Students Get History Lesson in Mural Project

The history of Southern California’s water supply is being told in a 200-foot mural painted by students at Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno.

When the mural is completed in February, 56 painted wooden panels will be displayed on the fence around the Metropolitan Water District’s future headquarters near Union Station. About half the panels are already displayed along Alameda Street at the south end of the station property.

Los Angeles artist Kathryn Donatelli was commissioned by the water district to develop the project. She used history books and archival photographs to design 8-foot-long plywood panels that, when pieced together, depict the development of Southern California’s water from the time Native Americans settled around natural water sources to the present.

“This scene shows how mule teams carried siphon sections to Los Angeles to build the aqueduct,” Donatelli said, putting down her paintbrush to explain the panel she was painting. “This project is really not just a lesson in art but in the history of our community.”


Georgina Reynoso, 16, agreed.

“I didn’t know this much about the water supply before. You get to know more as you talk to other students in the class about what [panels] they’re working on,” he said.

About 20 students from teacher Eladio Chavez’s beginning painting class have been crafting the mural during class and after school since October.

The mural will complement the Metropolitan Water District’s $135-million, 12-story building that is expected to be completed in 1999, said Rob Hallwachs, spokesman for the water district.


Materials for the project were donated by Catellus Development Co., Panklow Construction Co., Jimmy’s Signs and Nova Color.

“It’s fun,” said student Paul Esparza, 18, while dabbing his brush in gray paint. “When we’re done we’ll be able to take our families downtown and show them what we’ve accomplished.”