A Lost Decade: Revamping Murals in the 21st Century

Direct advocacy between city officials, muralists and concerned members of the community key to forming mural ordinance

By Jimmy Centeno
Published on LatinoLA: January 12, 2012

A Lost Decade: Revamping Murals in the 21st Century

The mural debate continues for the past ten years unresolved. The City of Los Angeles has lost more than half of its murals, I ask why? A lost decade of potential creativity has been detoured.

Other than painting hands during school hours, murals for our communities are the first contact with art. Murals become an actual art piece of a grand scale, an outdoor museum at no charge. It is an art form that engages the visual imagination of the passer by. Murals are the first outdoor art experience for children, youth and in many cases for adults who cannot afford nor have access to attend a museum. They are in the public sphere to be criticized, admired or contemplated. Murals allow for an opinion formulating process to take place from within the streets of the neighborhood by those who live in the community. It is the first step to experience a conversation on the subject of art.

This is what mural space provides; the opportunity to meet people, the artists and the art work, "une a personas para saber quienes somos y que hacemos."
Most children of color, of low income neighborhoods rarely ever visit an art museum.

So why does the city of Los Angeles have a ban on murals given all the positive attributes mural art provides? In an article published by Juanita Gonzales in on October 29, 2011 titled, The Dismembering of Mural Art she writes, "Most community members, who within a blink of an eye know what a mural is and what is an advertisement signage."

According to Gonzalez, "The PROHIBITION on mural art, a prohibition that has denied an entire generation of youth the freedom and right to express themselves on our community walls was once again, I repeat an entire generation deferred [...] by vested interests in fusing mural art with commercial advertising."

The lack of transparency regarding the mural debate has taken on a new twist. Muralists such as UPPA (United Painters and Public Artist) an organic collective from below have come together to unite and pressure city officials to meet directly with the artists and discuss the future mural ordinance without third party art advocates. This direct advocacy between city officials, muralists and concerned members of the community is a clear demonstration that muralists cannot be overlooked nor falsely "represented" by what artist Sonji calls the non-profit industrial complex, hence third party intermediates with special interests.

About Jimmy Centeno:
UPPA Member (United Painters and Public Artist)

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