Barbara Cou n ty Parks Depa rtm ent withdrew funding to co nstruct rhe Lt Roy Park gazebo intended to house it- not any malevolent Guada lupe City Hall au thoritarianism. M ayor Pili, as do most city officials, av idly supports putting the M ural in le Roy Par k, "where it belongs," o nce the gazebo has been built. And, by tr ying to protec t the mural , the citizens of Guada lupe show they are att empting to preserve and sustai n t he memories of t he co llaborative process of community revita lization and social agency that it em bodies. Indeed, beyon d the issues of placement and prope rty value that Stem lately to have dom inated Guada lupe's think ing about the mural, t he fact is that the process of maki ng it provided C uadalu peans with a glimpse o f their social possibilities. In T he New Populism , co mmunity activist Harry C. Boyte asse rts tha t a progressive an d democratic publ ic cult ure ca n reawa ken "generous a nd hopeful insti ncts among the people.....oS Th e Story of the G uad4 lupe Mural project. with its emphasis on co llabo rative activity, its reclam at ion of histori cal memo ry, an d its inspiration toward civic d ialogue an d trejconsrrucrion, certainly substa ntiates th is. Jud y Baca helped raise co nsciousness an d helped re-create <I sense of co mm unity thr oug h the public art process of making the mura l. Although it is ultimately up to the citizens of Guada lupe to s ustain that newly raised consciousness an d actua lly create t he democratic and egaliraria n society pictured in that public art, the Guadalupe Mural may well be the ca talyst to tha t t rans forma tion.


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