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Mural Ordinance Vote Delayed, New Works Pop Up Regardless

For a city that's infatuated with its murals, it's been dishing out a lot of tough love.

Mural leaders and artists were ready to rally for city council to vote for the proposed mural ordinance Tuesday. On Monday morning the vote was delayed for Friday's city council meeting [Edit: The vote is now scheduled for Wednesday, August 28].

Most of the discussion that will be heard Friday will be about single-family homes being allowed to have art. Without a recommendation, Los Angeles Planning And Land Use Management sent to council a Version A, allowing murals on single-family homes, and Version B, which would restrict murals on single-family homes. It's become known as the opt-out/in debate.

And even if it the ordinance is approved, there will be needed details to make it fit the city's vast aesthetic personalities. These include the requirement that a permitted mural must stay up for two years -- designed to curb media companies from using a wall to sell product. (Ironically, that conflicts with the pop-up mural strategy used by street and graffiti artists, whose walls tend to be evolving works).

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Meanwhile, new works have been popping up all over the city during the shaping of the mural ordinance. In the past two weeks alone, downtown Los Angeles had a sampling of new art that show the varied works the ordinance is attempting to service.

Mural by Allison

At East Third and Main, street art is the theme. With lyrical colors, designed to fit with the intimate section of decorative early 20th Century wall, Allison "Hueman" Torneros painted with abandon to bring attention to the mural ordinance. The wall has been the site of works whitewashed, either by the city, by local BIDs, or by mysterious crews, says L.A. Freewalls founder and curator Daniel Lahoda.

"This wall, perhaps more than any other in Downtown Los Angeles, has stood as a battleground for artistic freedom in Los Angeles," said Lahoda. "Despite the building owner and the community's larger continued interest in having public art on this wall, the city has removed more legitimate permissioned art from this site."

"The effort here on this wall was primarily to feature an ambitious young artist who is quickly proving herself, and was most deserving of an opportunity to make a statement like this to Los Angeles," added Lahoda. "We also want to continue to demonstrate how we produce murals in a responsible manner, and direct city policy to adopt our practices into the new mural ordinance."

Our Lady of DTLA by Robert Vargas I Photo by Helen Ly

At Spring and Sixth Street, Robert Vargas completed a piece that had roots in epic walls seen in the city's ethnic neighborhoods. "Our Lady of DTLA," a commissioned work by property owner Barry Shy, is a four-story female portrait with one hand wrapped around the building. The monochrome face and hands rise "from the ground line and appears on the wall as if to reclaim the city," said Vargas. "She is painted in values of black and white as reference to the historic architecture surrounding her, and framed with a metallic gold as a nod to classic religious icon paintings."

The mural becomes a timely visual for both the downtown revival, and an embattled mural community.


Top: Mural by Humane at Third and Main I Photo: LA Freewalls

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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