New installation for Murals of La Jolla honors local Black pioneers
For Los Angeles-based artist June Edmonds, the in-production “Ebony on Draper and Girard” mural is about more than making a three-story statement on the alley-facing side of 7724 Girard Ave. in La Jolla.
It’s a salute to Black women and their role in La Jolla’s development.
After completing a mural inspired by Maria Valdez, the first Afro-Latina woman to own property in Beverly Hills, Edmonds was invited to create a piece for the Murals of La Jolla public art program. She researched names such as Henrietta VanHorn-DeBose and Carrie Coleman, who were among the first to own property on Girard and Draper avenues.
“These trailblazers lived on key streets in La Jolla,” said Edmonds, whose mural incorporates more than 40 colors in undulating lines. “I used the lines of the streets from old maps in the artwork. There are curves on the right that represent the curve of Girard Avenue on the south end. The curves on the top are like the north end of Draper Avenue.”
The curves come together to create a leaf shape to symbolize “feminine energy” and a darker color palette to represent “the darker skin tones of these pioneers.”
The mural will be painted on a three-story-tall column at the site this week, replacing Heather Gwen Martin’s “Landing” mural.
“The Art Advisory Committee ... decided that June Edmonds was the right artist to commission, knowing her work would bring new ideas and energy to La Jolla,” said Murals of La Jolla Executive Director Lynda Forsha. “When her proposal arrived, we were thrilled that her mural, ‘Ebony on Draper and Girard,’ would bring to light and commemorate the rich history of African American contributions and influences in La Jolla.”
Edmonds said it’s an “honor” to create the mural and “even if it’s just a little, be a part of telling the story of Black pioneers. These stories are so easily forgotten and written out of history.”
VanHorn-DeBose was the first African American woman to settle in La Jolla when she came from New York to serve a wealthy family. VanHorn-DeBose bought and sold property, ending up owning a large portion of Draper Avenue and a hand-laundry business. She also lived on Girard Avenue.
Editor’s Note: Each issue in February will contain a story from this four-part series on the life and times of those African-Americans who made La Jolla their home in the Village’s early days.
Coleman and her husband, Ed, lived most of their lives in a house that was designated historic by the San Diego Historical Resources Board in September 2016. Ed Coleman first moved to La Jolla in 1917, his granddaughter calculated, and lived there the rest of his life, working as a gardener, a janitor and a real estate agent.
“I was thrilled to see the Coleman house is designated a historical spot, so I would be pleased to see this as an addition that honors and acknowledges the Black presence in La Jolla in those days,” Edmonds said.
The Colemans’ former son-in-law and current property owner, Steve Ross, successfully appealed the board’s decision and the city of San Diego rescinded the historical designation in 2019. Ross’ attorney Scott Moomjian told the City Council that the HRB erred in issuing the designation and was presented with information containing factual errors.
After hearing that the designation had been rescinded, Edmonds said, “All the more reason to have this public artwork to stand in, though for only a few years, in memorial of this very important history.”
Edmonds has a history of creating public art, including mosaics, in transit centers in the Los Angeles area and in institutions such as the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, California African American Museum and Amherst College in Massachusetts. She is the recipient of awards and grants including the inaugural 2020 AWARE Prize, a 2018 City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Grant and a California Arts Council Individual Artist Grant.
“Public art brings it to the people, which for now is especially important in La Jolla because the Museum of Contemporary Art is closed [for renovation],” Edmonds said. “Through programs like Murals of La Jolla, there are these beautiful works of art done by world-class artists, and I’m honored to be among them.”
Learn more at muralsoflajolla.com. ◆
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