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Latina artist to paint Topping Center mural on Chicano themes

Muralist Judy Baca, center, surrounded by her young assistants for the mural project, including, (left to right) Rene Barrueta, Omar Ramirez, Adriana Chavar’n, César Lopez and Jennifer Villalobos.


The university has commissioned Latina artist Judith Baca to paint a large mural exploring Latino themes.

“Professor Baca’s mural will encourage generations of students to think about the contributions this important community has made to USC, Southern California and our nation,” said Michael L. Jackson, vice president for student affairs, who announced the selection July 25. “She has vision, tremendous talent and an ability to bring together folks from different backgrounds to produce works of art that are thought-provoking and educational.”

A 14-member committee appointed by president Steven B. Sample chose Baca. “We’re proud to have selected Judy Baca,” said committee chair Arturo Fribourg. “She has long been known for her evocative murals depicting the culture of the Latino, Mexican-American and Chicano community.”

The Venice-based Baca – an important figure in the Chicano mural movement – has overseen the creation of hundreds of murals by other artists and has created more than 30 murals of her own. In recent years, she has developed a reputation for collaborating with multiethnic communities on murals.

“I’m very enthusiastic,” said Baca of the USC project. “It’s wonderful to be painting again about the Chicano culture.”

The work will be “a meta-phoric piece depicting the spirit of the Chicano or Latino,” Baca said. “I have a spiritual and metaphoric idea, but I want to listen to the students and the community. It’s out of all that information that I’ll develop an image.”

Measuring nine by 23 feet, the mural will cover the west wall of the South Lounge in the Norman Topping Student Center. In addition to commemorating Latino culture, it will provide a hands-on learning experience for USC students, who will research historical sources, hone the concept, paint portions of the work and videotape the project.

Baca said she plans to complete the mural by Oct. 20.u0000

Baca is a founding faculty member at Cal State Monterey Bay and is currently on a leave of absence from UC Irvine, where she has taught studio art for 13 years. An early organizer of local mural projects for youth, she co-founded in 1976 the Social and Public Art Resource Center, a Venice-based nonprofit organization that has sponsored more than 400 murals in the Los Angeles area. She now serves as SPARC’s artistic director.

Baca’s credits as a muralist include The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a half-mile-long visual history of Southern California’s ethnic peoples, painted in a Van Nuys drainage canal; and The World Wall, a series of portable murals designed to travel abroad.u0000u0000

The 14-member Latino Arts Committee , composed of students, faculty members and administrators, convened last October and sent requests for qualifications to 300 artists from Central California to the Mexican border.

The 42 artists submitting proposals were asked to take their inspiration from Borderlands/La Frontera, The New Mestiza – Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldua’s 1987 collection of prose and poetry about the forging of the Latino identity. “What I want is an accounting of all three cultures – white, Mexican, Indian,” Anzaldua writes. “I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face….”

The USC mural will be painted on canvas and affixed to the wall so that it can be removed and reinstalled if Topping should need to be renovated.

“The university wants a piece of significant art that will last and last,” said Fribourg, a USC alumnus and founding partner in the Los Angeles architectural firm of Escudero-Fribourg.

Latina artist to paint Topping Center mural on Chicano themes

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