“Freeway Lady” returns to the public eye after 30 years away.
By Melinda Henricks, Staff Writer
Valley College held a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to honor artist Kent Twitchell and his redesigned mural of the “Freeway Lady.”
The newly repainted version of the “Freeway Lady” breathes new life into one of the most legendary murals in Los Angeles. The original mural was painted in 1974, and was a comfort to passing drivers on the Hollywood 101 freeway downtown for decades.
Thursday’s ceremony took place amidst sunny skies and a cool breeze. Many in attendance sported suits and black ties. There were 135 seats available with most of them filled. The evening was a perfect backdrop to an occasion taken very seriously by the many who worked diligently to bring the project to fruition.
The speakers told an impressive story regarding all of the time, preparation, and care that went into bringing the “Old Freeway Lady” home to rest at Valley College. Sitting to my right, was retired CSUN art professor, Joanne Julian. She went to art school with Twitchell and watched as he painted both murals 40 years apart.
Twitchell originally painted the mural on the Angeles Prince Hotel in Echo Park as an homage to his grandmother, Marie. His acrylic painting bore a likeness to character actress Lillian Bronson. Unfortunately, a billboard company white-washed her in 1986.
After winning a legal settlement, and being repainted, she was then destroyed by graffiti. Since then, Twitchell, now 73, has been searching for a proper home and final resting place for this iconic mural. The mural itself is 30-by-22 feet, and is painted on the back side of the Student Services Complex, facing north on Fulton Avenue.
Dr. Erika Endrijonas, Valley College president, hosted the ceremony. A historian herself, she said, “I couldn’t be more thrilled than to have this mural at Valley College.”
Endrijonas, introduced Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, LACCD Chancellor, who spoke to the importance of the arts, history, and culture of Los Angeles. Additionally, he was involved in the process of obtaining the legendary mural.
Throughout the ceremony, it became obvious that bringing this iconic mural home to Valley was no easy feat, with many community leaders involved in the process. Erica Martel, ASU president, spoke and shared that “the mural reflects the face of a warm, loving grandmother watching over the students and the community.”
Twitchell told the LA Daily News, “I think the Valley is a great place for her to retire.” In his speech on Thursday he stated, “I realize now that the mural was always meant to be retired at Valley College.” Twitchell is a renowned artist and has created some of the most noteworthy art and murals throughout Los Angeles.
In fact, it was voter-approved bond monies that made it possible for this updated mural of the original Old Freeway Lady, boasting a magical-looking afghan, against a night background, with the moon shining through. Additionally, students and community residents helped paint portions of the mural.
There were refreshments and a documentary film produced by Valley College documentarian Lynly Ehrlich, who painstakingly condensed 95 hours of footage into a seven-minute film.
Endrijonas gave special thanks to City Councilman Paul Krekorian for his participation throughout the process. Waxie Sanitation Supply was thanked for donating the landscape for the mural garden, and additional thanks to the LA Fellows Program at Valley and the LAVC Foundation were given. Many of these individuals were in attendance, as well as former Valley College President Sue Carleo.
Endrijonas concluded the ceremony stating the “The Old Freeway Lady” is now home and will provide comfort and culture to the community. She added that for herself, having the iconic mural here “is a dream come true.”