By Holly Jenvey

The mural at Mark Twain Middle School was created by Venice artist Agustin Gonzalez with help from the community
Photo by Cindy Sanchez Mattson

For 20 years, a colorful mural on the face of Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista has been a symbol of collaboration and community. So when pieces of the school’s mural began to fall down, members of the school community and surrounding neighborhoods began working tirelessly on its restoration, and they still need your help.

On July 29, neighbors around the school began to see the mural’s shining mosaic tiles being removed from the facade of the school; they were becoming unstable. Right away, members of Mark Twain and neighbors from around the Venice and Mar Vista communities jumped in to see how the mural could be repaired. LAUSD had tile setters restore the unstable patch and allocated some funding, but the job isn’t done yet. Now, the community around Mark Twain is trying to ensure the longevity of the mural.

“I have to make sure that this does not fall down,” said Dr. Althea Ford, Mark Twain Middle School’s principal.

Ford explained how despite the patch being fixed, the rest of the mural will inevitably become unstable due to its age. In 2000, Venice Builds brought together the late Venice artist Agustin Gonzalez and students of the school to construct the mural. As of today, the multicolored wall is hard to miss by anyone passing by. When students came to the school, the mural’s pyramid and sun reminded students of the six pillars of character as they started their day. However, even though classes most likely won’t take place on campus this fall, the mural is still an integral part for many in the community.

“Restoring the mosaic is collectively reinforcing our belief in our perseverance as a community and our ability to overcome these times together,” said Alyssa Moffitt, a parent and a board member of Friends of Mark Twain.

Friends of Mark Twain, also known as FOMT, is the school’s parent and community booster club. It helps the school in many ways by supporting teachers and the administration, raising money for programs, planning multicultural events and more. FOMT also has a beautification committee, which Moffitt leads, that has started a GoFundMe campaign to fund the mural’s restoration. As of press time, $650 of a $50,000 goal had been raised. “The repairs in one third of the wall were $35,000 and we anticipate needing to repair two thirds of the wall,” added Moffitt. She explained that if funding for the mural’s restoration exceeds FOMT’s goal, the additional funding would go toward making another student-led mural and supporting the arts at Mark Twain. (The school offers a plethora of activities — from clubs like Model UN and orchestra to Folklorico dance, football, basketball and robotics. However, the school is still missing a full-time art teacher, and students have been taking classes from another teacher at the school who teaches the class during her free period.)

“The mural expresses the student’s cooperation and ideals and it is a collaboration of the larger community — local artists, Venice Build, high school students and middle school students,” Moffitt said.

The late Venice artist Agustin Gonzalez helped students construct the mural because of his love for Venice and the surrounding areas.

“He was always in the community,” said his widow Beatris Gonzalez.

Both of them were born and raised in Venice. They attended West Venice Elementary together, and now their children and grandchildren are starting their lives here. Agustin not only painted murals all around Venice, but he also worked as a tattoo artist, a sculptor and played handball. Some of his works include murals at the school Coeur D’Alene, the corner of 4th Street and Rose Avenue, apartments at Washington Boulevard and Beethoven Street, and more murals at Venice Beach.

Mark Twain Middle School means a lot to Beatris and her family. Her sister lives very close, and her nieces attend the school.

“It needs to be there,” said Beatris of her late husband’s mural at Mark Twain. “It would hurt my heart if it wasn’t there.”

Visit https://tinyurl.com/marktwaingofundme to make a donation to FOMT’s mural restoration GoFundMe campaign.

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