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Statue of LA Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo by Marie Cradle.
Statue of LA Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo by Marie Cradle.
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Public Art Of Afro-American Influence In Downtown LA

Picture of Marie Cradle
Updated: 25 February 2016
Ever since Los Angeles came to prominence, significant city contributions have been made by Black leaders. Among these Angeleno figureheads are city founders, an unassuming child care worker, a councilman, and legendary professional basketball players — all honored with public art in the heart of LA. Embark on an African-American cultural quest and see these distinctive art installations to learn about these Black influencers.

Early LA Settlers Engraved At Olvera St

Part of LA’s Black history exists on an inconspicuous plaque constructed on red brick — Los Pobladores. Located within Olvera’s Street‘s main plaza, the plaque reveals surnames of 11 city founders who established Los Angeles in 1781. Included are families of Black (‘Negro’) and African-Spanish (‘Mulata’) origin who emigrated from Mexico. This engraved revelation on bronze is a visual testament to Black prominence in LA.

Close-up look of Los Pobladores plaque, dedicated to the founders of Los Angeles, including Black and mulatto families. © Marie Cradle.

Close-up look of Los Pobladores plaque, dedicated to the founders of Los Angeles, including Black and mulatto families. © Marie Cradle.

Biddy Mason Wall in DTLA’s Historic Core

Located in LA’s Historic Core is a gray stone timeline wall and park area dedicated to Biddy Mason. Born into slavery, Mason overcame hardship to become a leading businesswoman, civil servant, and philanthropist. She is recognized as the first head of a childcare center and the founder of First African Methodist Church (commonly known as First A.M.E Church) in Los Angeles. Artists Sheila de Bretteville and Beyte Saar combined their visions to honor Mason. Among the features of the engraved wall is a portrait of Mason and engraved facts on early Black population and culture of Los Angeles.

View of Biddy Mason timeline wall and park. © Marie Cradle

View of Biddy Mason timeline wall and park. © Marie Cradle.

Gilbert Lindsay Photographic Memorial at the Convention Center

Three large-scale concrete pillars and cemented images trace the life of the first Black LA city councilman, Gilbert Lindsay (1976-1990). Known as the ‘Great Emperor of the 9th District,’ Lindsay emerged as a civil rights leader and supporter for downtown Los Angeles development, especially in commerce and architecture. An art installation showcasing his career achievement was conceived by artist Pat Ward Williams. Distinctively visualized, the Lindsay-inspired artwork is one of scattered portraits. Images — based on actual photographs — are displayed on the pillars and plastered on the sidewalk. Among the captured images are those of Lindsay and famous dignitaries, such as President Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Martin Luther King.

Gilbert Lindsay memorial wall near the LA Convention Center. © Marie Cradle.

Gilbert Lindsay memorial wall near the LA Convention Center. © Marie Cradle.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson Statues at Staples Center

Two towering bronze statues greet fans of LA’s beloved Lakers. Separate tributes to Laker icons Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson — chiseled in their gold-uniformed glory — sit outside Staples Center. Johnson was the first to receive the bronzed honor, in 2004. Magic’s figure is depicted as the dribbling conductor of offensive play. Besides leading the Lakers to five NBA titles, Johnson has made his mark on LA as a businessman and philanthropist. In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar got his sculpted justice. Replicating his signature ‘skyhook’ move, Kareem’s 16-foot statue hearkens back to the graceful game played by the NBA’s all-time scorer. Omri Amrany is the visionary behind both statues, with Julie Rotblatt-Amrany contributing to Abdul-Jabbar’s statue.

Magic Johnson statue outside Staples center. © Marie Cradle

Magic Johnson statue outside Staples center. © Marie Cradle.

 

By Marie Cradle