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Artist DJ Javier reflects on opportunity to create Monterey Park AAPI mural with Rams

DJ Javier's first connection with the Rams came through the LA Bold project two years ago via a friend who knew someone at the organization.

It became the catalyst for a host of future collaborations, the latest of which was an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) mural painted in Monterey Park that creates a personal bond for him.

"I had no idea what the project was going to be necessarily (at first)," Javier told "But then once I found out, 'Hey, this is a mural celebrating AAPI heritage that will be donated to the city of Monterey Park,' I was like, 'oh, this is the perfect combination of things.' I get to take my fine art and creative practice, I get to paint super big, and then obviously, the biggest component is me being Filipino American. I get to do something that taps into my roots and community."

Artist DJ Javier reflects on opportunity to create Monterey Park AAPI mural with Rams

The latest iteration of that partnership had Javier paint a 2,000 square-foot mural on the main wall outside the George E Elder Gymnasium facing Wilcox Ave, which was unveiled Wednesday.

The project is consistent with Javier's approach of art with community impact and inclusive themes, such as a surfer towel with stylized surfers who have diverse skin tones, or his collaboration with the Surfrider Foundation to promote surfing for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

While a lot of what he does is for his community, it's also for his younger self and what that representation would've meant to him at that age.

"I didn't see many people who look like me in these spaces," Javier said. "Even though they totally were there, I just didn't have the visibility growing up of like, oh, there's like other artists and creatives who are like designing their own shoes and doing really cool stuff and painting murals and working with cool brands. I'm sure they were out, but I just didn't see it. And so, for me, with a lot of my work on opportunities, I just try to be vocal in that sense of putting myself out there – not in a way where it's like, 'oh, look at me,' but almost like 'hey, like younger version of me out there, this is for you, you can do this too.' If anything, I would love for people to forget that I made it, but for a younger version of me to be like, 'Oh, I just remember that dude who looked like me, I want to go do that too. That's super cool. I can't remember the guy's name who painted it, but I'm encouraged to pursue these things and see myself in these spaces, see my community working with big brands and teams like the LA Rams.'"

Beyond that, what also resonates with Javier about this project is making his parents proud.

Javier's parents are immigrants from the Philippines who came to Los Angeles in the 1980s. He said that growing, they didn't necessarily think their son was going to be an artist across the world.

Look through photos of artist DJ Javier's 2,000 square-foot mural in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage in Monterey Park. The mural is located outside of the George E Elder Gymnasium facing Wilcox Avenue and is meant to represent resilience, an appropriate symbol in wake of the tragic mass shooting that took place in Monterey Park in late January.

One day, Javier's dad had a work event in L.A., and Javier's mom told his dad where he lived. When Javier's dad arrived, his reaction proved validating.

"He just showed up and he was grinning from ear to ear and glowing, like, 'this is so cool,'" Javier said. "It's just cool. I don't know. Showing my parents that their work, leaving everything back home, wasn't in vain."

The mural is meant to represent resilience, an appropriate symbol in wake of the tragic mass shooting that took place in Monterey Park in late January. Beyond conveyed associated themes of bravery, strength and boldness, Javier also hopes the piece sparks conversation in the community – both in Los Angeles and beyond.

"It's been really cool to get a lot of just really great support and response already, even as I was posting the stories, or people messaging me who were like from the area and not from the area, just being really stoked to feel like, 'I feel seen here,'" Javier said. "Obviously, the dragon is like – it was hard to encapsulate all of the AAPI community, and so that's why I kind of chose something that felt really general in that sense. But a lot of people just reaching out and being like, 'I'm just stoked that I feel seen and heard, even through this art,' and hopefully that just sparks them to feel really encouraged to stand even more boldly or stand up even straighter and more proud of who they are and their heritage and their community. And hopefully that just sparks inspiration in other places within the AAPI community."

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