Los Angeles’ vibrant mural cultural is finally coming out of the shadows. In September, the Los Angeles City Council pass a new mural ordinance which allowed for new murals, non-commercial in nature to be placed on private businesses, with permission of the property owner and approval by the neighborhood. And a few months later, murals on homes in certain council districts were approved.
To celebrate the renaissance of (legal) murals to Los Angeles and raise awareness of our city’s mural history and cultural, Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles staged special exihbition booth at the LA Art Show, Will Los Angeles Reclaim Its Title as “Mural Capital of the World,” coupling that with a panel discussion, moderated by MCLA executive director Isaleb Rojas-Williams.
The exhibition showcased many murals, with pieces by noted muralits for sale to raise funds for MCLA’s continued cataloging and restoration of murals across Los Angeles. Included were artworks by pioneer muralists, such as Kent Twitchell and John Valadez, together with emerging and mid-career artists such as Pablo Cristi, Augustine Kofie, RISK, MEAR ONE Retna, Tanner Goldbeck, and Sonia Romero.
To support MCLA and further enhance LA Art Show guests’ understand of Los Angeles’ unique murals, CARTWHEEL created and produced a tour of the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District, which began at the MCLA booth. For the tour guests, Isabel Rojas-Williams presented an overview that included pioneer muralists and artists inspired by LA’s mural culture, connecting the politics of the street to the politics of the canvas.
MCLA has played a key role in the crafting and passage of the mural ordinance that lifted the 2002 ban on murals and was signed into law by Mayor Garcetti in September, thereby giving a new generation of artists the opportunity to create as freely as their counterparts did in past decades. This new mural ordinance changes artists’ relationship with City Hall by 180 degrees, thus giving Los Angeles a new opportunity to once again enjoy a period of fresh cultural renaissance.
At Sunday, Rojas-Williams posed the question “Will Los Angeles Reclaim Its Title as Mural Capital of the World?” to a panel of directly involved in the mural ordinance. The general consensus was yes, though it was felt by the panelist that Los Angeles is a city of so much entertainment and art, and murals, especially with the new ordinance in place, are only a part of that. Attorney Eric Bjorgum of Karish & Bjorgum Intellectual Property Law discussed the various legal aspects involved with the new mural ordinance, how murals now will be registered and thus protected; and how they are are not to contain commercial advertisements.
Felicia Filer, the Public Art Director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs who has overseen the commission of over 170 permanent public art projects throughout the city, discussed further details of the ordinance and the importance of public art. Artist Artist Willie Herrón III, one of the founding member of the Chicano arts collective Asco, is currently at work restoring the the 1984 Olympics mural, and he and muralist Kent Twitchell explained mural painting and restoration and how murals are “retired” under removable gray paint to preserve them until the areas around them has become less attractive to spray paint vandals and funds can be found to restore them. One of MCLA’s goals is to raise money to continue the restoration of our city’s murals.
Allison Hueman Torneros talked about her experience painting a mural on the corner of 3rd and Main the week before mural ordinance passed, and how the neighborhood residents were supportive and the police ignored her . Her mural at 3rd and main brought up an important issue: Some murals created before the ordinance can be grandfathered in, and murals created in accordance with the ordinance will be preserved and in place for at least two years, but murals created after the ordinance that did not follow the guidelines run the risk of being removed.
Councilmember José Huizar led the effort on the Council to overturn the ban on murals on private property to allow Los Angeles to begin to reclaim its place as the “Mural Capital of the World.” The long-time Boyle Heights resident introduced no fewer than 19 City Council motions in favor of murals and mural restoration, responding to his constituents and his own love of the city and its art. He also discussed aspects of the ordinance which allows for murals on private homes in certain council districts and how that might eventually become possible throughout the city.
The panel was followed by a question and answer session which brought up the issue about how murals often evolve and that the final version maybe different from the proposal submitted, and carried over into the Mural Conservancy’s booth with the mural panelists, artists, and staff from LA City Hall, including City Council’s Planning Director Tanner Blackman who instrumental in drafting the mural ordinance, discussing the future of Los Angeles’ murals.
Above photos: Alex Gordon