Connecting Communities Through Art and Bikes: The Pacoima Mural Ride

Artist Manny Velazquez shares the story behind the Danny Trejo mural in Pacoima. Photo Erick Huerta
Artist Manny Velazquez shares the story behind the Danny Trejo mural in Pacoima. Photo Erick Huerta

Weaving together history and art with bicycles, the Pacoima Mural Ride guided participants on a people’s tour of some of the treasures found in the San Fernando Valley (SFV), this past Saturday. The ride introduced cyclists from every corner of Los Angeles to the community spaces, cafes, and murals that tell the history of the community, even as new chapters are added with each new mural that is painted.

Organized by the cyclist collective Bikesanas del Valle, the ride highlighted a mix of murals painted within the last few years, all emphasizing the different aspects and rich history of the community. Manny Velazquez was one of the artists who was part of the ride and shared some of the history of mural art in the SFV.

Velazquez, who has been active in the community since the 1970s, bridged the history with the present as he talked about some of the murals he has painted and the other murals we visited along Van Nuys Blvd, which has become known as Mural Mile. He explained that the majority of murals painted in the last few years have all been accomplished through fundraising or by the artist paying out-of-pocket.

The do-it-yourself spirit can been seen at almost every mural and even brought together an all-women collective called “HOODsisters,” adding the voices of some of the women that also live and contribute in this community.

A member of the HOODSisters collectives shares the inspiration behind the "Honoring Our Origins" mural
Member of the HOODSisters collective shares the inspiration behind the “Honoring Our Origins” mural. Photo: Erick Huerta

Artists in the Valley don’t have the same kind of support networks that other artists in Los Angeles do in terms of getting funding through grants. Despite the lack of institutional support, artists like Kristy Sandoval and Rah Azul have relied on community support to fundraise for painting supplies and helping paint the mural itself.

To that end, District 7 Councilman Felipe Fuentes was on hand this Saturday supporting the ride. While he was not pedaling himself, Fuentes donated water for riders at one of the stops. He also expressed support for mural artists and events such as the mural ride which, despite the pounding heat and a few flat tires from goat-head stickers, managed to attract over 100 cyclists..

Murals along Van Nuys Blvd. highlighted famous residents, including Richie Valens and actor Danny Trejo, but also community themes of unity and harmony. The history of the indigenous communities that lived on the lands before it was turned into a city serve as a reminder to never forget those who have come before us, but to also honor and respect them.

Artist Kristy Sandoval and Rah Azul describe the importance of being connected to community when painting murals
Artist Kristy Sandoval and Rah Azul describe the importance of being connected to community when painting murals

With community support and a successful trial ride now under their belt, Bikesanas will be working on making the mural ride a yearly event. The goal will be to continue to connect participants with collectives and artists in Pacoima. You can see more pictures of the mural ride here.

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