Statement from the Artist:
End Mural Moratorium. Art Is Not A Crime…
The reason I hired five jet planes to sky write over City Hall and downtown Los Angeles is to bring awareness to how ridiculous a moratorium on public art is.
The city states that all public murals are signage, effectively banning art from the walls of Los Angeles. And it is removed at the taxpayers’ expense. Money is given to private graffiti removal companies, who have broken onto private property to paint murals beige. The owners of small businesses where murals have been painted have been harassed and threatened with fines if they do not remove the artwork. Police officers raid homes and places of work, intimidating artists and building owners. During this time of economic crisis, “mural signs” are an easy target for the city to extract money. This moratorium is a clear violation of the first amendment right to free speech and enforcement for these unreasonable laws is a complete waste of taxpayer funds.
To put things in perspective I recently visited the beautiful set of murals inside the Terminal Annex Building on Alameda. This mural was painted in 1941-44 and was funded by the “Works Progress Administration” (WPA). Murals are just a part of the legacy of a national program that put the country to work during the Great Depression.
Fast-forward to the Great Recession, taxpayer money is now used to obliterate all traces of the artwork my generation have created. I believe this is city-funded censorship pushed by lawmakers with personal vendettas. Potential jail time is more probable for us than the opportunity of creating an artistic legacy for the next generation. In a city that used to proudly call itself the “Mural Capitol Of The World,” the officials who enforce this ban should be ashamed to call themselves “Angelinos.”
Art Is Not A Crime… End Mural Moratorium.
Tell Mayor Villagaigosa and the L.A. City Attorney’s office to end the mural moratorium now:
Long War on Public Art in Los Angeles County
Click on the links below for more information:
Heal the Bay House (Santa Monica – 2011) photo: saberone.com
* The ‘Heal The Bay House’ was created to by Risk and Retna raise awareness for Coastal Cleanup day. RESTORE AND PROTECT THE WORLDS OCEANS is written in complex lettering on bands of color representing sky, pollution and water. A spokesperson for Heal the Bay called it “a powerful and beautiful way of reminding people of the value of the ocean,” but not everyone agreed. The day the artwork was unveiled, the city ordered an immediate take down and demanded a $5000 a day fine. Saber was on the scene to describe the cops initial response. While many in the upscale community wanted it to stay up longer, public pressure succeeded in keeping the artwork up through Costal Cleanup day.
* Despite the ban on murals, the Art District of downtown Los Angeles remains a “Haven for ‘Street’ Murals”
Fairfax Avenue Mural by Renta, Rime, Revok, Norm, Os Gemeos, Saber. Photo by Melrose and Fairfax
* One week before the opening of MoCA blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets, a private contractor working for the city of Los Angeles broke into fenced private property to buff a mural by several artists featured in the upcoming controversial show. The building owner and surrounding community were furious and stopped the whitewash halfway across the mural. The contractor was forced to come back the next day remove the dull beige paint.
* A North Hollywood woman on a fixed income commissioned a 75 ft. mural to brighten the alley next to her home, but Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety inspectors concluded that a single word included in the fanciful swirls and other spray-painted designs turned the piece into an illegal “sign.” Facing mounting fees and unable to pay $10,000 for a permit, she was forced to have it painted over. One of the young men who painted it over said “Instead of this, the city ought to be fixing potholes. Let the art survive.”
* The owner of the Studio City Car Wash had an artist paint The Great Wall of Studio City but the 64-foot-long mural is threatened with a $1,000-a-day fine for violating city codes.
* City council panel’s take on the ‘mural vs. commercial sign’ debate in June of 2010
* Private residents commissioned the artist, Phil Lumbang to paint this cheerful mural on the front wall of their home, but the city’s Building & Safety Department found the mural violated the city’s restrictions on outdoor advertisements and they were told they must paint over the illegal mural. A commenter said “I live just up the street from this house and I miss the mural every time I pass by.”
* Despite protests, as of 2009 murals continue to be outlawed.
* The SABER piece in the LA River, with reputation for being the largest graffiti piece had drawn admirers from around the world for 12 years before it was buffed by the Army Corps of Engineers and city sub-contractors.
* In 2007, the graffiti gallery Crewest, along with help from the activist group Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) organized “Meeting of Styles: LA.” The event brought together over 100 graffiti artists to spray paint a 10,000 square foot section of the L.A. River at the Arroyo Seco Confluence in Highland Park. Despite the fact that the organizers secured all necessary permits for the mural project, and that the event was fully licensed by the county; supervisor Gloria Molina objected to the work after the fact and introduced an emergency measure to the County Board of Supervisors that forced the mural to be whitewashed from the flood walls. A spokeswoman for Molina called the legal graffiti murals a “public nuisance and a potential safety hazard,” and justified Molina’s decision to introduce the mural’s removal by saying the county was “trying to save lives.”
* It wasn’t always like this, back in the 1970’s more than 400 mural productions were supported through the Citywide Murals Program under the Department of Recreation and Parks before the program was disbanded. The non-profit SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) was founded in the spirit of work like The Great Wall of Los Angeles.
A view of “America Tropical,” partly whitewashed. (Credit: PBS)
* Of course, this sort of thing has a long history in Los Angeles. In 1932, David Alfaro Siqueiros painted America Tropical in a rooftop beer garden on Olvera Street. The mural’s centerpiece featured a crucified Indian, hovered over by an imperial American eagle. The part of the offending mural that could be seen from the street was covered almost immediately; the rest was whitewashed within a year.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Radio Interviews With Saber On The Project And Petition: