A grassroots effort is underway to restore murals in Highland Park, including this one by Zender, entitled “Resist Violence with Peace,” which was removed in 2015 when a new owner renovated the building on which it was painted. -Photo courtesy of Zender

Zender on Murals   

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Several murals that were painted in Highland Park in the early 1990s were part of a public art initiative begun in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. Sponsored by then Councilmember Mike Hernandez under the theme “Re-Wing the City of Angels,” they were intended to unify the community, in part by providing a creative outlet. 

John “Zender” Estrada, an esteemed local artist, created one of the project’s best known murals — an Aztec warrior flanked by two eagles entitled “Resist Violence with Peace.” That mural, which was painted on private property, was removed sometime in 2015, when a new owner renovated the building. Its removal dismayed artists and mural supporters.

Zender told the Boulevard Sentinel that graffiti and other elements that change or destroy a mural are part of its natural lifespan, but he thinks there should be consultation before murals are removed. A process to deal with aging murals on public property is for the city’s Cultural Affairs department to reach out to the artist to assess the mural or – if the artist is not available – to reach out to a local muralist like Zender. That gives an artist a chance to restore the mural or let it remain exposed to graffiti and the elements until, due to extensive damage, it would be whitewashed.

Brenda Perez, the founder of Restorative Justice for the Arts, a group dedicated to cataloguing and protecting Highland Park’s murals, has started a grassroots effort to raise money to bring back some of the murals from the 1990s, including Zender’s “Resist Violence with Peace” and the three that were removed in 2017