Where to See the Best Public Art in the San Fernando Valley
A mural by Levi Ponce in Pacoima
The San Fernando Valley is large, diverse and congested. With that in mind, we tried to make this guided tour of some of the area's coolest public art a bit more manageable by confining it to just the northern half of the Valley. Still, this journey could become a literal collision course that grows even more hellish as rush hour approaches. If you plan to visit the sites here, it's best to break it up into sections. You might want a full afternoon to see all the murals that Pacoima has to offer. There are enough of them to make it worth the excursion. Similarly, you might want to save the Sylmar sites for when you have enough time to pack a picnic and explore El Cariso Park.
Beyond what's mentioned here, you'll find the highest concentration of art in and immediately surrounding Pacoima. Art is more scattered as you head west through the Valley. In Northridge, you'll find more around CSUN. In Chatsworth, you'll also be able to find art inside the Orange Line stations. But always have your eyes peeled for something cool where the temps are a little hotter.
1. Levi Ponce's Danny Trejo mural.
If you're looking specifically for murals, head to Pacoima. The area surrounding the local City Hall is known as Mural Mile and there are lots of beautiful images to view here. Notable among them is the portrait of San Fernando Valley resident/big-screen badass Danny Trejo, created by artist Levi Ponce. The Pacoima-raised artist is the mind behind Mural Mile, and his richly detailed murals are among the highlights of any excursion to the northeast Valley. 13403 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, 91331.
2. Fruits of Our Dreams
Artist Susan Krieg took the lead on Fruits of Our Dreams. The piece dates back to 2002 and includes the efforts of student artists from UCLA and San Fernando High School. Like so much public art in the Los Angeles area, it exists to connect viewers to the history of the neighborhood. This mural accomplishes that with references to local agriculture, points of interest and a couple of locals who gained fame, including writer Mary Helen Ponce and rock & roller Ritchie Valens.
One thing to point out about Pacoima is that, in addition to lots of murals, you'll find many references to Valens, who was from Pacoima. Over on Mural Mile, not far from the Danny Trejo piece, is The Day the Music Died, which memorializes musicians Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, along with pilot Roger Peterson, who were killed in an Iowa plane crash in 1959.
3. Our Lady of the Valley
Levi Ponce's contributions to the mural scene of the east San Fernando Valley are plentiful; two entries on this list simply aren't enough to encompass the scope of the work he's done, but it's a start. Our Lady of the Valley is part of the Mural Mile and it stands near where Pacoima abuts Arleta. The lady, wearing a simple veil and surrounded by vivid red roses, draws upon the images of the Virgen de Guadalupe that are commonly found across Los Angeles. Her off-the-shoulder top, hoop earrings and crimson lips, however, lend the lady a modern sensibility. 14015 Van Nuys Blvd., Arleta, 91316.
4. Germs on the Pacoima Entrepreneurship Center
Jaime "Germs" Zacarias makes beautiful, brightly colored works of art that have shown at spaces such as the Vincent Price Museum and La Luz de Jesus. Earlier this year, he completed a large mural on the back of the Pacoima Entrepreneurship Center. At the center of the piece is a creature with multicolored tentacles and a head that resembles a lucha libre mask. The only problem with this mural is that it's not particularly easy to see. It's on the back of the building, away from the Van Nuys Boulevard street view, and if the parking lot gates are locked, you'll only be able to view this on tip-toes over the fence. 13420 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, 91331.
5. Sustainable Dream by Kristy Sandoval
Across the street from San Fernando High School is Fox & Laurel Park. It's a tiny park, housing a small playground and community garden. Here, you'll find Sustainable Dream, a fairly large mural from Kristy Sandoval. A prolific muralist with multiple pieces in the area, Sandoval was profiled by L.A. Weekly back in 2014, shortly before Sustainable Dream was unveiled. Her work at the park draws upon local history and wonderfully complements the garden that grows in front of the wall. 14353 Fox St., San Fernando, 91340.
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