Pitzer Spotlights

2007-2008 Spotlight Archives

Alumni Take Artistic Talents to Boyle Heights
Laundromat-Themed Mural Represents Neighborhood History

Cecilia Ribakoff, Volunteer Services Coordinator for L.A. Family Housing, collaborated with Pitzer 2006 art graduates Katie Ryan and Daniel Ingroff on a mural project in the Boyle Heights neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Katie and Daniel designed the mural using their knowledge of archeology and natural history to produce a geological formation motif to showcase the physical history of the area. Approximately sixty volunteers from L.A. Housing, neighborhood residents, the William Morris Talent Agency and Pitzer alumni participated. The September 2007 project was funded by a community beautification grant and is located on a wall on Caesar Chavez Street and is 42 feet wide and four and a half feet tall.

Cecilia majored in Organizational Studies and the History of Ideas while at Pitzer College.

Boyle Heights

What has this mural meant to the community?

In the mural, the artist depicted a row of Laundromat washing machines. Within the parameter of the predetermined theme “unity and diversity," the artist sought to represent public spaces where people of diverse backgrounds come together. Laundromats function in this manner within communities, providing an arena for unintentional shared or “unified” experiences. Inside each washing machine is an archeological strati-graphic diagram, graphically representing the layers of history that lie below the community that is contemporary Boyle Heights.

The twofold meaning of the mural has allowed the mural to be a stimulus for discussions of the historical value of the neighborhood. It has bonded the neighborhood together enhancing social capital within the community and bridged other Angelinos to the draw of Boyle Heights- as folks from the William Morris Talent agency helped with the mural painting and for most this was their first visit to Boyle Heights.

The mural is about beautifying our neighborhood. With 22 gangs within a one mile radius, and with the location of the mural highly contested between two rival gangs the wall was often hit with graffiti – so much so that more than 20 layers of paint were stripped off the wall before we painted it. The wall represents rising above the gang life, and collaborating on positive beautification projects. Many neighbors asked the artists to paint murals and design their front yard. The mural was a big push towards making the neighborhood aesthetically pleasing and in turn a safer community.

Directly across the street from the mural is Comunidad de Caesar Chavez, LA Family Housing’s emergency shelter that provides shelter for 26 families for up to 120 days. We prepared the grants for the mural and developed a community network of support called the Breed Street Community Collaborative. For us, putting up this mural represented creating a safer transitional living space for our families who are fighting to get out of homelessness. May this mural be inspiration for notions of neighborhood improvement: for the families LA Family serves as they transition to permanent housing, for the neighbors who will appreciate the vibrant colors and message of the mural, all involved and the wider community.

How was collaborating on the mural project with your two former classmates Katie Ryan '06 and Daniel Ingroff '06?

Katie and Daniel are not only extremely talented artists, but they utilize their Pitzer education’s in profound ways. The mission of the mural and the imagination behind the design was mind-bendingly creative and well executed. Both Katie and Daniel learned Spanish while on Pitzer abroad programs, which helped us involve the community in the effort. What made this experience so enjoyable was the fact that, after basically living together at Pitzer, we fed off each other’s strengths to make the project so much more powerful. I have admired the works of Katie and Daniel since they were first-years at Pitzer, and it was an extreme honor to collaborate with them on the mural. They spent hundreds of hours on the mural, from design, to mixing paint, to finding the perfect paint brushes, to creating a paint by number system for getting the mural done. I appreciate their support and giving to the mural. It was a pleasure and an honor to team up with Katie and Daniel--both brought such rare and treasured elements to the mural. We really had a flow going and worked together really well--in that way that only happens when you know someone very well. It was really quite special to have that kind of working relationship.