Exploring Panoramas with Sara Velas


Sara Velas began studying and creating panoramas over twenty-five years ago. In 1999, she toured Europe, seeking out heritage-era panoramas in out-of-the-way towns of Switzerland and hidden corners of Austria. Inspired by this inaugural European pilgrimage and ongoing research about the panoramic form, a chance encounter with a vacant, round Chinese take-out restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard in the year 2000 prompted her to create a specialized museum – The Velaslavasay Panorama. In 2004, she relocated the project to the historic Union Theater in West Adams – one of Los Angeles’ first purpose built cinemas, built in 1910.



A panorama, as classically defined, is a 360-degree landscape painting entered through a dark hallway and viewed from a platform. Patented by Irishman Robert Barker in 1787 as a technology intended for art and entertainment, these massive canvases transport visitors to magnificent travel locations (such as a view of Niagara Falls in the center of London!) and historic battles (allowing them to go back in time 100-200 years and experience the Battle of Waterloo on the very spot of the conflict!)



Out of approximately 50 known panoramas that still exist on public view today, Sara has visited over 30 of these massive installations across 18 different countries including the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, China, Norfolk Island, and North Korea. Sara will give us an in-depth international tour of adventures in seeing panoramas and an overview of the major projects and programs at the Velaslavasay Panorama.



Sara Velas is an artist, graphic designer, gardener, curator and native Los Angeleno. She is the Artistic Director of the Velaslavasay Panorama, a nonprofit museum and garden she established in the year 2000 to present variations on art forms and entertainments popular before the invention of cinema. Velas has traveled around the world to investigate the panoramic art form with a special focus on the contemporary creation of panoramas in Asia. She has served two three-year terms as President of the International Panorama Council, which meets annually to discuss the panoramic medium both historically and in a contemporary context. Ms. Velas is a member of the Los Angeles Breakfast Club and was born in Panorama City, California (It’s on her birth certificate!) In 1999 she received her BFA as a Painting major from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work with the Velaslavasay Panorama has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the United States National Endowment for the Arts, California Community Foundation, and the Los Angeles Department of Arts and Culture, among others. While her work is primarily focused on site at the Velaslavasay Panorama, related projects have been exhibited internationally at venues including the Songwon Art Center in Seoul, Korea, NGBK in Berlin, Germany and Ruang MES 56 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. An avid traveler, Ms. Velas has visited over 40 countries and all seven continents.


This program was organized by Phyllis Hansen .