A huge mural of classic cars and people at a Highland Park car show, painted in 2004 on a wall facing the parking lot of Pep Boys (now the Auto Zone) on Figueroa St, is being restored by Rich Raya, the artist who first painted it 14 years ago.
Entitled “Used Oil Recycling Mural,” it was commissioned originally with funding by the City of L.A. Sanitation, the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board and the local community. Mr. Raya was selected from among 200 artists to paint the mural, which was meant to raise awareness about the importance of properly disposing used motor oil.
One side of the mural showed the impact when someone thoughtlessly dumps motor oil into the storm drain and the other side showed a pristine natural environment that blooms when oil is properly disposed.
Over the years, the mural was so badly marred by graffiti that the owner of the building considered whitewashing it. Mr. Raya was able recently to receive enough funding to save it.
You have to go into the Auto Zone parking lot to see the mural wall, and right now, you are likely to see Mr. Raya, age 67, on a tall ladder with paint brush in hand painstakingly repainting the images. He had tried scaffolding instead of a ladder, but “the ground was too uneven,” he said, adding that using “a ladder keeps me in shape anyway.”
In addition to meeting the creative challenge, Mr. Raya is interested in getting out a message. He said that he had painted cultural murals and they are very important. But he does not think there are enough “environmental” murals.
He is also aware that the same images that resonated 14 year ago may not have the same effect today. “I’ll be adding something new to the mural,” he said. “But I’m not going to say what it is – it will be a surprise.”