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Watts Towers conference coming to UCLA

October 15, 2010 | 11:13 am


"Why I build it? I can't tell you. Why a man make the pants? Why a man make the shoes?"

So said Sam Rodia, explaining why he worked for 30 years to build what is now known worldwide as the Watts Towers.

If you're planning on attending the Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative conference next weekend, Oct. 22-24, it's worth taking a look, if you haven't already, at the 2006 documentary film "I Build the Tower" by Edward Landler and Brad Byer. That's where the Rodia quote cited above comes from.

A lyrical look at the South Los Angeles masterpiece constructed by Italian immigrant Sabato "Sam" Rodia, the film took nearly as long to make as the towers did to build. (Byer is Rodia's maternal great-nephew.) It includes, among much else, a fascinating 1983 interview that the filmmakers did with the  engineer and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. His last conversation for public consumption, Fuller's interview includes discussion of the towers from two perspectives: as a feat of structural engineering and as an expression of individual artistic genius.

The documentary is available on DVD. The Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative conference -- free and open to the public, with no advance registration required -- will be at UCLA, with a full roster of speakers on the design's roots in Italian religious festivals, its long-standing role within the Watts community, complex conservation issues and much more.

-- Christopher Knight


Photo: Sabato Rodia's Watts Towers. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times

Recent and related:

Watts homes City deal with LACMA to conserve Watts Towers hits snag over insurance

The Watts Towers' perpetual state of crisis

Andy Warhol Foundation funds bid to rehab homes near Watts Towers

Comments () | Archives (1)

I will be there Saturday. Doesn't give much info as to whats what during the day. I have the backing of the retired Rev. Cecil Murray of the First AME, now of USC, who basically saved LA during and after the Rodney King uprising/riots, and have been publicizing the site in the community with brochures for a year now.

And yet Nuestro Pueblo(Our Town) is ignored, often just token nods with no substance. Like during the Pacific Standard Time exhibits next year, about art in SoCal from 1945 to 1980, with NO mention of the site. A brief hidden note in the side sites, not the main 15 of which it should be #1. And only under the DCA heading and only as the Purifoy Gallery being a place of new artistes to exhibit. Underneath the Municipal Art Gallery, and easily overlooked, by design.

Nothing about the Towers themselves, or that the Center is the Charles Mingus, one of the many great jazz musicians from here. The best artists LA have ever given forth have been musicians, from Eric Dolphy, Billy Higgins, who started the World Stage in Leimert Park, as well as with Ornette Coleman and the most recorded jazz drummer ever, to Dexter Gordon and Etta James. There are dozens ignored by the art world, when jazz IS art music, the first and only truly international music. "World" music is college kids level, mediocre local versions.

This must change. When I grew up in the 70s, it was world famous. Still is, many foreigners there, often more than locals who are scared and ignorant of this treasure. I went there as a kid with my mother, who was an artist, and my wife cried when I took her, it is a Holy site. Also took my son when young to the Day of the Drum Festival, easily accessed off the Blue Line. A treasure to be cherished, not shunted aside as the black sheep of the family, when it is truly the Diamond of Art in LA.

Go to it, if you call yourself an artist and haven't, nor felt its lifeforce, you are a fraud. Pay the $6, saving the two Art Centers, and contribute to its preservation. And just possibly, becoming a better human being for it, one less concerned with ones own drama, and feeling a part of the world. True Creative Arts roll in life.

Click my name for info, and pics. It is far more than towers, it is a Cathedral to Life.


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