By Emily Winters and maryjane
In March 1974, Judy Baca of the City Wide Mural Project approached Jaya (Sanskrit for non-violent Revolution/peace/victory), an active, uppity Women Artists Collective, to create a mural about the Venice Canals community and its struggle to survive the intrusion of profiteers. Open public tedious meetings and hearings for this mural were held over a period of fifteen months. This included gathering permission from the building owner, the community and their input for the mural visuals. Jaya member, Emily Winters, volunteered to facilitate their ideas into actual design.
Emily Winters first submitted design was turned down by the community for being too ‘sad’. They wished to portray the contrast of the canal people who had a love and zest for harmonious living with the intrusion of profiteers, those who didn’t have a clue about life’s realities and the importance of ‘quality of life.’
With this in mind, Winters designed a second concept, this time to the wall’s actual dimensions, and incorporated its architectural irregularities and idiosyncrasies. It was unanimously approved at more multiple tedious meetings and hearings.
Prior to this mural, the walls of the building were covered with graffiti expressing the despair with the then existing metro-squad/police abuses. The community demanded that the graffiti “Stop the Pig”, (then a term of empowerment), be included in the mural design.
The mural now known as the Jaya Mural, depicts the sterile white Marina trying to destroy our beautiful and colorful life in the canals. The People’s Park which we built is the focal point showing daily canal life: the arts, farming, fishing, families of four generations; the general supportiveness of a community and the migratory birds. The house being illegally bulldozed symbolized all our homes being destroyed, and was based on a true incident about Sadie Hayes and her home. The ten protesters of that bulldozing stood the line, and were joined by the driver of the bulldozer in support of their action. Needless to say, all were arrested and taken to the hoosegow (jail), later released on their own recognizance.
After many months and with many volunteers, the mural was finished. Upon completion, a few residents protested “Stop the Pig” on the grounds that it was demeaning to our police force. However, they did not complain about the other side of the building which was covered with much stronger and demeaning graffiti commentary. Many tedious hearings again ensued to try and censor this important community statement of “Stop the Pig”. First amendment rights prevailed and despite the picketers objecting to “stop the pig”; the mural was dedicated November 8, 1975. At the end of 1976, the Jaya Collective disbanded.
In March of 1981, for some mysterious fit of passion from a strange unknown brain, a crew of unnamed profiteers arrived at the mural site, very early in the am., and white washed the whole mural. The on-going 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, once again very early in the am, the profiteers again arrived in ski masks with police escorts and the 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. A greenish residue remained though, especially on the area of the sterile white Marina.
In late 1996, SPARC hoped to refurbish this mural as part of their 20th Anniversary celebration. Unsuccessful attempts at restoration had been made in the past, but permission was not obtained, even though the community had been requesting it since the 1981 paint out. Finally, due to the remarkable gifts of persuasion of a caring community member, permission was granted and restoration was realized by February 1997, resulting in a joyous sigh all around us.
Many people volunteered at various times in 1975, but a core quartet of Jaya members did the everyday. Astonishingly and totally by chance, the same quartet gathered and achieved this 1997 mural restoration, 22 years later: Jaya members Emily Winters, artist, activist; Judith Foster, activist; maryjane, artist, activist and Don Unzicker artist and honorary Jaya member.
The “Spirit of Venice Award,” was awarded to Emily Winters in September 1997 for the refurbishment of this mural by the Abbot Kinney Festival.
Then in 2006, the Jaya mural was so badly tagged that the property owner was going to have the mural painted out unless the tagging was removed. The mural was also in need of major restoration. The Venice Arts Council founded the Endangered Art Fund which selected this mural as their first public art restoration project. Through the wonderful love, support and generosity of the Venice Community, and the City of Los Angeles, the mural was restored in 2008 by Emily Winters and Nathan Zakheim Associates.
The caring and diligence of the Venice community that has kept this mural alive for 39 years! A more detailed description can be read in “A Seashore Memoir” by maryjane, pages 65-67.
Images of the Jaya mural restoration and Channel 4 TV news coverage are available on YouTube or at www.veniceartscouncil.org.
The Jaya Mural is located at 316 South Venice Boulevard at Dell Avenue in Venice.