Making our Home your own: Introducing a new series on CalVet Connect featuring artists, gardeners, crafters and other residents who make our eight state Veterans Homes their own in quite unique ways. Whether it’s an artist, or a singer, we’re here to share how our residents contribute to improving our Homes across California. We begin the series with a West L.A. resident and amateur painter who is celebrating the Home’s 8th anniversary today.
You could say the West Los Angeles Veterans Home was a blank canvas when it opened in 2010. While many of the Home’s walls were decorated with artwork, certain panels were intentionally left bare in hopes that residents would one day make the new home their own.
That’s where Manny Reza comes in.
One of five veterans selected to paint a mural of a spring meadow and snowy mountains, Reza says his group’s painting project took a little over three months to complete. Now it stands as a representation of their hard work and a memorial to their close friend and lead painter on the mural, who has since passed away.
Reza, an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War era, has lived at the West L.A. Veterans Home for seven years. He was the 79th resident admitted to the Home.
His early admittance gave him and his fellow residents a chance to explore a newly opened, yet empty, wing of the Home, where they found their new work space.
“There was nobody in this wing,” he recalls. “So we just did it.”
An architect by trade, Reza was nervous picking up a paint brush, but his friends assured him that their work would turn out just fine.
“We didn’t know how to do it exactly,” Reza said. “So if we screwed up, we said, ‘just paint over it.’ And it turned out pretty well.”
Reza focused on painting trees and the landscape in front of the mountain range, showcasing an array of color in the grassy meadow.
“It was outlined and we filled it in with our brushes (with) the blues and the reds,” he says.
Since the group completed the project, the group’s leading painter passed away. Reza says that’s made the mural a lasting memory of their dear friend.
“It was his idea to do it, and it was a shock to all of us when he passed away,” Reza says. “So now, whenever I pass by this mural, and see his name, it’s a reminder to me.”