LA is getting its murals back!
Back in July, muralists from all over Los Angeles filled up room 340 in City Hall to find out that the LA City Mural Ordinance could not be agreed on and we’d all have to wait until September to find out when and under what circumstances original art murals on private property would be legal again. But then in September the City postponed it to October. After a 10-year Mural Moratorium, artists were getting tired and fed up. (Here’s the link to my post back in July about the Public Hearing in case you missed it.)
So on Thursday, we all returned to that same room in City Hall to find out about the future of LA’s walls. The City Planning Commission (CPC) heard many artists, teachers, activists, etc. explain once again what should be included or disregarded in the proposed ordinance. Many agreed on the same issues as last time, such as how the definition of “Original Art Mural” shouldn’t include digitally printed images and that single-family homes should be able to have a mural. The difference in this hearing was that more artists who wanted digital murals included in the ordinance spoke their minds, including Judy Baca from SPARC (who failed to attend the last hearing).
After the discussion went back and forth between council members, compromises were starting to be made. In the end the council members agreed that residential buildings with 2 units could lawfully display a mural. However, even though there was a big divide in the issue of digitally printed images being permitted, it was not voted against. We will just have to wait and see what details will be changed as this ordinance will go on to Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) commission. If it passes it goes to City Council for final approval. Now it’s just a matter of time…
When all was done, there was no cheering or clapping. The vote happened so quickly that when it passed it seemed to catch everyone off guard. The group of artists behind me stormed out of the hall. The ones in front of me embraced. You could still feel the division… but in the end LA will get its murals back.
After the hearing I was invited to see the 1984 Olympic Freeway Murals on the 101 freeway, in the process of being restored by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA). MCLA’s Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams, with hard hat and orange vest in hand, took me to see first-hand the amazing work they have done so far on Kent Twitchell’s Jim Morphesis Monument and Lita Albuquerque Monument. Luckily iconic muralist and ASCO artist Willie Herrón III, commissioned by MCLA, was on the freeway restoring Glenna Avila’s famous 1984 mural LA Freeway Kids. When we told him what had happened at the Public Hearing, he was not happy at all. He explained “I feel LA/CA will have to ban the use of vinyl in mural reproductions/commercial signs in the near future if the city allows the use in the mural & sign ordinances. This is not an issue of artistic freedom. Vinyl is poison!” (Here’s a link to a site Herrón referred to about vinyl.)
As he was saying this, a vinyl reproduction of a mural was not only flapping in the wind but also covering the spot where an image of the final kid running is supposed to be. The metaphor was like a slap in the face. Side by side, however, it was obvious which “mural” needed to go… unfortunately in a landfill.
This week was a historic one for LA and its mural community as Siqueiros’ América Tropical on Olvera Street was unveiled to the public after 80 years. As Isabel Rojas-Williams expressed to me, “the gods of the murals are aligning with us.” Well it’s about time! ¡Si señor!