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Animal Alley: The story behind the murals being painted in Echo Park

Jason Ostro’s Alley Project, an ongoing public-art initiative on the edge of downtown Los Angeles, has produced more than 75 murals by about 50 artists since April. This week, Ostro, owner of the nearby Gabba Gallery, has been up to some monkey business.

And Cheetah business. And the business of birds.

On Monday, Ostro launched a mural project, “Animal Alley L.A.,” in Echo Park. He’s filling the narrow alleyway off Glendale Boulevard, just behind the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, with colorful animal-themed art works – as many as he and about 20 local and international artists can squeeze in.

On Tuesday afternoon, the otherwise quiet, mostly residential alley was filled with scissor lifts, dumpsters and buckets filled with spray-paint cans. About a dozen artists toiled away, side by side. Some of them, such as Chilean German artist Otto Schade, had flown into L.A. to participate. Schade was painting a 75-foot-wide mural of marching elephants against a night sky that could be seen from Glendale Boulevard.

Belgium-based Spanish French art duo Dourone were painting an ode to endangered animals featuring two Tibetan macaques.

“It’s talking about the extinction of the animals in general,” said Elodie Arshak, who works with Fabio Lopez. “We’ll add a baby, the third element, which represents humanity.”

The project drew local talent as well. The artist who goes by the name Random Act teamed up with L.A.-based Clinton Bopp for a jungle-themed work featuring the former’s orchids and the latter’s bees and hummingbirds. “The piece is inspired by the South American jaguar because of its spiritual quality,” Random Act said. “It’s uniting the mind, body and spirit.” The mural also features graffiti elements growing out of jungle weeds. “That’s our way of tipping our hat to contemporary life today,” she said.

Venice-based Jules Muck painted a tabby cat with angel’s wings; the artist known as Phobik painted a towering cheetah; Blake Shane worked on a sculptural installation – the face of a bird – made from strips of coffee can metal as his blue-and-gold macaw, Laszlo, sat on his shoulder.

L.A.'s #randomact works on her collaboration w/ #clintonbopp for #animalalleyla in Echo Park. #streetart #thegabbagallery

A photo posted by Deborah Vankin (@deborahvankin) on

Ostro said he’s aiming to draw about 20 artists in all. Neighbors, he said, have been pleased with the project.

“The reason I do this is because the happiness it brings everyone during and after it’s done is immeasurable,” he said. “That’s it – nothing else.”

“Excellent,” cooed Shane’s macaw, flapping its wings. “Wassup? Hola. Hi, Hi, Hi!” the bird chattered, as he and the artist wandered up and down the alley, admiring the works.

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