Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Save The LA Murals

Save The LA Murals


We have lost 60% of the murals of los Angeles to tagging by a new generation of street kids who have no mural programs nor a relationship to the murals via having had an opportunity to work on one or knowing someone who worked on one. We have 10 million being spent to abate graffiti in the city and 30 million from the County of LA annually to remove the growing proliferation of graffiti. Incarceration of a single youth has been estimated at 250,000 annually and criminalization of our youth is no longer a feared outcome but a documented fact in ever increasing numbers. It is possible for example to go to prison for life with three strikes on graffiti violations that are felonies (those causing over 500.00 of damage). At a recent panel we held for graffiti artists we learned of youth being named "urban terrorists" by the sentencing judge.

We have a new city policy that has made it against the law to put up a street mural, an effective program proven to divert youth from vandalism to constructive art making and civic engagement. The confusion between "Mural/ signs" has been used as a ploy for corporations to demand equal rights under the First amendment. The city of Los Angeles fears making a distinction between "art" and "advertising" as it is seen as a violation of advertising giants rights to freedom of expression based on a lawsuit against the tiny mural program of the city of Portland Oregon by Clear Channel. The ordinance that makes it illegal to put up a "mural sign" without a permit has created a moratorium on any new murals for over 3 years because of a fear that the city will be sued for making that distinction. Yet advertising is proliferating at an alarming rate with 800 new digital billboards among giant super graphics that now dominate our downtown. Advertising giants simply pay the fines and continue illegal signage. Murals are replaced daily by advertising in every square inch of our eye space.

We must act now to stop this insanity. Doesn’t Barbara Black have first amendment rights which are being violated by the citation? Why can’t she put up art on her own walls and why must she destroy the work of her neighbors?

Why do advertising giants have the rights of individuals to freedom of expression when they can hide under corporate cover at their convenience not taking individual responsibility for actions they take that harm the public? Why can’t we decide as the public what kind of a city we want to live in and control advertising and allow art to proliferate?

Here are the larger questions art supporters: When is enough enough?

1. What are the legal implications of freedom of expression on private property?
As a property owner can you not decorate your fence as you choose? Is it a problem only when youth use spraycan do so?
2. Why is the city of Los Angeles, once the MURAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, unable to simply make the distinction between signage and art? It is not so hard is it? It is essentially the intention of the work. If the intention is to sell you something, it is advertising. If the intention is to beautify, enlighten, inspire or cause reflection: it is art.

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