Judith (Judy) Baca (b. 1946), a Mexican-American artist and activist working primarily in Los Angeles, has dedicated her career to demonstrating the ways in which public art, created in partnership with community members, can be a force for social change. One of her first undertakings after college was a collaborative mural project aimed at tempering gang violence (1969). In 1976 she co-founded the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), which has been a source of inspiration, support, and sponsorship for projects that address the identities and concerns of underrepresented populations such as women, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged. Because these murals and related public art installations are located in the neighborhoods in which the participants live, a strong sense of joint ownership accompanies the works’ creation.
Baca’s most celebrated work is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a mural project begun in 1973 in the Tujunga Flood Control Channel of the San Fernando Valley. Completed over the course of five years, The Great Wall acts as a visual narrative of centuries of California history—especially of that history which has consistently been underrepresented in “official” documents and textbooks. It, and Baca’s mural projects in general, find their stylistic precedents in the works of the Mexican muralists and the W.P.A., yet the social activism and specific themes that they espouse are decidedly contemporary.
Judith F. Baca, "Farewell to Rosie the Riveter and Development of Suburbia," detail from The Great Wall of Los Angeles (1983). Photo: Linda Eber. Courtesy of S.P.A.R.C.
Calo and Carole Gold. "Judy Baca's Legacy." Public Art Review 17, no. 33 (2005): 39-41.
Pohl, Frances. Judith F. Baca: Sites and Insights, 1972-1992. Claremont, Calif.: Montgomery Art Gallery, 1993.
Von Blum, Paul. "Judy Baca." In Other Visions, Other Voices: Women Political Artists in Greater Los Angeles, 51-62. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994.