Monumental Sculpture Of Renowned African American Architect Paul R. Williams Unveiled–October 29, 2015

Bronze bas-relief figure of Williams and career elements grace the new Memorial Plaza of SCLARC and Golden State Mutual building in historic West Adams

[LOS ANGELES, CA – October 20, 2015)  When West Adams-based artist-sculptor Georgia Hanna Toliver, known as Tolanna, was commissioned by SCLARC to create a memorial sculpture of famed 20th century African American architect Paul R. Williams, she knew immediately that she would incorporate his own architecture into the larger-than-life portrait. “Williams was an artist. His architecture was multidimensional and so was his life,” Toliver said. “And since this sculpture would be in the heart of the West Adams historic district, what better way to tell his story than through his own artistic contribution.”

The result of Toliver’s vision and year-longwork, a monumental bronze relief, approximately 9’ by 7’, was recently lowered by crane onto the Paul R. Williams Memorial Plaza, and will be unveiled before invited guests on Thursday, October 29, at 3:00 p.m.  The memorial plaza is designed to transition two significant community buildings at Western Avenue and Adams Boulevard: the 1949 Golden State Mutual Insurance Company, designed by Williams, and the new corporate offices of SCLARC – the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center, providing a host of services to those with developmental disabilities. SCLARC is the new owner ofthe GSM building, recently restored, whose lobby contains two historic murals depicting California’s Black history. Golden State Mutual was one of the most successful Black-owned businesses, an icon of achievement in the Black community for many years.

Georgia Hanna Toliver, who signs her work “Tolanna,”has been an artist in various media her whole life. Sixteen years ago she discovered sculpture and “the first day I modeled clay into a form, my passion for creating heightened to ecstasy and I’ve been working in clay ever since.” Some of her works are transformed into bronze, others into one-of-a-kind terra cotta.

Toliver felt connected to this project from the very beginning. “Williams lived in and around West Adams his whole life. For 27 years, I’ve lived one block from the home he built for his family. I was born the year the GSM building was erected, my late husband worked at GSM, we met in a Paul Williams building, and I too was the first to enter a profession – in my case, as a woman in a male-dominated field, forensic science.” For 25 years, as a forensic scientist Toliver specialized in art forgery and was featured in a PBSdocumentary.

As a board member of the West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA), she is leading efforts in revitalizing the major boulevards running through the historic West Adams District. “When I heard about his project, I was thrilled that this project on Adams Boulevard would be a major step in that effort,” she said.  Also thrilled was WAHA immediate past president John Patterson, who recommended Toliver to SCLARC redevelopment team Project Manager Hillary Henderson. “I knew there wasn’t a more appropriate nominee, and was ecstatic when I learned that Georgia had indeed been awarded this commission,” commented Patterson.

Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980), a distinguished architect and a gracious man, influenced all strata of society. Led by his social consciousness, he believed that individuals could make a difference. He was a leader associated with leaders. His achievements, awards and recognition reflect his contributions to the betterment of mankind. A master of all popular styles — Tudor, Moderne, Spanish, Colonial – Williams’s unique vision and design elements made these styles his own. Whether designing modest homes or luxurious estates, they were all designed to suit the lifestyle of the families who would live in them.

A few of Williams’ 3000 notable structures are:

  • His own home in West Adams’ Lafayette Square (1951), built when the restrictive covenant was lifted.
  • Pattern books (1945) – published affordable designs and plans to help middle class families acquire homes after World War II.
  • Public housing (1940, Washington, DC and Los Angeles) – Dedication to raising basic standards.
  • La Concha Motel (1949, Las Vegas), now the entryway to the Las Vegas Neon Museum (2012). Williams’s buildings have reached historic-cultural monument status.
  • LAX Theme Building (1960)—Worked with several prominent architectural firms creating large projects such as airports and resorts.
  • Music Corporation of America(1937), Beverly Hills – recognition from corporation and industry leaders for his touch of elegance and mastery of designing for the activity of a building.
  • Atkins House(1929), Pasadena – (movie location for “Topper,” “Three Men and a Little Lady” and many others)
  • AME Church(1963)–African Methodist Episcopal; a lifelong member, his funeral was held here.

Said Dexter Henderson, CEO for SCLARC: “This is not only a historic moment but also a transformational moment for this community because we are able to honor our past with the bas relief and also educate future generations whose roots lie deep within this community. We thank George Toliver for her excellent vision and passion to tell the story of Paul Williams.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be part of a multi-dimensional project that encompasses so many of my interests: history, architecture, culture, and revitalizing Historic West Adams. And  translating all this into what I love most – sculpture,” said Toliver.

The memorial plaza will be open for public viewing beginning November 16, weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., following SLCARC’s open house on November 14.

Georgia Toliver’s artistic tribute to Paul R. Williams will grace historic West Adams for many generations to come.

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