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Murals Bring Life and Color to Jefferson

On the walls | Whether painted in bright oranges and blues or simply shades of gray, all of the murals along Jefferson Boulevard add a splash of color and a sense of pride to community members' daily lives.
Black Seeds | Gus Harris brings history, vibrancy and a sense of community to Leslie N. Shaw Park.
The Knight | Retna and The Mac use paint to promote peace and harmony in response to increasing gang activity in Los Angeles.
TEXT_GOES_HERE Leslie N. Shaw Park
Leslie N. Shaw Park on Jefferson Blvd. provides community members with a place to relax, focus and interact with each other.
TEXT_GOES_HERE Education on Jefferson
The stretch of Jefferson Boulevard between Vermont Street and La Cienega Boulevard offers a wealth of educational opportunities for boys and girls, with at least nine preschools and elementary schools. Whether it is a charter school, a Christian school, or a public school, among others, each educational facility offers a unique learning experience for the children on Jefferson Boulevard.
TEXT_GOES_HERE Barbershops on Jefferson: A Community Story
The culture of Jefferson comes alive in the barbershops found along Jefferson Blvd. Whether a shop has been there for ten years or three years, the barbershops are places where friends, family, and neighbors gather to form Jefferson's community.

By Juliana Appenrodt

Amid the diverse jumble of restaurants, stores, churches and schools that make up Jefferson Boulevard are a few intricately painted murals that transform one side of a worn-down building into a source of pride and beauty for the community.

“These are old structures,” said Brenda Robinson, who grew up in the Jefferson Park area and has co-owned Oak’s Jr. Market on Jefferson Boulevard for 14 years. “It’s mixed use, with commercial and residential, which somehow is not very aesthetically pleasing. So that was our first thought, to put something that looked really good on the walls, besides graffiti.”

Robinson was involved with the Jefferson Park Improvement Project’s beautification committee for eight years, a time during which she saw multiple murals painted in the community.

Some of the most prominent murals along Jefferson Boulevard are Black Seeds, The Knight, To Protect and Serve and Genocidal Tendencies.

While some of the murals were organized by the Jefferson Park Improvement Project, which was founded in 1980, others were sponsored by SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) or simply organized by individuals. No matter who organized them, the murals that have been put up and restored along Jefferson Boulevard over the years have had a positive impact on the neighborhood.

“It beautifies the community and it’s a cheap way to do it, rather than using a lot of money to rebuild buildings and stuff like that,” said Moses Ball, the artist who re-painted the Black Seeds mural at Leslie N. Shaw Park earlier this year. “You can put a coat of paint on it and make it look beautiful.”

The murals not only give community members something pleasant to look at, but they also give them reason to come together, whether it is to help paint the murals or simply to admire them once they are complete.

“When we dedicate the murals, we bring all of the community together and have a party,” Ball said. “Some who have never met some of their neighbors will meet their neighbors and just have a big celebration.”

Black Seeds, which was thought up by Gus Harris – president of the Jefferson Park Board of Directors – in the 70s, is one example of a mural that encourages community involvement. When it was originally painted, community members of all ages had the opportunity to work on the mural, whether they had artistic talent or not. There is a portion of the newly repainted mural that is still blank, awaiting fresh strokes from community paintbrushes.

“When the community takes part in something, then they take pride in it,” Harris said. “I found that when you do something for the community, they expect you to take care of it, but when they take part in it, then they will take care of it themselves.”

Harris believes that this is why the Black Seeds mural has had fewer problems with graffiti than some of the other murals along Jefferson Boulevard.

Ian White, who first painted Genocidal Tendencies in 1991 with the help of six young community members, said that his mural has been tagged about three times since its re-painting was completed this summer. However, neighbors show respect for the artwork by alerting White as soon as they see that the mural has been defaced, and it is usually fixed the next day.

“That to me shows a great deal of ownership,” White said. “They are really mindful of the hard work that went into it.”

Members of the community would even bring him donuts and coffee in the morning, or lunch in the afternoon to show their appreciation while he was working on the mural, he added.

“I think a lot of times, urban communities like Jefferson are fighting stereotypes in terms of what their community actually represents, so it’s nice to see an artistic gesture,” White said.

Retna, who painted The Knight with his good friend and fellow artist, The Mac, is appreciative that the community along Jefferson Boulevard embraced his mural, despite the fact that the imagery it contains was a bit controversial at first.

“It goes to show that the community is pretty diverse and open to artistic endeavors of youth from the neighborhood,” Retna said.

Although Retna is not from the community, he spent a lot of time in the area while growing up. Retna explains that the recent painting of The Knight reinforced the artist district vibe that Nick Hadim, a businessman who owns multiple properties on Jefferson Boulevard, is trying to bring to the area. Hadim wants to turn some of the warehouses he owns into lofts that can be used to showcase art.

“He’s trying to promote this area to a more artistic community, to the likes of the downtown arts culture,” Retna said. “He’s trying to add that in this area because there’s a lot of talented artists here as well, working with different mediums, whether it’s painting, quilting, crafts or murals.”

Retna explains that Hadim wants to bring art shows and other artistic outlets to Jefferson Boulevard to encourage community members who are interested in the arts to pursue their dreams.

“I think he’s just trying to advertise that this community is open to people of the arts,” Retna said. “With the arts, a lot of great things can happen – you get a lot of creative spirits that want to work and better the community and do shows and certain things that maybe the community is not used to having.”

What this community does have, however, are a lot of people who appreciate the art that already exists along Jefferson Boulevard.

“Sometimes murals can stand for things and they can give people a better outlook on life,” said Peaches, a woman who lives in the community. “Sometimes they’re uplifting. Sometimes you can walk down the street and see a mural or see a picture and the thought that you had that was really making your day bad, you can look at that mural and something good may come out of that.”

Click on the paint cans to locate and learn more about Jefferson Boulevard's most prominent murals:

View Where are the murals? in a larger map