Arts District Stairway Mural to Paint Away an Eyesore

DTLA - Walking the Fourth Street Bridge that connects the Arts District to Boyle Heights is a picturesque experience. Its elements of Beaux Arts and Gothic design merit close inspection, and looking south, one sees the concrete-encased Los Angeles River, with the ruins of the Sixth Street Viaduct in the distance.

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Actually getting up to the bridge, however, has long been less than pleasant. A key connection is a staircase where Sante Fe Avenue and Mateo Street meet along the southern edge of the bridge. For years, it was dirty and unused, marked by drooping barbed wire. Foot traffic was minimal.

That approach will change early next year, thanks to an art project sparked by community stakeholders.

In April, local resident and author Brigitte Secard lobbied the Arts District Business Improvement District to clean up the area and paint the stairs. The idea got the attention of BID head Miguel Vargas, who won support from other neighborhood organizations including the L.A. River Artists and Business Association and the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council. They set about to upgrade the eyesore, sparked in part by all the activity happening in the community.

“This is an area near bars and restaurants, new residents, SCI-Arc, and we wanted to take advantage of that and make it more attractive,” Vargas said. “We decided to paint the steps.”

A public competition was launched, and the BID received 40 artist submissions over the summer. The BID worked with Art Share L.A. and area stakeholders to judge the ideas.

The team selected a proposal from local artist John Cuevas. The judges liked his bright, playful design of multicolored serpents crawling up the Fourth Street Bridge steps.

Cuevas will begin painting in early January. Some landscaping work has already taken place to make the site less of an eyesore.

“I cannot overstate how amazing it’s been to see the BID improve and revitalize this site. I’m honored to be a part of this neighborhood beautification project,” he wrote in an email.

The project is funded by the office of 14th District City Councilman José Huizar. The budget is $3,000, with $2,600 allocated to Cuevas and the rest going to materials. The painting is expected to occur over the course of several days, with the steps opening to the public by mid-January.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2016

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Chris Alexakisart, mural