National Museum of Women in the Arts
Judith F. Baca
September 20 1946 - present
Photograph of Judith F. Baca with World Wall, 1989, by Marvin Collins, courtesy of Social and Public Art Resource Center, Venice, CA, USA.
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles
Phonetic Spelling:
JOO-dith eff BAH-cah
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Painting, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Designer, Installation Artist, Multimedia Artist, Muralist, Painter, Sculptor
Feminist Art, Traditional Art
Artist's Biography:
Guided by the belief that art can be a force for social change, visual artist Judith F. Baca has dedicated her artistic career to bridging gaps between communities through the organization of public art projects. Best known for her large-scale murals, Baca strives to give a visual voice to the disenfranchised – those often forgotten by history – in an attempt to transform the public’s preconceptions.

Born into a Mexican-American family in 1946, Baca was raised in an all-female household in a suburb of Los Angeles. Growing up in an ethnically and economically diverse community, Baca also witnessed the intensifying Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

After having earned her bachelor’s degree in art from California State University, Northridge in 1969, Baca accepted a job with the Cultural Affairs Division of the City of Los Angeles as a resident artist. In this position, Baca first began developing public projects, bringing gang members together to collaborate on murals. This project led Baca to found Los Angeles’s first public mural program, the Citywide Mural Project, in 1974. Increasingly engaged with community development issues, Baca co-founded the non-profit Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in 1976 along with painter Christina Schlesinger and filmmaker Donna Deitch. Baca’s philosophy of social art serves as the foundation of SPARC, an organization designed to fund participatory public art projects.

The large-scale murals Baca has created throughout her career, and continues to design today, are not solitary works created by the artist alone, but shared projects which allow participants to experience a sense of pride in their communities and to celebrate their own histories. Her distinctive style reflects the influence of David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the great Mexican muralists of the early twentieth-century, whose technique she studied in 1977. From studying Siqueiros, Baca developed her own vocabulary of visual primitivism while gaining a respect for traditional Mexican art forms.

Over the course of her career, Baca has developed numerous public art projects throughout the United States. The significance of her work has been recognized with two retrospective exhibitions, and she has been awarded honors by organizations such as the Women’s Caucus for Art and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Since 1981 she has taught as a professor at the University of California and is still actively involved with SPARC, serving as the program’s artistic director.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Director (Administration), Educator, Feminist, Lecturer, Professor, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Los Angeles
Where Trained/Schools:
California State University, Northridge, CA, USA (ca. 1979) Taller Siquieros, Cuernavaca, Mexico (1977) California State University, Northridge, CA, USA (ca. 1969)
Related Visual Artists:
colleague of and collaborated with Christina Schlesinger colleague of and collaborated with Donna Deitch colleague of and collaborated with Yreina Cervantez collaborated with Judy Chicago collaborated with Gary Tokumoto collaborated with Patssi Valdez influenced by David Alfaro Siqueiros
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (2003) Hispanic Heritage Award in Education, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC, USA (2001) Lifetime Achievement Award, Women's Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1998)
Earliest exhibition:
The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, USA (1980-1981)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Artist retrospective(s):
A World Without Borders: The Work of Judith F. Baca, Galeria de la Raza, San Francisco, CA, USA (1994) Judith F. Baca: Sites and Insights, 1974-1992, Nelson Fine Arts Center, Tempe, AZ, USA (1992)