Into the life of an artist

A conversation with Michael Massenburg.

Michael Massenburg is a Los Angeles-based artist whose creations can be found all over the city, specifically in Inglewood and Leimert Park.

His educational career took place at institutions including Otis Art Institute and California University, Long Beach.

Massenburg strives to delve deep into the sphere of art, portraying ideas about life and race onto canvas. His interests include connecting the mind with spiritual and psychological representations of the world.The vibrancy of the colors and compelling emotions from the characters of his pieces pull the viewer in to take part of that painting's story.

"Art is life, and life is art," he said as he introduced himself on a couch in his studio.

Extremely well-immersed in his field, he worked with companies such as ESPN, the American Jazz Museum and MTA Metro. Moreover, he received many grants in his career so far, and some include from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

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His mural, "Visions," was created in 2006 and still stands bright in the parking lot at the Leimert Park Village. Although some words have faded away, his name and the year of creation is still bold and readable from far away.

"It's a very colorful, almost like an illustrative history book. Within these images of people, there's also printed words," Massenburg described of his creation. Vibrant colors of green, blue and red are spread throughout the mural.

The artwork portrays real-life members of Leimert Park. Prominent poets and female musicians made it to his list of influential people in the community.

"This is the opportunity to... have faces of people who actually made this artistic thing here," he commented on the inspiritation behind his piece. The people in his piece are all well-known in the community that has started off as an arts community.

Massenburg strives to create meaningful metaphors of the unknown on Earth, by portraying life through human and nonhuman characters. His career is driven by one goal he made in life.

"I wanted to make a difference," he said.

Pointing to his African American heritage, he said he is constantly motivated to tap into his roots in creating inspirational art pieces. For example, Poet Kamau Daaood's words are plastered across the "Visions" mural, as it encapsulates the environment of Leimert Park. Each character in his piece defines strength and pride.

So where did this inspiration to become an artist actually stem from?

"I was always doing something, like a lot of us as kids just drawing, painting, just enjoying it. I never even knew what that was growing up. It wasn't until much later that I looked at the possibility of even doing this as a livelihood," Massenburg said, smiling while reflecting back on his childhood.

Years after his interest in the arts was planted, that seed has now blossomed into a garden of creativity and wonder through prominent art pieces across the city. You may find his name at the bottom of a mural while walking back from a concert at The Forum in Inglewood, or while waiting for your transportation at the Expo Line at Farmdale Station in Los Angeles, CA.

Massenberg reflects on how he has become who he is today.

While his works in other locations may remain the same, there may be change coming into the Leimert Park community. It has recently come to his attention that "Visions" amongst many other murals in Leimert Park may soon be restored. He said he is currently trying to prevent this from happening, as his painting makes a deep connection with the theme of the community.

Massenburg stressed the importance of connecting an artwork,specifically a mural, to the community. He believes that his mural does exactly that, and so hopes there can be a way for the mural to stay at Leimert Park Village.

Here is the recommended directions to the go see the "Visions" mural for yourself. The starting point is from the University of Southern California, and it is a little over 3 miles away.

Massenburg spends his days not only painting, but also spreading knowledge and wisdom to those around him. He is a teaching artist in the Los Angeles community. Furthermore, he holds the position of board president for Inglewood Cultural Arts.

This renowned artist lives life with the idea of doing good for the community, and helping others out through his own unique talents. By generating curiosity and admiration of life through his murals, he stimulates a greater interest in the wonders of the world.

The "Visions" mural connects the viewer with the rich culture and deep history of Leimert Park. Located in a parking lot, this vibrant piece also serves as a backdrop for the community's jazz festivals.

While it may seem odd at first for a mural to be placed in a parking lot, the viewer will be mesmerized at the emotions of the characters displayed throughout as well as the bold colors that still remain after many years since its creation.

Take an audio tour of the prominent murals in Leimert Park Village, with Clint Rosemond as your narrator.