Sara Velas, BFA 1999

Los Angeles

Sara Velas is a visual artist and founder and director of The Velaslavasay Panorama, an exhibition hall, theatre and garden in the historic Union Square area of Los Angeles.

Born in the Year of the Fire Dragon in Panorama City, CA, Velas received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Washington University in 1999 and launched The Velaslavasay Panorama the following year. Originally located in the Tswuun-Tswuun Rotunda on Hollywood Boulevard, it today occupies the Union Theatre, an historic cinema built in 1921, and remains dedicated to the production and presentation of immersive landscapes, excavated technologies and unusual visual experiences.

Velas has travelled extensively, visiting 19th-century panoramas — as well as their contemporary counterpoints — throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. A member of the International Panorama Council, she has lectured extensively on her interpretation of the panoramic artform, including presentations at the Luxun Academy of Fine Art in Shenyang, China, and the Museum-Panorama of the Borodino Battle in Moscow. She also serves on the advisory council of the Modern Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy, an architecture preservation advocacy group.

In 2003 the Hollywood Arts Council honored Velas with a Charlie Award for Community Involvement in the Arts, and in 2006 she received a fellowship from the California Community Foundation. She recently participated in the exhibition 20 Years Ago Today: Supporting Visual Artists in Los Angeles at the Japanese American National Museum, and completed a month-long printmaking residency at Kala Institute in Berkeley as part of a 2008 Visions from the New California award.