Whittier College Dedicates Poets Wall Mural Reflects 125th Years of Leadership, Scholarship, and Diversity

July 31, 2013

As part of its 125th Anniversary Celebration, Whittier College will dedicate the newest addition to the campus landscape—the Poets Wall—on Sunday, October 28 at 3:30 p.m. This mural is located on the east side of AJ Villalobos Hall, 7214 Painter Avenue, Whittier, CA 90608.

Thanks to key funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the College was given the opportunity to move forward with the creation and installation of a unique art piece--a mural outside A.J. Villalobos Hall intended to visually connect the upper and lower areas of campus.

The project was designed to be a collaborative effort between students, faculty and the artists selected for to paint the mural. Distinguished artists Wayne Healy and David Botello, otherwise known as East Los Streetscapers took the creative lead. Political science professor Deborah Norden and history professor Jose Orozco worked with students on helping to determine what would be reflected on the wall.                                                                         

In March, Healy and Botello began to hold weekly meetings with their student team to dialogue, research, and design a mural that reflected the community of Whittier College and its history.

"It was intimidating at first," admits student Jose Gutierrez '14. "Here were Healy and Botello—known artists—explaining that murals are didactic pieces of art, meant to teach a lesson. However, they got through to us, saying over and over again that the mural was ours and that they were simply intermediaries. The mural became a collective expression of not just the Whittier College community, but of all of Los Angeles—and it reflected things that were familiar to all of us."

The mural project began in spring 2011 -- the muralists, joined by students, faculty, and staff worked through the summer to complete the mural. Finishing touches have been added this fall.

Images depicted in the mural include the College's namesake, John Greenleaf Whittier, alumnus Martin Ortiz '48, retired mascot Friday the Squirrel, famed football coach Wallace "Chief" Newman, campus landmarks, the view of Downtown Los Angeles from Turner Hall, a scene of the Uptown Whittier Farmer's Market, a Richard Nixon campaign pin, the Whittier College seal, two students participating in the Light of Learning ceremony, a directional sign pointing to countries around the world, and a Dia de los Muertos altar.

"Poets' Wall isn't about David or me," said Healy. "We presented ideas and held the brush, but it was the students who initiated this project. I want students to look at Poets' Wall as though it's their very own looking glass. I want them to lay claim to it."

For more than 40 years, Healy and Botello have collaborated on murals throughout the Los Angeles area, creating iconic symbols of cultural pride and identity for countless Angelenos, as well as sources of inspiration for the thousands of visitors who see their murals all across Southern California and the West. Their works have been recognized internationally and have been included in exhibits at landmark Los Angeles museums, including the Getty, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and, most recently, in an exhibit at UCLA's Fowler Museum entitled, "Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement."

The Mellon grant supporting the mural project was awarded to the College's Center for Collaboration with the Arts (CCA), for its robust Los Angeles Integrated Arts Program (LAIAP) designed to connect Whittier students and faculty to the vibrant arts scene of the greater Los Angeles area.

The dedication will be followed by the 41st Annual Tardeada starting at 4 p.m. in the Campus Center Courtyard. This yearly event unites the campus community in celebrating Latino culture via music, dance, food, and other cultural traditions. This year's festivities will celebrate the lifestyles and traditions of the Californios – the original Hispanic settlers of the state of California. Tardeada is sponsored and organized by the Whittier College Cultural Center, Ortiz Program, Amigos Unidos, and MEChA.