‘An easy decision’: ‘Progress of California’ mural will remain after La Jolla Rec Center renovation


As plans to renovate the La Jolla Recreation Center progress, organizers said the “Progress of California” mural that has been on site for nearly 50 years will be kept at the center but placed in a different location in the facility. auditorium.

Architect and urban planner Trace Wilson, a member of the vision board for the La Jolla Community Recreation Group – the recreation center’s advisory board – said the intention was to move the mural across the auditorium behind the stage. “so that we can still enjoy it, but more as a backdrop to the auditorium.

“Progress of California” was painted by Hugo Ballin and depicts “a [Native American]a chaplain and a conquistador…a Gold Rush-era analysis office…a pioneer family in a Conestoga wagon and some of the buildings in Balboa Park,” according to a report on file with the La Jolla Historical Society.

It was first erected at the First National Bank, which opened in La Jolla in 1930 at the corner of Silverado Street and Girard Avenue. The mural has been placed on the wall above the vault door.

When the bank was demolished, the La Jolla Historical Society and First National Bank presented the mural to the city of San Diego. It was installed at the La Jolla Recreation Center and rededicated on October 3, 1975, according to the Historical Society.

The demolition of the First National Bank in La Jolla led to the installation of his “Progress of California” mural at the La Jolla Recreation Center.

(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

The artist was born in New York in 1879 and died in Santa Monica in 1956. Having studied in New York and abroad, his work has received numerous awards, including several from the National Academy of Design, according to the Historical Society. .

“In 1921 he moved to Los Angeles and became involved in the motion picture industry, both as a producer and a set designer,” according to the Historical Society. “He continued his work as a mural painter, executing a 320-foot frieze depicting Hebrew history for [a temple]in Los Angeles. Perhaps his most famous mural project is the series of murals on the ‘Advancement of science‘ for Griffith Park Observatory.

The “Progress of California” mural was renovated in 2000, led by Courtney Coyle, then La Jolla City Council President, who joked that “I ran the meetings from the stage side of the room, I so I spent quite a bit of time looking at the mural at the end of the room.”

She solicited donations from residents, civic organizations, and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and worked with the Balboa Art Conservation Center to make repairs.

“Clearly, La Jolla’s pride in public art, especially its murals, has not been greater in recent memory,” Coyle wrote at the time. “[‘Progress of California’] is appreciated by all users of the recreation center – community and service groups, children and seniors, recreation groups and participants in special forums.

Today she said she still thinks “it’s important to preserve the history, not just of ‘California progress’ but…La Jolla progress – how we can modernize while still retaining at least a part of our history, adding depth to our community experience. Ballin as an artist, of course, is also important. Although his works are more represented in Los Angeles, it is good to have examples of his skills here in San Diego.

Coyle added that having the mural at the recreation center creates opportunities for accessible public art. “At the leisure center [the mural]reaches all ages and at all socio-economic levels,” she said.

Keeping the mural in place as part of the recreation center renovation was “an easy decision,” Wilson said. “We don’t have any [other]public place or town hall to highlight it.

“We got the sense from the community that…it should stay…it’s an important part of La Jolla’s history,” he said.

The Rec Center, at 615 Prospect St., opened in 1915 and was originally commissioned by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps and designed by famed architect Irving Gill. As the vision committee reviewed how other Gill-designed buildings had been modernized, Wilson said members went to the nearby La Jolla Woman’s Club and noticed there was a mural at the back of her stage. .

“We want to nurture art and artwork throughout the building and on the grounds,” Wilson said. “We know that the La Jolla Rec Center is across from a very important art center, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. So we wanted to include an artistic approach in everything we do and also provide historical context.

“We had a sense from the community that…it should stay…it’s an important part of La Jolla’s history.”

—Trace Wilson

Renovation plans for the recreation center include upgrading the main building, creating a roof terrace, opening up the south side of the property to create what Wilson calls “the La Jolla Pavilion”, adding of a coastal-themed playground along Draper Avenue, pushing the basketball courts closer to the tennis courts at the nearby La Jolla Tennis Club, creating a wall mural, reconstructing a historic trellis to provide l shade, creating a paddling pool similar to the wading pool that once stood on the grounds, renovating the front lawn, adding new courts for various sports and more.

He said a little-used basement would be converted into a gym and a loft would be converted into a meeting room “which overlooks the auditorium.” An elevator would connect the three levels. ◆


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