Conservation News USA

Los Angeles council to vote on lifting ban against mural painting

The city could see a rebirth of public murals if a new ordinance is passed by the council this month

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles began restoration work last week on John Wehrle's Hollywood Freeway mural Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo, 1983

Los Angeles could see a renaissance of mural painting following last week’s approval by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee of an ordinance that lifts a ban on the creation of murals on private property. The city council is due to vote on the ordinance on 20 August, potentially reversing restrictions that have been in effect for a decade.

Although originally intended to slow the spread of public advertisements and commercial signage, opponents say the ban has instead hindered the work of artists across LA, whose murals beautify neighbourhoods and bolster community pride. “Art and culture are central to our economy and the lifeblood of the city,” says the city council member Gilbert Cedillo. “I think we need to lift the ban.”

“It’s going to help to make Los Angeles one of the most creative cities in the world,” says Isabel Rojas-Williams, the executive director at the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA), which recruited artists and community leaders to help draft the ordinance. “We have worked so hard. It’s a fantastic step forward.”

Two versions of the ordinance are being put forward to the city council, however—one allows murals on single-family homes if they are approved by community boards, the other prohibits them outright. A source close to the decision-making process says that some version will likely be passed.

As well as allowing artists to create new works, the ordinance also formalises the city’s support for the preservation of historic murals. The day after the ordinance was passed by the planning committee, the MCLA, in cooperation with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), began restoration work on John O. Wehrle’s Galileo Jupiter Apollo, 1983, painted along the concrete walls of the Hollywood Freeway. Originally commissioned for the 1984 Summer Olympics, the mural has, over the years, been the frequent target of graffiti, leading Caltrans to paint over it or substitute parts of the original with smaller, digital prints. Restoration of the 207-foot mural is expected to take four months.

The MCLA next plans to restore another freeway mural, Struggles of the World by the Chicano artist Willie Herrón III, who is leading the group’s conservation efforts. “It’s like taking out an album that you recorded 40 or 50 years ago, and you haven’t heard it in all this time,” says Herrón about the chance to work on his mural again. “You put it on the turntable, and you go back to what you felt at that time, and it still is very relevant.”

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