Under pressure from artists, the council is revising a 2002 law banning murals on most private property to legalize the city’s best-known works and some more recent pieces.
By Richard Winton
From the aging homages to Chicano history on the Eastside to Shepard Fairey’s towering “Peace Goddess” watching over downtown, Los Angeles has earned a reputation as the street mural capital of the world.
But for nearly a decade, much of this artwork has been done illicitly.
City ordinances make it illegal to create murals on the vast majority of private properties. Officials estimate that more than 300 murals have been painted over in the last several years, a fact that has frustrated artists as well as property owners who commission the murals.
“The mural capital of the world is no more,” said the artist Saber, who had a mural covered up by a city-contracted graffiti work crew earlier this year. “They buff beautiful pieces, harass property owners and threaten us like we are in street gangs.”…………………….CONTINUE READING HERE
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:
* 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.”
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.
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