An artist turns his Echo Park mural into a movie poster

Artist Ruben Soto has been locked in a decades long campaign to keep his mural on a public stairway across from Echo Park Lake free of tagging and graffiti. But when the name of a movie website was scrawled on the mural last week, Soto didn’t complain. In fact, it was Soto who painted “www.Willoughbythemovie.com” on the stairway walls to promote the movie he co-produced. Soto said he does not consider what he did tagging and won’t clean it up until the movie is shown at a screening this week.

“A lot of the mural has been wiped. out,” said Soto, who painted the mural as part of the 1984 Olympics. “So I decided to use it as a promotion type of thing for my movie.”

It’s not clear whether the laws that protect public murals also allow artists to turn them into billboards promoting other work. But the head of the neighborhood nonprofit in charge of painting out tagging, Central City Action Committee, said she can’t clean up the Soto mural on busy Glendale Boulevard until the city works out an agreement with the artist. Maryanne Hayashi said her group has had to pay in the past for painting over tagging on other murals without the artist’s permission. “We are not allowed to remove graffiti from any mural,” she said.

Hayashi said this is the first time she recalls a muralist painting over his own work.

Soto, who lives in Eagle Rock, said he might use some of the money he makes off the movie, which premiers at a downtown movie theater, to restore his murals. “Hopefully, you can come.”


  1. I wonder how much that “advertising” will actually pay off? Seems like some kind of artist’s “sacrilege” has been broken here.

  2. Hello Ruben,

    I looked you up online because one of my co-workers mentioned that you had once been a resident at the Guadalupe Home in Yucaipa, California. The name of that group home has changed and is now part of Trinity Youth Services. I am also an artist, but make a living as the marketing specialist for Trinity. I am always looking for success stories, and after seeing your extraordinary artwork, murals and film, I was moved to connect with you. I would love a chance to interview you for a piece in our newsletter and on facebook. It would be fantastic if you could also visit our group homes and tell your story to the boys that live there now. We currently operate homes in El Monte, Apple Valley, Sacramento and Yucaipa.

    It is my hope that your experience in Yucaipa helped you become the person you are today, and that you will be willing to share what you learned. The public relations generated from this exposure could be beneficial to you and Trinity alike. Please contact me at jseward@trinitycf.org.

    (We may have a mutual acquaintance — Gilbert “Magu” Lugan. Since you are both well known muralists in LA, and created murals during the Olympics, I felt sure you know each other.)

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. guess she just wasn’t as cool as JR’s old lady mural.


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