Future, Artworks, Stations

A Panorama of LA and History of the Pacific Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers


Project Description

The artwork references historic photographs from the 1887 Fund, Bandini Foundation and the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center’s archives to create a panoramic mural that celebrates the history of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Pacific Branch, as well as the future, as the campus is being revitalized. The scene spans multiple time periods and features the founding of the Home, the campus’ historic and contemporary buildings such as the Wadsworth Chapel, the oldest building on Wilshire Blvd., National Soldiers Home plaques, the National Cemetery, and the main hospital. Horse-drawn carriages and trams travel alongside buses from different eras. Brightly colored butterflies create dynamic movement across the mural, transcending the various time periods. The butterflies symbolize the rebirth and renewal of veterans reintegrating into civilian life and coming back home after service. 

To develop the station artwork design, Birk visited the West LA VA Medical Center and held multiple meetings with a diversity of veteran community stakeholders over several months to learn about the history of the site, its current-day services to veterans, and plans for the future. He worked with the Bandini Foundation, the 1887 Fund, and the West LA VA Medical Center archives of historical materials where he reviewed thousands of photographs and documents. Many images found during this research inspired the overall artwork design. Birk also led a public sketching workshop and walking tour to share his drawing process. The artist collaborated with the Brentwood Art Center, an arts organization that provides art classes for veterans at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.

Artwork design in progress

Artist Statement

“[I am] overwhelmed by the sincere earnestness of the community that the public artwork should more directly focus on the history of the National Home, Pacific Branch, since its founding in 1887, and as to the aspects of the historical dedication of the land as a permanent home for veterans.”

About the Artist

SANDOW BIRK (b. 1962, Detroit) develops expansive, multi-media art projects that deal with a wide variety of contemporary subjects, including inner-city violence, graffiti, social and political conflicts, surfing, and skateboarding. Birk grew up on the beaches of Orange County, CA, and his sister is a 25year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard. Notable public art projects include a 400 square foot ceramic tile mural in collaboration with Elyse Pignolet for Hey Rookie Pool, San Pedro, CA (2017), and three large-scale, hand painted murals in collaboration with Elyse Pignolet for SF Jazz, San Francisco, CA (2013). Birk earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design (now Otis College of Art and Design) in 1988. His many awards include an NEA International Exchange Scholarship (1995) to study mural painting in Mexico City, a Guggenheim Fellowship (1996), a Fulbright Scholarship (1997), and a Gottlieb Foundation Individual Support Grant (2021). His work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University Art Museum, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma in Italy, and Kunstmuseum Reutlingen in Germany.

Location: Westwood/VA Hospital