Garden of Oz

Garden of Oz
#996, Garden of Oz, photo by Charles J. Fisher, 2010

Garden of Oz, Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #996

Built: 1991  Declared: 05/11/2011

The Garden of Oz is a rare example of a cooperative Folk-Art project that has grown to become a unique and beautiful expression of the determination of individual artists to create a full expression of their ideals through their art.

The garden began in 1991, shortly after Gail Cottman purchased the parcel of vacant land to the immediate South of her Hollywood Hills home. Her initial intent was to find a creative way to display her “David Austen” roses. She had contractor, Manuel Rodriguez, create a concrete bed for the roses, in which she inlaid pieces of tiles and beads. Inspired by the message she found in the “Wizard of Oz” that everyone is their own wizard, Cottman soon began to expand the area around the garden, creating “Munchkinland,” complete with a symbolic yellow brick road, as a tribute to the various characters from the Land of Oz. She invited several of her artist friends to help in her endeavor of love and began to lay out more paths and low walls with even more artwork from even more artists.

The first of the gardens many special “thrones” was created for this early part, as “Dorothy’s Throne,” with its whimsical array of tiles, pieces of tiles and art pieces forming an array around the happy face of a girl who appears to be decked out for a ride in an early horseless carriage. Another throne was set up for world peace on the reverse of Dorothy’s throne. Other thrones were created one at a time honoring individuals and ideas. There are tributes to many of the great musicians of all different types of musical disciplines, such as the Duke Ellington tribute, the Ella Fitzgerald Theater, a bust of Elvis Presley, the throne of Esa-Pekka Salonen “LA’s Spectacular Music Man,” and the John Lennon tribute. Other points honor individuals who have made a positive impact on society, such as a special throne in honor of Rosa Parks entitled “Front Row Center,” and tributes to the Dali Lama, Yitahak Rabin and Anwar Sadat in the “forest of Peacemakers,” a tribute to UCLA professor Peter Sellars and even a whimsical little tribute to newsman Edward R. Murrow.

One of Gail’s special friends was Musako Morioka, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, whom she met in that City in 1995 when she attended the 50th anniversary of the bombing. Gail and several of the other artists, along with Hiroshima Survivors, created the “Garden of Us” in Hiroshima’s Four Seasons Park, which is a sister garden to Oz. Another special person in the Garden is the artist Beatrice Wood, who contributed a number of pieces to the garden and became one of Gail’s special friends for 20 years until her death at 105 in 1998.

The Garden of Oz is a special place and Historic Cultural Monument status helps to ensure that it will remain so in the future, as a unique and calming place in the hubbub of Los Angeles.