One hundred mules walking the LA Aqueduct
Artist Lauren Bon and her Metabolic Studio have a singular event planned to celebrate the centennial of the controversial Los Angeles Aqueduct. From Oct. 18-Nov. 11, Bon and the Metabolic Studio will perform ‘One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct,’ a commemorative artist action intended to connect the City of Los Angeles to its water supply in the Eastern Sierra. “Many people in L.A. don’t know their water comes from 240 miles away,” said Bon when announcing the project from Metabolic Studio headquarters in L.A. This artist action intends to teach Los Angeles residents otherwise.
Bon and the Metabolic Studio began their work in the Owens Valley in 2007, with projects like the IOU Garden in Lone Pine, restoration work on the Cerro Gordo Mine, events at the PP&G plant on the Owens Lake, and famer’s markets in Lone Pine and Independence. The Metabolic Studio is a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, of which Bon acts and directs, and was awarded about $1 million in grants for various projects related to the centennial of the L.A. Aqueduct.
Beginning Oct. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Aqueduct Intake, the 100-mule team will walk the 240-mile length of the Aqueduct, stopping on Nov. 5 to join L.A.’s own centennial celebration at the Cascades, and concluding with participation in Glendale’s Veteran’s Day Parade on Nov. 11.
The sight of 100 mules walking the length of the Aqueduct is intended to serve as a reminder to Los Angeles residents that “they are passing through their neighbors’ property,” when traveling through the Owens Valley, Bon said, since “that is where their water comes from.” According to the Metabolic Studio press release, the mule train will honor the “Mule power [that] shaped the modern West and was a primary force in constructing the Aqueduct,” a gravity-fed engineering feat constructed over seven years in the early 1900’s. The Metabolic Studio plans several public events along the way, with stops at the Lone Pine Rodeo Grounds, Jawbone Canyon, the Hansen Dam, and the L.A. Equestrian Center, among others.
Heading the massive mule parade are McGee Pack Station owners Jennifer Roeser and husband Lee Roeser. Roeser explained that there will be about 35 people on the Mule Walk, with one wrangler to each string of 10 mules. She added that a group of as many as 10 support vehicles will supply food and water for the mules and riders, portable corrals, camping gear, a veterinarian, a truck to haul off the mule manure, and other necessities defined in the many permits for the project. Bon and one other member of the Metabolic Studio will also be riding the entire route.
Roeser offered a project update to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 8, noting that, “We’re still finalizing everything from equipment and training of the mules to the authorization and permitting process.” Roeser added the Mule Walk is a significant economic boon to the County; “For a bunch of packers to have a job like this in the fall is pretty huge,” she said. Vendors, resources and equipment for the project are all being purchased in Inyo County, she said, with well over $750,000 spent on the project thus far.
“This is in a very large capacity an artistic action, which I’m working to understand, being a mule person,” Roeser laughed. However, she explained that one of the aims of Bon’s artistic action is to bring together communities. The Mule Walk, which will pass through three counties and nearly 50 communities before reaching Los Angeles, will do just that.
By conveying a symbol of the Eastern Sierra and the Aqueduct to the doorstep of Los Angeles, the Mule Walk also seeks to inspire both Eastside and Southern California communities “to move forward into the next 100 years with a renewed appreciation for this vital resource [water],” the Metabolic Studio press release stated. Supporting this resolution is the fact that the action has been coordinated with the full support of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The LADWP has, itself been working to make a new century of water delivery happen, the press release noted. Giving hope that, per the Metabolic Studio’s artistic action resolution, “the citizens of Los Angeles will do better at utilizing this life-giving resource in the next one hundred years!”