D2D California Dreaming Series

All the Saints

I'm a producer here at NPR, but I also like to do some reporting from time to time. There's no shortage of interesting people in Los Angeles, but I knew the moment I first heard about J. Michael Walker's exhibit at the Autry National Center that I wanted to do a story about him.

Walker realized that there were a whole lot of streets in Los Angeles named for saints — 103 to be exact — when he was looking through what has long been a second bible to Angelenos, a spiral-bound book of maps called the Thomas Guide. He recognized the importance of these saints in L.A.'s cultural history. He began exploring the histories of the saints and the nooks and crannies of the streets. Then he created new saint portraits based on the people he met.

I've never seen anyone approach a city the way J. Michael Walker does. And the result — now on the walls of the Autry and in book form too (title: All the Saints of the City of the Angels) — is fascinating. I spent many hours with Walker over the last few months, talking with him about his art and our city and the "road trip through the cultural history of Los Angeles" that he created. My radio piece airs this afternoon on All Things Considered. I know this is the Day to Day blog, but hey: It's a great California story!

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I heard this item over Armed Forces Radio in Korea. As a native Angeleno it broke my heart when I visited my elementary school after many years in the Army. I went to the Transfiguration Catholic School on ROXTON and SANTA BARBARA AVENUE. But on one visit I noticed "they" changed the name of SANTA BARBARA to MLK Jr Blvd. SANTA BARBARA ran east to west from a point just east of the Harbor Freeway.....down the south end of the Coliseum and west to the Crenshaw shopping center and ending just after that. I was shocked that they took the name of street that was named after a Saint and gave it to Martin Luther King Jr BLVD....a section of LA that was not previously a black community. Most people felt that they should have rename CENTRAL BLVD for Dr King because it was longer and in an area that has and is still a black neighborhood. I guess being a saint is not PC.

Sent by Joe Soto | 2:16 AM | 9-8-2008