#GoMetro: Artist Robert Vargas makes Ohtani swing in Little Tokyo

Robert Vargas worked for two weeks from Monday to Sunday to finish Ohtani’s mural. / Photo: Aurelia Ventura.

Spanish version 

Artist Robert Vargas says that from the backyard of his house in Boyle Heights —East Los Angeles—he can see the Dodger Stadium. “I remember looking forward to Fridays when there were games and fireworks. “I’m a fan of the team.” So, out of his affection for the blue and white and in honor of his memories as a child, he decided to paint the image of the recently acquired Japanese player Shohei Ohtani in the heart of Little Tokyo.

“I don’t think there is a better place. The mural is in Little Tokyo, but it can be seen from Boyle Heights on the other side of the bridge, an area where a large Latino Dodger fan community lives,” says Vargas. “This mural, called LA Rising, talks precisely about that: uniting cultures…”. He adds that his piece is about more than just one player. “It identifies with a team and with the symbol of LA… It’s like saying we’re in this together no matter where you come from.”

The recently unveiled mural, measuring 150 x 60 feet, is located on the side wall of the Miyako Hotel on 1st St. and S. Central Ave — just steps away from our Little Tokyo Metro Station!

You can see the mural as soon as you step out from our Little Tokyo station. / Photo: Aurelia Ventura.

But wait, it gets even better! If you visit the lobby at the hotel, you can pick up a QR code that will bring the mural to life. What? Yes, you will be able to see Ohtani hitting a homerun! “It’s a way to raise the level of my art and turns this mural into a destination,” says the artist, who is looking forward to the Dodgers returning to the World Series… Go Dodgers!

Vargas, whose first childhood memories involved holding colored markers, crayons, or pencils, has painted murals in New York, Denver, New Mexico and other places in the country. He has also left his mark in Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and other parts of the world. However, his heart is in Los Angeles, where there are approximately 25 of his murals around the city.

Here are three more that you can visit by taking Metro transit:

I am enough: This mural tells the story of a young Latina who leaves her neighborhood in Boyle Heights to pursue her dreams of being a fashionista. You can find it at The Bloc on Hope St. between 7th and 8th Streets in DTLA. Take the B/D Line subway to 7th St/Metro Center and exit at Hope St.

‘I’m Enough’ mural. / Photo: Courtesy Robert Vargas IG.

Mariachi Vargas: This mural depicts the face of a mariachi named Rafael. Vargas says he wanted to highlight someone we see every day and who sometimes goes unnoticed. “I wanted to turn the anonymous working class into a hero,” says Vargas. You can find it at 1835 1st St in Boyle Heights. Take the E Line train to Mariachi Plaza and walk across the street.

Angelus: This mural, still in progress, portrays a mix of themes experienced here in Los Angeles: homelessness, the LGBTQ community, the strength of family, perseverance, and unity. The mural, which measures 60,000 square feet, is expected to be completed by the end of this year. When complete, it will be the largest mural in the world painted by a single artist! You find it between 5th St and Hill St in DTLA. Take the B/D Line subway to Pershing Square station and exit at 5th St.

‘Angelus’ mural. / Photo: Courtesy of Robert Vargas IG.

Vargas, who also has exhibitions in galleries and museums, puts a lot of time and heart into his public work as he says it is a way to “humanize the environment in which we live. I invite you to visit the murals.”

Vargas was honored by the Los Angeles City Council in 2022 when the intersection of 1st Street and State Street in Boyle Heights was named Robert Vargas Square and September 8 was officially proclaimed ‘Robert Vargas Day.’ “It was a great honor,” the muralist says, “but it’s also a message to local kids that someone from Boyle Heights who looks like you isare pursuing their dreams of creating art and you can do the same.” Vargas suggests that both he, and transportation agencies, share the same goals. “I try to unite cultures with my art, and transportation seeks that too, right? We both connect people.”


1 reply

  1. This is just plain marvelous stuff! Besides being LA and community oriented, it is just plain exquisite fine art!