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Hollywood Bowl’s Muse of Music

The start of the 1940 Hollywood Bowl season was heralded with the dedication of The Muse of Music, “a symbol of the arts within.”

Located at the entrance along Highland Avenue, the 15-foot granite sculpture is mounted on a 220-foot-long Streamline Moderne pedestal and flanked by her sisters, the Muses of Dance and Drama, perched in lower niches of the four-tiered fountain.

Symbolizing their respective genres, Music is strumming a lyre, while Dance sways and Drama holds the theater masks of comedy and tragedy.

The Muse of Music (California State Library)

The Muse of Drama (UCLA)

The Muse of Dance (Hollywood Bowl)

George Stanley, who previously created the Oscars statuette and Sir Isaac Newton sculpture at Griffith Observatory, spent 18 months chiseling 245 tons of granite with his team—who all received Bowl tickets as an added appreciation for their fine craftsmanship.

George Stanley's model of The Muse (LAPL)

Also known as the Muse of Music, Dance, Drama, the $125,000 monument was made possible by President Roosevelt’s New Deal-era Works Progress Administration, and was the most ambitious of the WPA’s five-year Bowl improvement plan that included rebuilding the stage, construction of a tea room, paving of parking lots and promenades, and a pedestrian tunnel under Highland.

Construction of the Muse (USC)

Considered an engineering feat, the Muse is actually an architectural retaining wall, built from concrete and covered with slabs of decorative granite.

(California State Library)

To enhance his Muse’s natural beauty, Stanley also supervised her landscaping: 1,500 ice plants and 600 lantane on the sloping terraces and 100 holly bushes, 40 California mountain lilacs, and 20 eucalypti at the summit. At night, recessed zeon tubes illuminated the fountain complex.

From her perch, the Muse saw all kinds of change along Highland Avenue, as the 101 and several Bowl parking lots paved over the surrounding residential community in the 1950s and 1960s (note the French Village in the photo below).

By the 1970s, she had seen better days: Bird droppings eroded the granite and mineral deposits in the fountain eventually rendered it inoperable. Without the funds to restore the Muse, hedges were planted to hide her decay. Once a year, Stanley’s son Maitland drove down from San Francisco with gardening shears to cut back the weeds covering the etching of his father’s name at the base.

Finally in 2006, the neglected Muse was revitalized with a $1.9 million restoration that also added modern waterproofing and plumbing upgrades.

Today, as the Bowl enters its 101st season, she remains the Gateway to Hollywood’s goddess.

2006 restoration (Los Angeles Times)


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