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Isabel Rojas-Williams

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Isabel Rojas-Williams is a Chilean born, Los Angeles based Art Historian, activist, writer, and curator. Rojas-Williams served as the Executive Director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles from 2011-2016. She is a social activist and an active member of the Los Angeles art community and mural movement.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Santiago, Chile in 1949, Rojas-Williams relocated to Los Angeles in 1973, when she began studying, documenting and lecturing on the social-political art movements of the city.[1] Her father, Osvaldo Rojas P., was a Chilean socialist, political activist, and poet who worked to unionize railroad workers throughout Chile. He died of tuberculosis in 1951 before penicillin was widely available.[2] At the time of her father's death, her mother, Isabel Canales E., became a 22-year-old widow with two children and a third on the way. She remarried at age 27 and had an additional three children with her second husband. Education was a priority for the family as a means of escaping poverty. Rojas-Williams became an avid reader in her childhood. In high school, she discovered the writings of Fredrick Engels and Karl Marx.[2] At this time she became actively involved in the struggle for democracy in Chile. In college, she began fighting for the right to elect Salvador Allende in 1970 in his fourth campaign to become president of Chile, while actively resisting the 1973 Chilean coup d'état by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Rojas-Williams was involved in the global student uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s, calling for civil rights and equality. Along with her peers, Rojas-Williams campaigned for labor organization, land reform, anti-imperialism, and anti-Vietnam War movements.[2]

Isabel Rojas-Williams received her Bachelor’s and Master's degrees from California State University, Los Angeles in Art History. Her thesis, "Los Angeles Street Mural Movement, 1930-2009" is included in the research archives of Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros in Mexico City. She was the leading student contributor among fifteen graduate students that organized “Walls of Passion: The Murals of Los Angeles,” a photo-documentary exhibition at California State University, Los Angeles Fine Arts Gallery..[3] When speaking of this exhibition “Murals,” she said, “have happened from the beginning of time. You don’t have to know how to read or write, but there’s a direct connection, artist to viewer, in the passing of important stories.”[3]

Rojas-Williams has been active in the Los Angeles arts community since the 1980s, having worked as a cultural activist, art historian, educator, writer, and curator. She served as an adjunct professor in the Art History department at California State University, Los Angeles. In 2009, she was appointed academic advisor for the Siqueiros Interpretative Center,[4] in addition to serving as Mayor Villaraigosa’s art liaison for the Latino Heritage Committee, African American Committee, and the Asian American Committee. During this time, Rojas-Williams was also Vice President of the Los Angeles-Mexico Sister Cities Program. In 2010, her video "Siqueiros: A Muralist in Exile," including research from the United States, Argentina, and Chile, was presented in the exhibition "Siqueiros Paisajista/Siqueiros: Landscape Painter" at the Museum of Latin America Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California.[5] Her video was honored by Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera for documenting the artistic connection between Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda and Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. The Pablo Neruda Foundation has added her research on Siqueiros to its archives.

In 2011, she was appointed the Executive Director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and documentation of the murals of Los Angeles. In her role as Executive Director Rojas-Williams led dozens of mural restoration projects from 2011 to 2016. As an arts activist, she played a key role in developing and passing the mural ordinance signed by Mayor Garcetti in 2013, which lifted the 2002 mural moratorium on private property in Los Angeles. Her advocacy and fundraising efforts brought visibility and restoration to the Los Angeles Olympic Freeway Murals from the 1980s, on the 101 freeway in Downtown Los Angeles.[6]

Rojas-Williams guided artists and city officials with differing definitions of murals, through the process of developing and implementing a sustainable ordinance. In addition to community-led meetings, she offered guided mural tours to educate the public on the importance of murals and to highlight Los Angeles’ cultural legacy. The final version of the Mural Ordinance included single-family residences through a pilot program in specific districts. Rojas-Williams worked with city planners Tanner Blackman and Tom Rothman and Councilmembers José Huizar, Ed Reyes and Tom LaBonge in developing the ordinance.[6][7] Rojas-Williams also worked with other city officials and Mayor Eric Garcetti. While the ordinance was developed under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed it in September 2013.[8]

In 2012, Rojas successfully lobbied for the L.A. Art Show to consider murals and street art as part of the Los Angeles art scene. In 2013 she organized and moderated a panel for the LA Art Show titled "Rebuilding Our Heritage: Ordinance Reform and the Impending Mural Resurgence in L.A." with Judithe Hernandez, Glenna Avila, Man One, Tanner Blackman, Jose Huizar, and Christopher P. Espinosa.[9] [10] In 2014 she organized and moderated a follow-up panel at the LA Art Show entitled "Will L.A. Reclaim it's Title as 'The Mural Capital of the World?'"[11]

In 2015, Rojas-Williams spearheaded the restoration of one of Los Angeles' most iconic mural, Eloy Torrez' "Pope of Broadway." Located at 242 South Broadway, this mural was first painted in 1985.[12]

Rojas-Williams currently sits on Art Share L.A.'s Visual Arts Committee.[13] She is an active member of Women of MEMCH Los Angeles (Movimiento Pro-Emancipation de las Mujeres de Chile).[14] She is on the Advisory Committee at La Plaza de Cultura y Arte.[15]

On October 7th, 2014 she was honored by Los Angeles City Council as 1 of 15 important women for Hispanic Heritage Month.[1] In January of 2016, she was chosen by Los Angeles City Council and City Impact Lab as one of 2016 Impact Makers to Watch.[16]

Her son, a former graffiti artist and now fine artist, Pablo A. Cristi, studied at the California College of the Arts.[17]. He is currently the Chair of the Visual Arts Department at Oakland School for the Arts.[18] Currently based in Oakland, CA, Cristi has exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Tokyo.

She is married to Stephen Williams, an educator and counselor for over 30 years. He held the position of College Counselor and Advanced Placement Coordinator for Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 20 years.  Recognized as a leader within LAUSD, he has served on the District’s College Counselor Coordinating Council for 10 years and was President of the College Counseling Organization of Los Angeles. Mr. Williams has been an adjunct professor at both Los Angeles City College and East Los Angeles City College. A graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont with a BA in English, Mr. Williams also holds a MS from the University of La Verne in School Counseling and an MA in Educational Administration from CSULA.

Rojas-Williams has curated numerous exhibitions including: 2007, Nanna Becomes Eclectic 2008, JuxtARTposition 2009, Celebrando: L.A. Heritage Artists 2009, Walls of Passion: The Murals of Los Angeles, The Consulate General of Mexico[19] 2011, Fifteen Graces 2012, Urban Legends 2014, Will L.A. Reclaim Its Title as “The Mural Capital of the World?, LA Art Show 2014, Paris: Women & Bicycles, LA Art Show[20] 2015, Art Going Public – Happily Ever After?, LA Art Show 2016, From the Streets to Canvas, LA Art Show[21] 2016, I Am More, Gabba Gallery[22] 2017, South of the Border, Loft at Liz, Participating Gallery Program of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA[23] 2017, Muralismo in Northeast L.A.: A Visual History of L.A.’s Mural Tradition, Security Trust and Savings Bank[24] 2018, John Valadez: No More Magical, Castelli Art Space[25]

Publications Los Angeles Street Mural Movement, 1930-2009, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, México Arte al Limite Bar Code Series: Blurring the Boundary Between Cultures and Commodities, Sept-Oct 2009 edition Arte al Limite An Artist at Large: Francisco Letelier, Jan-Feb 2010 edition M3 MOLAA Magazine, From sketch to masterpiece: a glimpse at Siqueiros’ artistry, Fall ’10, vol. 2, issue 4 Solución Política Justicia Argentina prohibe la exhibición de mural de Siqueiros, Argentina, 7/10/10 ArtSlant


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sonksen, Mike (October 10, 2014). "Celebrate L.A. from Luis Rodriguez to the San Gabriels". KCET.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Search Results for "Chile: The First 9-11, Part 1, by Isabel Rojas-Williams"".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "News Release| CSULA; Cal State L.A.; Los Angeles; CSU; Walls of Passion: The Murals of Los Angeles; art exhibition". Cal State LA. October 22, 2013.
  4. "Life Connected: Iconic Siqueiros Mural to be Unveiled in Downtown LA".
  5. "exhibitions & events". ArtSlant.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fuentes, Ed (December 18, 2013). "Isabel Rojas-Williams Guides L.A.'s Mural Tradition". KCET.
  7. Tso, Phoenix. "Isabel Rojas-Williams, protector of Los Angeles's murals".
  8. Fuentes, Ed (September 5, 2013). "Mural Ordinance Passes. Now What?". KCET.
  9. "Mural Discussion at LA Art Show Sheds Light on Public Art". January 30, 2013.
  12. Arnold, Shayna Rose (December 26, 2014). "Isabel Rojas-Williams is on a Mission to Save L.A.'s Street Art Los Angeles Magazine".
  13. "Our Team – Art Share L.A."
  14. "International Women's Day". MOLAA | Museum of Latin American Art.
  15. "Board of Trustees".
  16. "Impact Makers to Watch - Los Angeles Community Building".
  17. "MCLA's Isabel Rojas-Williams Helms Mural Restoration".
  18. "Oakland School for the Arts - Visual Art".
  19. "LatinoLA | Calendario :: Walls of Passion: The Murals of Los Angeles". LatinoLA.
  20. "LA Art Show 2014: Preview Photos, Coagula, Century Guild, Murals, and More!". January 15, 2014.
  22. "GABBA GALLERY-Royal Curation". GABBA GALLERY.
  23. "Ten Artists Look South of the Border Loft at Liz's". Art and Cake. December 7, 2017.
  24. "COMMUNITY CALENDAR: Three-day Lummis Festival comes to Northeast L.A. -". June 1, 2017.
  25. "John Valadez". Wall Street International. November 24, 2018.

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