By C.J. SALGADO
EAST LOS ANGELES — With heavy construction activity beginning this month next to the Our Lady of Guadalupe murals on Mednik Avenue at Cesar Chavez Avenue , some locals are wondering, “What’s going on? Who’d mess with Our Lady! Are they covering it up? Preparing to move it? Or worse, is it going to be demolished?”
Well, breathe easier East L.A. Here’s the scoop on all the commotion. KIPP LA, a nonprofit organization that operates public charter schools, purchased the property and is building two new schools on this site on Mednik near Cesar Chavez Avenue with the support of County Supervisor Gloria Molina. It’s also pledged to preserve the murals.
The mural by David Lopez, a native artist from East L.A., was painted in 1973 on a pair of walls from the barrack-like buildings that dotted the old Casa Maravilla housing project. The mural – consisting of two panels – was moved to its present location after the old project was torn down to make way for the new apartments. First drawn as a tribute to a young victim of gang violence, the mural was restored in 2008 by the original artist, Lopez, bringing its brilliant colors back to life for new generations to enjoy. Since then, it has also become a local community shrine visited by many regulars who pray, bring flowers, or light candles. So, it’s important to the community.
The new “campus” will be home to the KIPP Iluminar Academy, an elementary school, and KIPP Sol Academy, a middle school eventually serving more than 1,000 students, K-8. Ms. Alma Reza, Chief of Real Estate at KIPP LA, confirmed that the mural is to be protected. Because a new building is to be raised just behind the mural and the former L.A. County Housing Authority offices are being torn down a few feet away, a partial enclosure is being built around it for the duration of the construction expected to last about a year. It will still be accessible for viewing.
KIPP is the second charter school to agree to preserve an East L.A. murals as part of a school construction project. In 2012, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and a group of artists reached an agreement to preserve the tiled murals above the former First Street Store.
As a result of these agreements, East L.A.’s murals will continue to serve as an important history lesson in one’s cultural roots and in the power of faith.
C.J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles