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Pioneros de la Rivera de San Gabriel


Project Description

Robin Brailsford’s Pioneros de la Rivera de San Gabriel (pioneers of the San Gabriel River, 2015) celebrates the pioneering spirit of the area’s five founding families and their descendants who capitalized on the unique local geology to create a thriving community and industrial center. The founding families moved from Mexico in the 1800s through the Los Angeles basin to eventually settle an overlooked area at the base of the mountains near the San Gabriel River in what is now the city of Irwindale. With the scarcity of aggregate for freeways and water for a growing population in the 1950s, Irwindale’s access to fresh water and abundance of black-and-white river cobble, known as “sal y pimento,” fueled the city’s prosperous stone quarries and food industry. 

The artwork includes cut-steel panels integrated into the railings and colorful, LithoMosaic pavers set throughout the two platforms and adjacent parking structure. Framed by the dates 1860 and 1960 with the founders’ names at the outset, an international collection of surnames from the city’s centennial directory is inscribed in the central panels along the entry ramp handrails. The words to a song titled “Axis Mundi,” composed in English, Spanish and Aztec by the artist, enhance the platform railing panels. The evocative lyrics convey the city’s distinctive history, honor the ancestry of the founding families, and offer a peaceful and inclusive view of the surrounding environment. Made from an aggregate of glass, mosaic and stone, the pavers repeat an abstract design that in blue hues represents the San Gabriel River’s alluvial fan and in green hues refers to each resident’s tree of life. 

Artist Statement

"In the city of Irwindale, I found the integrity of purpose with staff, residents and ancestors to create an unprecedented opportunity for an exciting integration of art, history and light rail transit at a significant scale. As a public artist, I look for the potential in people, places and things, and then help realize that potential with vibrant conceptual and tactile experience."

About the Artist

ROBIN BRAILSFORD (b. 1953, Boston, Massachusetts) earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico. She is a founder and director of Public Address, a public art advocacy group. She is the recipient of awards from the American Institute of Architects, American Public Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, California Construction Association, National Endowment for the Arts and Western Council of Construction Consumers. Brailsford was selected to be the arts interpretive specialist for the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area in Mount Charleston, Nevada. Her numerous public commissions include artworks for parks, municipal buildings and transit services in Arizona, California, North Carolina and Texas.