Monday, February 29, 2016

Mosaics on Broadway!

Ta da! She's out of San Pedro! Well, virtually, anyway.

This picture is from the Piece by Piece Facebook page, and I hope they don't mind me displaying it. It shows the beautiful mosaic wall at Broadway Village II, 5101 South Broadway in Los Angeles. Title: Broadway Blooming. The 40-foot-wide mosaic was built by the community in 2015. as you can see in this picture from the Piece by Piece website:

Financial support came from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. That funded local workshops so that over last summer, residents could come together to create the mural--making flowers bloom on mesh during Open Studio Fridays.

Artists both experienced and un used recycled tiles and materials for the blossoms, But that's not all--there were workshops on Skid Row and other locations, and artists from around the world assembled and mailed more mosaic flowers for the wall, including Chris Piloto and his band of street children in Rio de Janeiro.

500 flowers. Those were mounted on the garden wall as you can see here.

Piece by Piece has been working with Broadway Village II since 2008 on many projects, and this wall, completed last October is just one of them. From their website and press releases:

Piece by Piece is a non-profit organization operating in South Los Angeles and Skid Row to fulfill its mission to provide low-income and formerly homeless people free mosaic art workshops using recycled materials to develop marketable skills, self-confidence, earned income and an improved quality of life. 

You can view and buy smaller art pieces by the mosaic artists of Piece by Piece here.  They've also opened their own gallery space at Mercado La Paloma, at 3655 E. Grand.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eucalyptus Trees and WIlliam Wolfskill (and a couple other guys)

A while back . . . a serious while back, 2008 to be exact, I wrote a post on Jacaranda trees in Southern California. And just two months ago, watching the link I shared of a talk on the Olympics in Los Angeles, I learned that many (25,000, to be specific) of our palm trees were planted in the months leading up to the 1932 Olympics.

So I was truly interested in this new KCET SoCal Focus story: "Who Eucalyptized Southern California?" by Nathan Masters. (Lord, what a cute title. Not in a dozen years could I have come up with that!)

(OK, maybe in a dozen days of hard thinking.)

Eucalyptus trees were not here before 1865. They are native to Tasmania and a corner of Australia, not California.

One name is going to crop up in this story, the name of a man who had nothing to do with eucalyptus trees: Hugo Reid.

Scotsman Hugo Reid came to California in the first half of the 19th century, did well, and was awarded a land grant by the Mexican government: Rancho Santa Anita. He made his home there, in an adobe building. He is mainly known to historians for the articles he wrote describing Tongva culture, because Reid's wife, Victoria Bartolomea Comicrabit, happened to be Tongva. Those articles appeared in the Los Angeles Star in the early 1850s, and they are treasured and poured over by academics today.

So. Reid died and his property passed into other hands. And the drawing of Reid looking very gaucho-ish is from Wikipedia, and was apparently done in the 1880s to accompany a biography.

According to the KCET SoCal Focus piece, the landscape of our area back then was desolate. ". . . although conifers grew in the mountains, the lowlands of Southern California were mostly treeless plains, broken by isolated copses of live oak and sycamore." 

William Wolfskill was just the man to change that panorama. He came to California as a trapper, and started out buying 100 acres in Los Angeles, between 3rd and 9th Streets, and San Pedro and Alameda, where he planted grapes and citrus trees. He became the biggest citrus grower in the US and owned 3/4 of California's citrus trees before he died. His land and grapevines were producing 50,000 gallons of wine per year.

This is the man who first brought our blue gum eucalyptus trees to Southern California. He knew plants and trees, and he knew our climate.

The library's brief online biography of Wolfskill tells me that in 1865 "he purchased Rancho Santa Anita, where he planted eucalyptus seeds that he had imported from Australia. The eucalyptus trees, which still stand today, were the first of their kind in California."

I don't know if they really still stand today; I've come across dissenting views.

KCET reprinted a 1920 photo of those trees around the Hugo Reid Adobe. You'll have to go to the KCET site to see it. Wolfskill imported and planted the seeds in 1865, so by 1920 they were tall and lovely.

The KCET story traces eucalyptus tree popularity from there, By 1876, there was 200-acre groves in Santa Barbara and in Downey, and tens of thousands of trees planted in Highland Park. Abbott Kinney came along in the 1880s to take it from there, planting and promoting the tree everywhere--including the Westside, Lots of old pictures adorn that story--I encourage you to visit.

Back to Arcadia and the Rancho Santa Anita, where Wolfskill planted his seeds. The Hugo Reid Adobe is not the structure that you see at the Arboretun today. The original adobe, built in 1839, was gone even by the time that William Wolfskill took ownership in 1865. Which was fine, since he never meant to live there. The building there today is not even in the same location, according to this story in Arcadia Weekly. 

Wolfskill died only a year after planting the eucalyptus seeds, so he was one of many owners who didn't last long. He never saw his trees grow tall. The Hugo Reid Adobe was rebuilt a decade or so later by a later owner of the property, Lucky Baldwin,

So it is the rebuilt adobe we see in the photo above, and the lady in the picture is Ethel Schultheis. Her husband, Herman, took the photo. More on him in a moment.

Lucky Baldwin also built the Queen Anne Cottage on the grounds in the 1880s, which still stands and is quite famous. The entire place, the original Rancho Santa Anita, has been parceled off and whittled down, starting in Lucky Baldwin's day. Now, what is left is the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens.

And that gives me a chance to show this photo, also taken by the same Herman J. Schultheis.

Schultheis was a brilliant and creative man who worked for Walt Disney on such classics as Snow WhiteFantasia, and Pinocchio, and he was also a photographer, traveling the world, You can read a bit about him on this post, but you'll have to scroll down to the last third of the article.

So, we have eucalyptus trees all over SoCal, but the first were out in Arcadia,

This last picture is the Wolfskill Adobe--the place Wolfskill called home. Remember that his original land purchase was that 100 acres in Los Angeles, between 3rd and 9th Streets, and San Pedro and Alameda.

His adobe--this place--was at 239 Alameda, and the library says that 239 Alameda was actually between 3rd and 4th today. Of course it's gone now. And if Wolfskill ever planted his eucalyptus seeds there, they are gone as well.

I don't know why, in 1865, Wolfskill decided to sow those seeds out in Arcadia rather than Los Angeles, but imagine if he hadn't. Our landscapes might look very different.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sirens' Mosaics in San Pedro

Here is artist Julie Bender's latest group of works:

Mosaics in Siren's Java and Tea in San Pedro.

And at right is a photo of the mosaic in context, so you can see how it's positioned on the wall.

This mosaic is a tribute to our first responders, and plays off the double meanings of the word "sirens." They can be either ear-piercing alarms alerting us to danger, or femme fatales who sing and lure sailors to their deaths on the rocks. In some legends, mermaids are sirens.

I learned from this story in The Daily Breeze (excuse me, I should have said the Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily Breeze) that Julie Bender is a former fire fighter herself, and the owners of Siren's Java and Tea have strong family ties to fire fighters. One of the owners, Yolanda Regalado, is retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and had three brothers who were fire fighters.

Here is a link to a photo of Michael and Benjamin Pinel back in the early 80s: two of Yolanda's brothers. Benjamin, on the left, was killed shortly after this picture was taken, while fighting the arson fire at the Proud Bird Restaurant near LAX. The link has an account of that fire that most of us old folks remember well.

Julie Bender also worked that fire, so there is a deeply-felt connection that led to this mosaic tribute.

The building, at 356 W. 7th Street, is big. In fact, it used to be the home of the San Pedro News Pilot, a daily newspaper that published from 1906 to 1998. (The dates are sketchy because the paper changed its name--it was the San Pedro Daily Pilot from 1913 to 1928, and I'm not so sure it was a daily for the last few decades of its existence.)

Here's another one o' those sirens.  To round out the double meaning of sirens, Yolanda Regalado's father was a fishing boat captain. So there you go.

According to the Breeze again, before the Regalados took over a hundred cats were sharing the abandoned place with squatters.

Now, besides all the accouterments of a busy coffee and smoothie bar and restaurant, there are artifacts from the newspaper days, like framed front pages of important events. There are also tributes to the police and fire fighters on the walls: framed photos, old helmets, models of old paddy wagons and the like.

It's a great place to sit, with lots of light and a high ceiling. I think it was once the lobby, with a mezzanine so folks could look down. And they host live music some nights!

Finally, here is the gorgeous mosaic logo and name that you see when you first walk in, with a bit of the mezzanine on the right. Pretty impressive, right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Los Angeles' Colorful History: Movies, Zoot Suits, Dam Collapse, Concrete Beauty

I've come across such nifty things lately.

On February 25th, Zocalo Public Square and Metro Art screen The Third Man, Orson Welles' 1949 noir film, at the Historic Ticketing Hall at Union Station. That's right, movie night at Union Station! I've looked all over the announcement, and I'm pretty sure the event is free, though they ask for RSVPs.

Did you know that LACMA has scored a genuine Zoot Suit? For reals? Not an electric blue movie imitation, or a neon yellow snappy ensemble with a feathered hat. No, this Zoot Suit has stripes and the color is actually rather tame: beige. Beige does not fly in the face of authority, you might think, but when you see the cut, the miles of extra baggy material, you will be convinced. Beige makes a killer Zoot Suit.

The story of how LACMA acquired the suit, which will be part of its Reigning Men exhibit (300 years of men's fashion) starting April 10, is told with pictures, and I can't wait to see the real thing.

If you love L.A.'s history, you probably know all about the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928, right? It killed over 400 people and destroyed William Mulholland, who'd built the dam. And if you don't know about it or want to learn more, you can take advantage of a couple of programs:

  • First, the free one: on February 27 at 2 PM, the Old Town Newhall Library hosts a talk with John Wilkman, who's written a book titled Floodpath about the St. Francis Dam collapse. Wilkman is a documentarian as well, and you can watch his 4-minute video describing the catastrophe here.

  • How about a talk and a TOUR? The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society offers that on March 12: a lecture and a guided tour of the dam site. It starts with a talk at the Saugus Train Station in Heritage Junction at 11 AM, followed by a bus trip and hike in San Francisquito Canyon. The cost is $35. This is an annual event, and March 12 is the 88th anniversary of the disaster that sent a 180-foot wall of water into the Santa Clarita Valley, sweeping away everything in its path.

LACMA is also in the news for being gifted with an amazing house, the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein home, recognizable as the not-very-humble abode of Jackie Treehorn in The Great Lebowski.  Read about it in Christopher Hawthorne's article for the Los Angeles Times, which has links to more photos (big, beautiful photos!) of John Lautner's work.

You can also enjoy this 2013 Forbes article on the place, written by the friend-of-all-writers (through  his site UPOD), David Hochman. (If you write articles, you should know the man and UPOD; trust me.)

Or . . . . visit the CurbedLA page on the house, for more facts, pictures, and an interview with James Goldstein, who has owned the house since 1972 and is now donating it to LACMA.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mid Century Apartments in Long Beach

Happy Mosaic Monday!

Not all mosaics feature representational art. Today I have pictures of an apartment building in Long Beach, on the corner of 2nd Street and Kennebec. It was built in 1964.

I believe this is a mosaic. I could be wrong.

This is the Bluff Park section of Long Beach, just a couple of blocks from the beach and from the Long Beach Museum of Art on Ocean. The building is now condos, not apartments, and most are small--between 700 and 1100 square feet. Some are ultra modern and loft-like.

That's about all I know of the building.

The first picture faces 2nd Street.

The other is of the side facing Kennebec.

Under that is a close up of the section of tile.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Next Installment of the Julie Bender Mosaic Tour of San Pedro!

Today's mosaic is also outside a Rainbow Services building, but this one is a block south and a couple blocks east of the previous posted site, in a residential area. You'll see the green mermaid again, but now she has an entire family with her, spread out over four panels.

Rainbow Services is an agency that deals with domestic violence, part of a network of organizations that find help for women and children, and tries to break the cycle of violence. They run emergency shelters and 24-hour hotlines for assistance, among other things. The 7th Street storefront whose mosaic I profiled last week is their administrative office.

This building, on 8th Street, houses their legal services, training and education rooms, and more. I learn from their newsletter that the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation is thanked for the mosaic--I'm guessing they donated money for materials, maybe lots of help. The building had been empty for 20 year before Rainbow Services moved in, so it probably needed lots of work. And Harbor Community Benefit Foundation lists "Beautification" among its five goals (along with education & training, employment, safety, and/or community initiatives.)

That's all I'm going to say. I will just put my photos of the four panels up now for your enjoyment.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mermaids Swimming through San Pedro

Where does the time go?

I have a beautiful new mosaic to share and it's already nearly 11 PM!

This mosaic, by Julie Bender, sits in downtown San Pedro, at 453 Seventh Street.

Rainbow Services, a community resource that helps victims of domestic violence, had a very nondescript facade, once. Now, a lovely mermaid with a baby mermaid arches over the door.

The artist is Julie Bender, who also created the mosaic at Peck Park in 2012. I blogged about that when it was going up, here, here, and here. That mosaic also features a green mermaid, but the artwork itself is much larger.

Like the Peck Park installation, where Girl Scout troops and other organizations helped make and set the tiles, it looks like Bender involved local groups in this mosaic as well. Lots of ripples and kelp leaves are inscribed with names of women, or groups like the Harbor Community Benefit Association.

You can make out some of the names in the closeup of the mermaid, below.

This is not the only new mosaic that Bender has created. While my blog was on hiatus, she was on a creative tear. I have the addresses of two other places graced by her mosaics, both within a few blocks of this one. One even features another mermaid.

I know I'm being South Bay-centric, but who could blame me? If you know of another artist creating mosaics today, please let me know! If that someone is beautifying an entire town and getting the whole community involved to boot, I hope they're being recognized!

One last picture, from the front. Between the palm tree and the street signs, there is no way to get a clear picture of the entire mosaic.