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Despite challenges, Pilipino artist keeps his preservation dream alive

Muralist on a Mission

By Lorenzo Paran III

 

Eliseo Art Silva is on a mission.

The Corona, CA-based Pilipino artist, who created the “Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana” (“Golden History, Golden Heritage”) mural in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles, is in the midst of restoring the artwork after taggers had vandalized it.

The 150-foot mural, which graces a wall in Historic Filipinotown’s Unidad Park, celebrates the watersheds and important figures of Philippine and Pilipino-American history. Silva created it in 1995, and since then it has become a familiar sight to Pilipino Americans this side of the U.S. In January 2012, it served as a fitting backdrop to a celebration of Historic Filipinotown’s designation as a Preserve America Community.

But vandals tagged it sometime before 2002, painting over a central portion of the piece. In 2002 the city stepped in to repair the damage, but the artists it hired didn’t do a proper job, Silva said.

The city sacrificed the integrity of the mural by not doing a good job on the portraits and painting out all the text identifying the 50 events and names underneath the mural,” he told me during an interview on Feb. 18, 2012.

So he decided to do it himself, with help from members of the Pilipino community, Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti’s Office, and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

Although it meant driving all the way from Corona where he lives and works, Silva decided that it was also a good opportunity to, in his words, “enhance” the mural and complete the vision he had for it when he created it in 1995.

But after several years, he’s not done.

The biggest challenge is the expenses,” he said.

He said the cost of the paint and the drive to L.A. has been the biggest burden. Renting the scaffolding also is a considerable expense. But Silva is unfazed and has his eyes on unveiling the artwork in April.

Silva is a full-time muralist, with scores of artworks in public spaces across the U.S. to his name. Although his works portray the heritage of other ethnic groups, his focus is to celebrate Pilipino-American themes.

Silva also supports himself by accepting commissions for portraits. Samples of his work can be seen on his website, www.eliseoart.com.

His latest project is another large mural called “Alab ng Puso (My Heart's Sole Burning Fire): 100 Years of Filipinos in Philadelphia” in northeast Philadelphia. It’s set for unveiling in November 2012.

This will be the ‘Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana’ of the East Coast,” he said.

But for now he’s got his mind on the one in Unidad Park. It’s his first mural, and one of the largest he’s created. He also points to its growing stature as a community resource.

It would be such a waste if we don’t preserve it,” he said.

To help Silva and for more information on his works, please go to www.eliseoart.com.

 

 

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The author, Lorenzo Paran III, writes about the Filipino-American life on his blog, http://pinoyinamerica.blogspot.com.