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Venice Rallies to Restore Jaya Mural:

Various elements of the Venice community, including the publicly elected Venice Neighborhood Council, have joined in an effort to restore and preserve the “Jaya Mural” – a 1975 wall painting depicting Venice lifestyles threatened by real estate development. The mural, designed and painted by Emily Winters, is on the side of what is now Switch Studios sound lab at the corner of Dell Avenue and South Venice Boulevard on the edge of the canals (316 S. Venice Boulevard – the mural faces Dell Avenue).

“Jaya” was the name of “an active, uppity Women Artists Collective” in Venice in the 1970s, as described in a release distributed by the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), one of the groups organizing support and raising funds for the mural. The word jaya is from the Sanskrit for “non-violent revolution, peace and victory,” according to the group.

The mural has been defaced by graffiti, and the painted images of canal scenes with Venetians of the beat and hippie generations alongside oncoming bulldozers are separating from the wall on which they were painted 30 years ago. The project would not only involve graffiti removal, but also treatment of the mural with acyrloid so as to more permanently adhere the images to the wall and resist future damage. The Venice Neighborhood Council voted in October to allocate $20,000 from its Community Projects Fund to help preserve and restore two Venice murals, including the Jaya; others supporting the effort, besides SPARC, include the Venice Arts Council, Voice of the Canals and Switch Studios.

Jaya Mural History

In November 1975, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks’ Citywide Mural Project approached the Jaya group to create a mural about the Venice Canals community and its struggle to survive the intrusion of “profiteers” seeking to transform the colorful neighborhood into something more like “the sterile white Marina,” as the SPARC release describes the history. Open public meetings and hearings for the mural were held over a period of 15 months. The meetings must have been classic Venice – they have been variously called “tedious,” “spirited” and “a very collective kind of thing” by those who recall them.

Professor Judith F. Baca of the UCLA Department of Chicana/o Studies, UCLA World Arts and Culture Department and Founder/Artistic Director of SPARC and the UCLA/SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital/Mural Lab, recalls: “Not in the way we might expect today, but in a time so different than now, there were those who advocated that the graffiti which was [already] on the wall in four foot high letters was more important than any mural we could design. It said, ‘stop the pig save Venice.’ What it was saying then was, stop the greed before it displaced an artist community and gentrified the canals and in actuality the whole of Venice and every beach community in the country…. Venice was a holdout on the idea that the people who helped build the canals, Latinos, African Americans and Asians could and should live here alongside bohemians, artists, intellectuals and enlightened people of means. We negotiated the image and Emily [Winters, the mural painter] added ‘stop the pigs’ in the left hand corner as a concession to the dissenters.”

Apparently, there were those who did not appreciate that concession. The SPARC release recounts the next chapter: “In the early morning in March of 1981, a strange unknown crew of profiteers arrived at the mural site and whitewashed the entire mural. The ongoing community-never-failing-network got word out and immediately appeared, en masse, with battle gear of water hoses, brooms and brushes, washing the paint away before it could dry. The following morning, the profiteers again arrived in ski masks…and [with] oil-based paints, sprayed the entire mural with thick green paint. And again, canalers arrived en masse prepared for battle with paint thinner, rags, ladders, brooms and brushes and scrubbed it all off.” Philip Garaway, one of the scrubbers, recalls that the police were on hand to keep the peace.

The Current Campaign

Many of those now working to restore and preserve the Jaya Mural gathered at Switch Studios – inside the building on which the mural is painted – for a fund-raising evening of music, food, beverage and brief speeches on December 1. L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice, was on hand, as was Judith Baca of SPARC. Matt Danciger of Switch Studios, who bought the building in 1999, said he had felt “intimidated by inheriting a piece of public art,” but has now hooked up with SPARC and artist Emily Winters and welcomes the “opportunity to restore the mural.”

Winters was on hand as well. She is a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute who moved to Venice in 1963, raised two daughters and worked in commercial art as a billboard painter for record companies and then outdoor advertising. Winters was the first woman painter hired by Foster and Kleiser, was a union activist in Local 831 of the Sign Painters and Decorators Union and later taught at Santa Monica College Art and Entertainment Technology School. She founded and chairs the Venice Arts Council, and is an avid international folk dancer.

The current appeal to save the Jaya Mural is stated by SPARC founder Baca: “I lived in the canals then and am fortunate enough to be an artist that could stay and live there now. The scenes which are painted so lovingly on the wall in my neighborhood are our history and part of why we all came to Venice. Venice is an art community, with unique history and a diversity which makes it interesting. If we wanted homogeneity we could have moved to Beverly Hills or Brentwood. A healthy environment needs diversity of plants, animals and people and art. We are becoming one giant shopping mall across the world. Why can’t we try to maintain a small amount of history in our community? It can only help us remember where we came from and perhaps steer a better course for our future. It would be so wrong for Venice to destroy its art and its history.”

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