Gloria Molina Orders Meeting of Styles Mural Whitewashed
And plans to bill FoLAR for removal of art
Friday, December 21, 2007 – 4:38 pm
Apparently nostalgic for the days when the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River was merely a barren, concrete wasteland, Los Angeles Country Supervisor Gloria Molina introduced an emergency measure to the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that would force Friends of the Los Angeles River [whose sole financial involvement in this project was buying pizza for the gallery opening – J.B.] to whitewash the remains of the mural from the renowned international graffiti festival Meeting of Styles from the flood walls. The motion was quickly seconded by Supervisor Don Knabe, who called the mural “outrageous,” and was then carried without further discussion or public debate.
Held in Los Angeles for the first time since 2004, after stops in Brazil and Bulgaria, among other places, Meeting of Styles was a collaboration of FoLAR, Crewest Gallery and over 100 graffiti artists from around the world and drew thousands of people to the otherwise blighted area of Highland Park to watch the creation of the giant mural. County records indicate that organizers secured all necessary permits for the mural, and that the event, which was covered by the Weekly, was fully licensed by the County.
A few weeks later, the mural made headlines when a large chunk of the art was mysteriously whitewashed from the north wall of the Arroyo Seco channel after Molina publicly expressed outrage over its content. Molina’s office denies they were involved in the whitewashing.
On October 18th Molina and several members of her staff met with Friends of the Los Angeles River and, according to FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams, expressed outrage that some additional, unauthorized graffiti had popped up in the area. Still, news of the emergency measure came as a complete shock to FoLAR members, who were under the impression they had come to an understanding with Molina’s people. “We reached an agreement with Gerry Herzberg (Molina’s Policy and Political Director) that we would remove additional graffiti that had sprung up around the mural one time,” says MacAdams. “Then, suddenly, they wanted us to remove it in perpetuity. Now, without even putting it on the agenda, so we could show up to defend ourselves and generate some public debate, they expect us to get rid of the mural itself. It’s insane.”
Molina spokeswoman Roxane Marquez calls the mural a “public nuisance and a potential safety hazard,” citing the death of two constituents in graffiti-related violence earlier in the year. She justifies Molina’s decision to introduce the mural’s removal as an emergency measure by saying the county is “trying to save lives” — a notion that infuriates Meeting of Styles curator and renowned Los Angeles graffiti artist Man One.
“This isn’t gang graffiti – people marking off their neighborhood or their territory,” he says. “This is art. We just happen to use spray-cans. But they’re trying instill fear in people to get their way. This was a great, positive event that brought out thousands of artists and neighborhood people to one of the ugliest, most neglected areas of the city, and now they’re trying to turn it into something else.”
“When you have a permit to create a mural, and then you have to remove it because someone in power doesn’t like it, without any dialogue, that’s censorship. That’s a dictatorship.”
FoLAR now has 90 days to remove the mural or be forced to foot the bill when the Department of Public Works does it for them. No further public hearings are scheduled on the matter.
After the whitewash