Murals Honored With Their Own Day in L.A.

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, City News Service

Following a recent vote to brush aside an 11-year ban on private property murals in the city, the Los Angeles City Council last Friday Oct. 11 paid homage to murals as an art form.

Council members unanimously approved a resolution from Councilman Jose Huizar declaring Saturday “Mural Day,” marking the day the ban officially ends.

Prominent LA muralist pose with Councilmember Jose Huizar to memorialize the resolution that was passed.  (Courtesy of Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Office)

Prominent LA muralist pose with Councilmember Jose Huizar to memorialize the resolution that was passed. (Courtesy of Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Office)

On Sept. 4, council approved a Huizar ordinance that halted the 2002 ban on murals painted on private property, due to litigation over commercial signs.

Huizar’s ordinance now defines murals as “original art,” separate from images meant to advertise goods and services.

“Today is a glorious day,” UCLA professor and longtime Los Angeles muralist Judy Baca said. “The lifting of this ban is a long, hard-fought battle.”

As an art teacher working at local parks in 1974, Baca founded a city- run mural program that gave stipends to young artists to paint 400 murals on a variety of surfaces, including school buildings around the city, garage doors in Venice and grocery market walls in Boyle Heights.

The activity drew youth from different neighborhoods and provided a “rallying point for communities to have a discussion about what they share in values and views,” often leading to calls to end violence or giving some their first education of their cultural and ethnic history.

The recent ban limited such mural activities to public walls, but “didn’t do much to stop advertising,” Baca said.

“Many beautiful works were destroyed” due to the ban, even on the walls of businesses that wanted those murals, Baca said.

Huizar was joined Friday by artists, historians and representatives from mural preservation groups for a presentation on the mural day resolution.

“As the city of Los Angeles moves from its reputation as a car culture to providing more safe streets and complete streets and more activity for our pedestrians to be able to walk down these streets, public art is a huge and very important component of that movement and transformation that the city of Los Angeles is doing,” he said.

Huizar – who led the effort to lift the ban – thanked city attorneys for finding a creative way to disentangle such art murals from litigation over commercial advertising.

The City Council lifted the ban last month with three council members dissenting, instituting a process for registering new murals while still restricting them on single-family residences.

The ordinance reflects a compromise between muralists who urged a universal lifting of the moratorium and others who were concerned that objectionable content would be displayed without their approval on a neighbor’s wall.

Registration fees start at $60 per mural. The ordinance imposes restrictions on the size and location of the artwork. It also restricts flashing or changing lights and other moving images on murals.

Council members will continue to meet to refine mural regulations in the city, including crafting a process for communities to “opt-in” to allow murals on single-family homes.

Huizar has authored a motion asking staff to look into a pilot program that would exempt his own 14th District and the First District, represented by Councilman Gil Cedillo, from the restriction on single-family home murals.

Hollywood-area Councilman Mitch O’Farrell introduced a motion that would require anti-graffiti coating on all murals to make it easier to wash away defacement or vandalism of artists’ works.

The mural issue made some headlines earlier this year, when singer Chris Brown was cited for having cartoonish fanged monsters painted on his Hollywood Hills home.

The 8-foot-tall mural, which prompted some complaints from neighbors, eventually was painted over.

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October 17, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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