Artist, Educator, Scholar/Activist and Community Arts Pioneer Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art, 1969 Master of Arts Degree in Art Education, 1980 California State University, Northridge
Judith Baca is a world renowned muralist who took her passion for color, Los Angeles, and its youth, and turned her paints into a movement. Baca is the artistic director of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab at UCLA. Her best known work is “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” It is ‘tattooed’ along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley and employed more than 400 at risk youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members. The Great Wall depicts a mile long multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. It was begun in 1976 and plans are underway for its next four decades of evolution. The California Endowment recently awarded SPARC a grant to preserve and restore the historic mural.As she painted her first murals in the barrios of Los Angeles in the 1970s, Baca founded the Citywide Mural Program and soon won worldwide attention and acclaim for painting the city’s urban freeways for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Her work, “Las Tres Marias,” is included in the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection.In 2010, she completed the Cesar Chavez Memorial at San Jose State University and the Robert F. Kennedy monument at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools — formerly the Ambassador Hotel, the site of Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.Her biography states: What sets Baca’s work as a visual artist apart from many other artists, is an inspired ability to teach and a creative pursuit of relevancy in developing educational and community based art methodologies. Baca’s public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly, LGBT and immigrant communities. Throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues, Baca’s projects have often been created in impoverished neighborhoods that have been revitalized and energized by the attention these works have brought and the excitement they have generated. Underlying all of Baca and SPARC’S activities is the profound conviction that the voices of disenfranchised communities need to be heard and that the preservation of a vital commons is critical to a healthy civil society. Dianne Harrison, president, California State University, Northridge, nominated Baca.