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Water Street: River of Dreams,2003


Project Description

Located near the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River, this station provided artist Cheri Gaulke with an important reference that she used to metaphorically connect the Gabrielino (Tongva) Indians who once inhabited the area with a contemporary flowing landscape.

Cascading arroyo stones encased between two staircases leading from the platform area to the parking lot suggest a dry riverbed. Chips of aqua-colored glass are embedded in the concrete landings beneath the river stones to simulate a stream. At the top of the staircase, surrounded by large river boulders, stands a life-size bronze sculpture of a Tongva woman drawing water from the imaginary river and pouring it into a tightly woven bronze basket.

A 35-foot long triptych “story fence” located on the platform level contains cutout text related to the Gabrielino Indians and the life-enhancing river. The central panel depicts an amber-colored coyote and a turquoise-colored river that flows between a Tongva legend about a wily coyote who challenges the river to a race. This central panel is flanked on the left side by a panel containing a quote from Vera Rocha, the contemporary chieftess of the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation, that alludes to the river as the lifeblood of her people. The right panel contains a poem by Lewis MacAdams, founder of the Friends of the Los Angeles River, that refers to the current river as a concrete-corseted woman whose laugh can still be heard.

Throughout the station coyote footprints and leaf impressions embedded in the concrete paving remind transit-goers of the life that once existed at this site.

Artist Statement

“Having grown up near the mighty Mississippi, that concrete ditch called the LA River seemed a pitiful sight. Yet as I learned more about it I began to feel for its loss. It had once been a dreamy flow overhung with trees and stocked with fish. It had nurtured tribal people but baffled the early settlers with its unpredictability. The coyote story is a metaphor: Our human-made roads, freeways, and train tracks come and go, but the river is always there.”

About the Artist

CHERI GAULKE earned a Master of Arts in Feminist Art/Education from Goddard College in Los Angeles. Early in her career she participated in performance artist Rachel Rosenthal’s Instant Theatre, and the Feminist Studio Workshop at The Woman’s Building in Los Angeles. She co-founded the collaborative performance art groups Feminist Art Workers and Sisters of Survival. Her current work includes video, installation, artist’s books, and public art, and has been exhibited in galleries and museums nationwide. She has received recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, California Community Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.

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