Georgia Toliver Wins Prestigious Commission

DEC15gt4Photos by Dawn Kirkpatrick

n October 29th, civic leaders and members of the historical preservation community celebrated the unveiling of a new sculpture monument, dedicated to the contribution of architect Paul Revere Williams.  Commissioned by the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center (SCLARC), the large bronze bas relief is located at SCLARC's Legacy Plaza at 1999 W. Adams, (at Western) at the site of the former Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company (GSMLIC) building. 

The subject of a TNN article in 2011, the internationally renowned architect Paul Williams designed over 3,000 buildings, including residences for celebrities like Sinatra, Lucille Ball, as well as such iconic edifices as the Beverly Hills Hotel, the LAX theme building, the Los Angeles County administration headquarters downtown and the main First A.M.E. church, besides the Golden State Mutual Building. 

The Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company has also figured in the news when the ownership of the interior mural and celebrated GSMLIC's African-American art collection was resolved after years of legal contention.  SCLARC now has ownership of the former GSMLIC, erecting a new building on the GSMLIC parking lot space last year.  A community-based non-profit, SCLARC provides essential services to the developmentally disabled.

“I Was Meant to Get this Job”

Dec15GT5 2Designing the monument fell to artist Georgia Hanna Toliver, a resident of Wellington Square. When the SCLARC board initially requested proposals from interested artists, fellow members of the WAHA board recommended Toliver, including former WAHA President John Patterson. Although Toliver had made and studied art her entire life, she had never executed a monumental, public or commissioned sculpture, unlike many of the other competitors.  But Toliver’s  proposal was unique in being comprised of a clay maquette, rather than a drawing like other competitors.  She also included historical information in the monument design, rather than simply an image of the architect with a quote, as is conventional.  

Besides artistic prowess and an original concept, Tolliver also offered an extensive personal history with the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, her late husband, Harold E. Toliver, serving as their Director of Marketing and Public Relations and her sister-in-law also a long-time GSMLIC employee.  “For 35 years I’d been going to Christmas parties and other functions there,” Toliver explained to TNN.  Toliver was certainly already very familiar with Williams’ contribution to the history of architecture, notable African-Americans and Los Angeles.  She resides only a block from one of his homes.  Furthermore, as a WAHA Board member, Toliver had supported WAHA’s efforts to beautify Washington, Adams, and Jefferson Boulevards, -- and so the proposed project at Adams and Western Avenues was ‘right up her alley.’  “There were so many connections, I felt I was meant to get this job”.

DEC15GT2According to Toliver, the front of the two-sided or recto/verso sculpture represents Williams’ life, personality, philosophy and character – “because he was a visionary and trailblazer,” the sculptress explained, “not just a prolific architect.”  The reverse depicts the story of Williams’ career, showing the architect’s buildings as icons consisting of different projects’ salient features, arranged in chronological order from the bottom, starting with the 1920s.  The monument is signed "Tolanna," a contraction of Toliver's name.

An "emerging artist"

 Toliver worked as a forensic scientist of the L.A. District Attorney’s office for most her career, developing some pioneering published techniques.  Although she has made art and attended art classes her entire life – designing her whole wardrobe and garden, for instance-- , she didn’t pick up sculpture until about 1999, after her husband passed away and her son was in high-school.  “I just fell in love with it.”  She humbly describes herself as an "emerging artist."  Many local residents know Georgia’s award-winning garden with intriguing sculpturary.

The monument at SCLARC's Legacy Plaza is located in the heart of the West Adams Historic District at 2500 South Western Avenue (and Western) at the site of the GSMLIC,  Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument #1000 .  Toliver's monument is now open to the public weekdays from 9 am to 3 pm. and is accessed in the back of the building.  Legacy Plaza was developed by the architectural firm AE3 Partners, an African-American owned company addressing underserved communities, similar to the historic GSMLIC. 




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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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