Resistance & Respect II -- An important conference on graff and mural art in Los Angeles

I was disheartened to hear yesterday that Los Angeles is no longer the "Mural Capital" of the world. It was an admiration and respect this city benefited from after the explosion of public art that began in the 1960s--and culminating in the city becoming huge for graffiti writers from around the world through the new millennium.

This fact was stated by world renowned muralist Judy Baca during the "Resistance & Respect II: Current Issues Facing Traditional & Graff Art Muralists" conference, held on Sunday, January 11 at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo. About 200 people showed up for this free panel and discussion that included Ms. Baca, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Yreina D. Cervantez, Chaz Bojorquez, Noni Olabisi, and Man-One--each of whom are pioneers and innovators of the public mural/graff movements over the past forty years.

Elizabeth Morin of LA City's Department of Cultural Affairs (although here representing herself) and yours truly were the moderators.

The powerful documentary "America Tropical" (about the whitewashed mural painted by Mexican great David Alfaro Siquieros in Olvera Street in 1932) was also shown, with the presence and commentary of the original director, Jesus Trevino.

Sponsored by Ruben Guevara and the Arts 4 City Youth organization he founded, this event included an amazing array of talent, ideas, challenges, and concerns. In general, people on the panel and in the audience felt we need to do more to create, restore and preserve public mural projects in the city, instead of the millions of dollars now being used to destroy graffiti, but also, unfortunately, old and vital murals that have been tagged on (and the criminalization of potential public artists).

It's time for action to bring back LA's standing among the world's mural cities. This will require organized events, protests, letter-writing campaigns, and more. I also hope to help create a city-wide policy statement on the safeguarding and protection of neighborhood arts programming, cultural spaces, community cafes, independent bookstores, and murals that are all being driven away, or allowed to be destroyed, in the current environment. This is not a time to close down, do less or cutback, which the city and state are doing to schools and other public value programs. It's a time to be more creative, expansive, and to make art everywhere. My plan is to get this approved by the LA City Council so that such policy becomes implementable throughout the city.

I applaud Ruben, Arts 4 City Youth, all the panelists, the tech guys, and the engaged audience for making this event possible.

I also want to remind people that I'll be on air this week with Dominigue Di Prima as honorary guest host of the "Front Page" talk show on KJLH-FM, 102.3 radio from 4:30 AM to 6 AM.


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