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10 Murals From The Artist Behind The Mural Mile In Los Angeles You Can't Miss

Levi Ponce is a 32-year-old artist who's reclaiming public space in Pacoima, Los Angeles. As the son of a sign painter, he grew up seeing his father's work shape and give identity to the streets of his neighborhood.

Levi Ponce is a 32-year-old artist who's reclaiming public space in Pacoima, Los Angeles. As the son of a sign painter, he grew up seeing his father's work shape and give identity to the streets of his neighborhood. With his murals, he is taking back the walls from street gang iconography and turning them into canvasses for art, reflection, and creativity.

"My big thing is getting murals they can relate to," he said. "I try and find these things that unite us and get them on the walls. I don't go into a neighborhood with my ideas. It reflects the neighborhood that raised me."

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After growing up seeing his father's work on the walls and storefronts in his neighborhood, and graduating from California State University in 2009, Levi began painting and organizing others to paint murals in Los Angeles at a time when doing so was illegal, but the people in the area saw the impact art could make in the youth and embraced his murals because the topics were deeply connected to the Latino heritage of many of the local residents.

From the beginning, he has encouraged the people from the communities where he paints to join him as volunteers. At first, he says, only three people volunteered, but after the his tenth mural, he had 70 volunteers. He allows anyone willing to help to do so and, more than a teacher, serves as a guide and mentor: kids, students, and strangers are welcome. "Everybody comes together to make this happen, and I think that’s my biggest accomplishment, being able to rally the troops. These are our artists here in Pacoima; they don't have galleries. They don't have schools or universities and museums. When I say come help paint, it's like a gift to them."

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Within a year of painting his first mural, he had over 100 volunteers and support from the same politicians who had made it illegal to paint murals. These murals are about much more than art and turn into community hubs for organization and communal learning.

After more than a decade of work, Ponce's vision has now transformed this piece of land into an art gallery in which everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate, be it as a simple visitor, as a volunteer, or as an artist and creator. This welcoming approach has another upside: everyone -even gangs that used to graffiti these walls with their tags- respects the murals and makes efforts to preserve them.

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The Mural Mile project emerged in 2012 from the minds of Ponce and other artists who wanted to improve their city's image. The success of this cultural landmark has changed the area completely and has made it a blueprint for similar projects around the world, leading artists and critics to reflect on the power of grassroots art organization to drive change. It has also become the largest open air art gallery in the country.

Currently, there are more than 50 murals within a three-mile radius surrounding Pacoima City Hall in The San Fernando Valley, which anyone can visit.

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You can also check out his work on Instagram: @leviponce 

Are you an artist and would like to see your work featured in our website? Click here to send a gallery of your work with a 400-word article about your project for the chance to appear in CulturaColectiva+. 

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For more Latinos who are transforming the art world, click on these:
18 Illustrations That Show How Angry Women Are Changing The World 
10 Illustrations That Show The Power Of Dreams In The Time Of Political Hate 
The Venezuelan Artist Who Wants You To Know That "Censorship Is Coming Your Way" 

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