Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

A wall of ‘wonder’

It’s been nearly a year since the vibrant Laguna College of Art & Design mural along Laguna Canyon Road was painted gray by the building’s tenant.

Since then, LCAD mural instructor Mia Tavanotti has been hard at work, brainstorming and creating the Power of Words Project, which allowed residents to vote on a word that would inspire a new mural.

On Saturday, Tavanotti stood alongside students, Mayor Jane Egly and State Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that revealed the winning word: “wonder.”

The word was drawn in chalk on the wall where the mural will be painted.

Tavanotti said the word took her by surprise, and her students are excited about the possibilities.

“It’s an incredibly visual word,” she said. “They’re already coming up with great concepts for it.”

The Laguna Canyon Winery, which painted over the original 2003 mural, has apologized and last year said it intended to contribute to the cost of replacement.

Tavanotti said she stays optimistic and doesn’t dwell on the past. In fact, she thinks there was one positive outcome: community engagement.

“Eleven hundred people have told us what to do,” she said, referring to the number of votes for the project.

She also cited the 50 or so people who showed up Saturday, eager to see the word that was chosen by their community.

“That gives them a sense of ownership, especially if you voted for the winning word,” she said.

Eleven students are currently working on individual design concepts. On March 12, they’ll present them to a panel of judges at the Laguna Beach Arts Commission meeting, where the winning concept will be selected.

However, Tavanotti is quick to point out the mural is all about teamwork, and she’s been encouraging students to critique and learn from each other along the way.

Once a design is approved by the Arts Commission, work will begin on the mural right away.

Since starting the Power of the Words project last year, Tavanotti has received feedback from all over the U.S.

Cities such as New Orleans, Detroit and others in Florida have been speaking to the art instructor about possibly bringing the project to their towns.

Price spoke with Tavanotti about doing a mural in the state Capitol and perhaps in his district, which encompasses Hollywood, Culver City, Los Feliz and Koreatown.

Similar to the process in Laguna, Tavanotti would start a poll for the community and find local art students to come up with the winning concept and paint the mural.

“I’ve always used one-word mantras,” she said. “I’ve always believed in a mantra’s ability to change behavior, and it’s a great way to plant seeds.”

She believes community engagement in the murals will spur creativity and an appreciation for art.

On Sunday, Tavanotti drove down Laguna Canyon Road to hose off the word from the gray wall. As she stood in front of it, she noticed drivers pointing and passersby talking.

She thought for a moment, put her hose in her car and decided she’d give “wonder” one more day.

For more information, visit

Twitter: @joannaclay