One of the oldest and most cherished murals in Venice is the Jaya Mural painted on the wall of the Switch Studios at 316 S. Venice Boulevard.Created in 1974 by the Citywide Murals Project and Jaya, a collective of Venice women artists (Jaya is Sanskrit for non-violent victory), the mural, which depicts life in the nearby Venice canals and features portraits of Venice residents, was vandalized in 1981 by “a crew of unnamed profiteers,” as described by the mural’s lead artist Emily Winters and her Jaya co-member MaryJane. Local residents came to the rescue, removing the whitewash splashed over the mural, and coming back the following day to remove more paint apparently applied by the same saboteurs.SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) helped to restore the vivid paint colors of the original mural in 1997. But again, in 2006, the Jaya Mural fell victim to taggers and was so defaced that the owner of the property wanted to remove the mural altogether. The Venice Arts Council (VAC) created the Endangered Art Fund in order to restore works of public art, and chose the Jaya mural as its first project.At a Champagne Brunch held May 3 at Switch Studios, Venice community members celebrated the restoration of the mural and future projects of the Endangered Art Fund.Between sets of acoustic folk music by The Shoeflies and Suzy Williams, the VAC paid tribute to Winters and to the donors whose contributions had helped with the restoration. Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose office had given $5000 toward the restoration, promised to work on getting rid of the “visual blight” of the billboards that are invading Venice and Los Angeles. “But murals are works of art,” he added. “They connect us to each other.”Other donors who spoke included Linda Lucks of the Venice Neighborhood Council, who said it was a “joy” to convince other VNC members to donate $20,000 to the fund, community activist Don Geagan, who gave $3000 because he has known Winters since 1954 and found her “a remarkable person,” and Steve Clare of Venice Community Housing Corporation, who is depicted in the mural, but joked that he wasn’t wearing the striped pants he wore back then because “they’re not made of Spandex and they no longer fit.”Winters spoke last, holding up a diagram she had made that identified the people in the mural. “There must be a hundred people who contributed,” she said. Then, tears appeared in her eyes and she cried a bit as she added, “It’s unbelievable that we’re still here, fighting for our community.”According to Endangered Art Fund chair Suzanne Thompson, the Fund will be holding another party soon to celebrate the restoration of another mural by Winters, “Endangered Species,” off the Ocean Front Walk, The Fund will also be working to restore the Poetry Wall on Venice Beach.A full history of the Jaya Mural can be read at veniceartscouncil.org.
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