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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Close Encounters of the Echo Park Kind: Artist connects with community while making a mural

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By CECILIA PADILLA-BRILL

ECHO PARK – Skateboarders. Grandmothers.  Telenovela actors. They have all stopped by as artist Katrina Alexy spent the past five months transforming a 40-foot-long cinderblock wall next to a public parking lot into whimsical mosaic artwork. She could have completed the bulk of the work more quickly in her Highland Park studio – but what fun is that compared to the countless encounters she had with the people from all corners of Echo Park?

“People seemed to really want to be engaged, so I made it a point to take my time,” said Alexy, whose mural will be dedicated on Friday afternoon. The experience reminded her about “what I love about Echo Park”

After taking a sabbatical from her teaching job, Alexy decided to devote much of her attention to raising money, getting city approvals and collecting material for the mosaic mural on Logan Street, where the Echo Park Farmers’ Market takes place on Fridays. The mural, named Healthy Foods, is dedicated to Isa-Kae Meskin, a long-time Echo Park resident who helped bring the market to the area.

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Renard Gray was out on Logan on a daily basis volunteering to clean the sidewalk and water the trees he planted | Katrina Alexy

At the heart of Alexy’s experience was the time she spent spent chatting with curious onlookers while installing Healthy Foods, which is composed of a combination of modestly priced to high-end pieces of tile that were donated instead of ending up in a landfill. Alexy hosted a tile-making event at the market where guests created fruit-shaped tiles.  She took photos of many of the visitors as they stood or crouched on the sidewalk next to the mural.

An abuelita, or grandmother, brought Alexy a churro. A local named Frank brought elote or corn and another local named José brought her water and radishes. A young lady offered her a back pillow. A firefighter described how his wife’s grandfather was a mosaic artist for the Doheny family. A WWII veteran shared his experiences on the frontline. A retired telenovela star touted the $1.89 pants he purchase at Fallas. The homeless shared their perspectives. Mothers took pictures of their children in front of the mosaic.

Many people stopped to take photos of their kids and to talk for awhile. There were a lot of young moms on their way to the park would stop and talk | Katrina Alexy

Many people stopped to take photos of their kids and to talk for awhile. | Katrina Alexy

Two Echo Park residents named Mario Morales and Martin Mayoral along with an unidentified man offered to grout the mural under a relentless sun.  “I am indebted to them for life,” Alexy said. ?They volunteered because they love community, too,”

Overtime, Alexy found herself often turning away from the wall to look at all of these interesting people coming by.

“Where else would you find all of these fascinating people on the same block?”

Healthy Foods, located on Logan Street, 1/2 block south of Sunset Boulevard, will be dedicated on Friday, June 26 at 4 p.m.

Cecilia Padilla Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999

Fireman Rugo (right) stopped by the first day of tiling to talk about his wife's grandfather, who did all the master mosaic work for the Doheny family.

Fireman Rugo (right) stopped by the first day of tiling to talk about his wife’s grandfather, who did all the master mosaic work for the Doheny family.

Vince talked about how tough it is to find affordable housing. | Katrina Alexy

Vince talked about how tough it is to find affordable housing. | Katrina Alexy

Rafael talked about his television career in Mexico as well as tips on where to get good deals on clothing in LA | Katrina ALexy

Rafael talked about his television career in Mexico as well as tips on where to get good deals on clothing in LA | Katrina ALexy

Stacy stops at the wall to point out the watermelon-shaped tile she made | Katrina Alexy

Stacy stops at the wall to point out the watermelon-shaped tile she made | Katrina Alexy

Animals of all sorts stopped to visit | Katrina Alexy

Animals of all sorts stopped to visit | Katrina Alexy

Ms. Badu and friend | Katrina Alexy

Ms. Badu and friend | Katrina Alexy

Mario and Martin help grout | The Eastsider

Mario and Martin help grout | The Eastsider

Katrnia Alexy and canine friend

Katrnia Alexy and canine friend

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3 comments

  1. Cheers to you Katrina! good job! we’re so proud of your artwork and what you’ve done and how you are and who you are !!???

  2. Lovely work! I love EP too!

  3. 35-year Echo Park resident

    Katrina has spent many years beautifying Echo Park in different ways and I’ve enjoyed all her creations. This tile mosaic mural will be a favorite Echo Park landmark. Thanks, Katrina!

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