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Watts Towers ready for their closeup at conference, if not yet a skateboard park

October 22, 2010 | 10:45 am

WattsTowersLuisSinco Scholars, activists and artists who are gathering Friday afternoon for the start of the three-day Watts Towers Common Ground Conference at UCLA and in Watts will arrive to some good news: After a contractual snag over liability and insurance issues had held up the deal, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and L.A.'s Department of Cultural Affairs have found some common ground of their own, and LACMA will become officially involved in helping to conserve Simon Rodia's folk-art masterwork, as well as pitching in with help in fund-raising for the towers and with ideas for marketing them as a cultural-tourism attraction.

Another issue that may stir some chat among conference-goers is City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's controversial proposal to plant a major skateboarding park on a strip of vacant land that begins about 40 yards from the towers. Some of the towers' most enthusiastic advocates say that although it would be great for kids in Watts to have a skate park, the government-owned land around the towers should be for culture and quiet relaxation.

The notion of putting a skate park next to the Watts Towers is "ridiculous ... it's almost offensive," said Luisa Del Giudice, the independent scholar who spearheaded the Watts Towers conference and a companion event last year at the University of Genoa in Italy.


The latest on the skate park: With a $275,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation and its Explore.com affiliate that was announced last weekend, and the efforts of skateboarding star Tony Hawk and his charitable foundation, the $350,000 needed to build the park has been raised. A Hahn spokeswoman acknowledged that siting remains an issue, but that no alternative spot is on the table; the councilwoman has said that there are no other places in Watts that meet the two requirements of a skateboarding park there -- a slice of land that is not only vacant and publicly owned, but is not claimed by any street gang. For kids not deemed acceptable by the gang-in-charge, skating on its turf would be a risky proposition for reasons unrelated to what the rider might attempt on wheels.

A spokeswoman for the city's Community Redevelopmant Agency, which owns the towers-adjacent parcel, reconfirmed that agency commissioners would have to OK its use for a skate park, a process that would include a public hearing on the proposal.

Click here to continue reading about the Watts Towers Common Ground Conference.

-- Mike Boehm

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Comments () | Archives (11)

It is NOT folk art, it is Art, period. Every bit as important as Gaudi's work, except he never got a contract and learned everything himself, he was not trained. And so, ignored by academic types. As much as I love Kurt Schwitters work, Rodia's Nuestro Pueblo far outshines his destroyed Merzbau, yet gets ignored by those who have it in their own back yard.

LACMA has had over 50 years to do something about Nuestro Pueblo,yet has dont nothing. It is all lip service, they have no intention of helping maintian it, only exploiting through propaganda. They have considered hanging fake locomotives for $25 mil and still intent on a giant hanging boulder, yet not a dime for Rodia's masterpiece. Creative art at its highest expression. Of life, not oneself.

And the Getty, the most obvious insitution to protect and preserve the site, going acroos the globe and saving such ecosystem destroyers as the Spiral Jetty, ignores it. Not only that, but dont even list it as an important work in the coming Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions about LA art during the 1945-80 time period. It was finished in 1954.

Show up and protest, this is pure classism and racism, all the events are in all white and wealthy neighborhoods, with a few academic trained tokens thrown in. All because they exist where spoiled children fear to tread, and so downplay their importance as they are not in their playground.

Show up and speak up, but most importantly go to Nuestro Pueblo. Calling them towers diminishes them, it is far more you must enter into. Man up artscene, as even Newsweek has called up America to do.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the rotten Ivoires.
It is time to put aside childish things.

In 2006 when Michael Govan became CEO and a LACMA Director, he stated that he wanted to do something for Watts Towers! This timely announcement from LACMA is NOT a whim. Their help with the art conservation of the wonderful Towers will help them last longer and the new LACMA curators will help us all see them better!

There are far too many"curators" as is. And it was almost the end of his contract before he did anything, and it really isn't anything yet, still negotiating and avoiding responsibility. He too busy with his pet rock and stterilized west campus, Nuestro Pueblo could have been done long ago. It hasnt, and wont without real pressure and commitment. Talk is cheap, and in endless supply in the north of Wilshire bound art world. No more BS, do. Or stop frontin.

Where is the fundraising? How come no tours, no publicity, no fabulous plans and far sighted dreams as with everything else at LACMA? Mr Govan has done well lately with the preColumbian and Japanese works, time to focus on LA, OUR city and not the academic/gallery/museo complex of careerism, how about and its only true monument of art?

OK, I'll bite.

So Donald, why are the Watts Towers not folk art, and why do you have a problem with that designation?

Second question.

Why do you say that "calling them towers diminishes them", but you end every post here and everywhere else with "Save the Watts Towers..."?

Why are they not creative art? Calling them folk art is to keep career artists egos intact, and the business of the academic/museo/gallery complex booming, contempt art having no purpose or meaning beyond $$$. Calling work folk art ghettoizes those who have not been "trained', and dimishes its power. Also basically racist, as only non white artists who have been "trained' by academies with worthless MFAs get to be called "artistes". After all, its not art unless an art school/museum/critic calls it such, right?

The Watts Towers has become its popular designation, when Nuestro Pueblo, Our Town, is its true name. "Towers" diminishes because if thats all you see from outside, its just, eh, they aiiight. But go inside, and it is amazing, a true cathedral to God. Another reason artistes dont go there, the word God being unPC, and feared as it implies mortality and insignificance as wannabe minigods before the universe. Admitting there is something bigger than onself is hardly the contempt art way.

Go to them, stop fearing life. All these mighty institutions have to do is publicize Nuestro Pueblo and conduct tours there, this alone would save the two art centers and bring in money for a preservation fund. Click my name to find out more, I have been taking it to the community to use the "towers" as they were meant to, as a place to rejoice in humanity, and reach for god.

When I grew up, the "Watts Towers" were in all the travel brochures for LA. Now, nothing. I went there as a teenager in the 70s, took my son to the Day of the Drum festivals in the 90s, and my wife in 2009. She broke down and cried when she entered. That one man could have such faith, commitment, and SACRIFICE, not a popular term among lefties or Tbags these days. To show such dedicated responsibility is amazing, and inspiring. Not things artists want anymore, career and self expression, instead of works that are expressIVE of life are what is taught. Self expression is for chldren, and adolescents have self absorbed fears.

But most importantly, Mr Rodia was a great Artist, he communicated through the visual langauge. Color, form, line structure, its all there. Not folk art, but creative art. It triggers vast waves of emotions, of feeling insensely alive and connected to all. This IS arts function in culture. To define who WE are, to explore nature, to reach for God.

It is a musical structure, and so I propose an American Music Museum, a village setting with it as its cathedral. Music of the Americas, those that blend African, European, and Native sounds. Jazz, Brazilian, Caribbean, Gospel, those of a common humanity. Not pop music for kids, as this is not pop art. It is of the Soul. Religion is not the point, it is Man's purpose in life, and all that entails. Love, responsibility, sacrifice, commitment. Adult stuff. And this is serious Art.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the rotten Ivories.

So, LACMA has no vision. At UCLA yesterday, they had no answers just jibber jabber. After the old engineer said no one had created any new ways or substances to repair the Watts Towers(Nuestro Pueblo), and the DCA guy just rambled on about himself and his poor departments layoffs, not a word about the site itself. The new conservation guy from LACMA came on, and had seen the Towers a whole five days before.

They announced that the DCA and LACMA had signed an agreement for LACMA to get involved starting Nov.1 He was correct in saying the best way to preserve the towers was maintenance, but where has LACMA and the Getty been for 56 years? When confronted in questioning, and about the total lack of publicity by LA about Nuestro Pueblo, the older engineer who had worked for the Getty and now LACMA got defensive, but still said nothing. He said that the Getty had done work PRO BONO. In otherwords, they did nada. He gave no time involved, no conclusions reached, and no action being taken. He said it was owned by the state and city and could do nothing on their own. Wrong. The Getty is all over the world, working on government owned and religous sites. They cant do anything here? Because they never volunteereedd to. You think the City wouldnt take them up on an offer? But they dont care, period. Its all just propaganda, PR.

To them, Nuestro Pueblo is just Folk art, BS. It Is the highest work of creative art in California, after God's Yosemite Valley. It is not folk arts defining a small group, decorating useful objects. It is a cathedral of all humanity, to god. So the Sistine ceiling is folk art? According to this "reasoning", self promoting academic drivel, it is.

The first engineer when pressed about what this signing means, what intent LACMA has, after Director Govan supposedly saying he had an idea about the Watts Towers when he first took the job four years ago, said they would be "dating" for the first year or so, feeling each other out. Like groping teenagers I guess. And then seeing what they have in common. Pimps, date rapers, pure and simple, using Nuestro Pueblo as its whore. There is no other way to see it, no PC cover story they can come up with when real questions are asked, not academic, social party, polite chitchat. Wheres the beef? It's all tofu.

Save the spiritual Watts Towers, tear down the careerist Ivories.

@ Donald

So you're against the term "folk art" because it somehow designates that the art isn't creative? It's just a term that generally refers to artists who are operating in an idisoyncratic, "outside the academy" mode. I don't think anyone employs the term for the purpose of ghettoizing anyone. It's just a descriptor that transmits some basic information about the circumstances of the artwork's creation and creator.

I'm certain a great many professional folk artists take great pride in having a term that disassociates them from contemporary art trends that they don't support. You seem to be making a basic error here of presuming that because something is folk art that it is not perceived as legitimate art, and that's just not the case.

The idea that "academic types" (is that your own racist "codeword" for white people?) have ignored folk art is ridiculous. Colossal amounts of energy have been put forth by scholars and museums to document, collect and promote folk art. Traveling shows like the "Quilts of Gees Bend" exhibition are seen in prominent museums nationwide, right alongside their permanent collections and contemporary art exhibitions. You need to get out more, stop talking and start seeing and listening.

And the idea that the concept of "folk art" is racist is laughable. Famous folk artists have come from every possible ethnic and socioeconomic background.

I'll note that you both fail to address your own reasoning in why you dislike the term "Watts Towers", yet use it yourself, including in your reply to my questions. How about rather than rambling on for a change, you make a sincere attempt to answer a question that is put to you in a succinct and coherent way?

Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.

That the wikipage definition from Bullfinches art that most people would accept, but used by as cover by "fine" art people to seperate Themselves form the riff raff. By Your definition, Cezanne and most creative artists were folk artists. Fine artistes are those who produce overly refined pieces to quench the ruling classes thirst for control and supposed superiority.

And I did reply, you just cant understand.

'The Watts Towers has become its popular designation, when Nuestro Pueblo, Our Town, is its true name. "Towers" diminishes because if thats all you see from outside, its just, eh, they aiiight. But go inside, and it is amazing, a true cathedral to God.'
The government and academics dont want to use its real name, since when have institutions renamed works given to them by their authors? Nuestro Pueblo, it is built into the doorway by its creator, Mr. Rodia. But one must say Watts Towers to let people know what you are talking about, and then tell them its true name.

"scholars and museums" are the Pharisees and Temple of art, meaningless in themselves. Artists are the prophets, they are of the people, and completely independant. It is impossible to say academic and artist in the same breath, one cannot be from within the belly of the beast and be honest and truthful, when it is all about career. No artist ever has, name one. An apprentice? Yes. Student of mediocre hacks? Never.

By the way, I am white, though my family is very mixed, of ethnicities, classes and religions. We have learned to see through the BS, it is a gift. We countryfolk in Long Beach are the Missouri folk of LA, Show me. We dont fall for the OkieDoke, or Snake Oil salesmen.

art collegia delenda est
"Fine" art colleges must be destroyed, though taking creative art classes and applied arts is great. But very few jobs in them so must be of the heart. Something conempt art lacks, Soul.

"LACMA Steps in to Preserve L.A.'s Leaning Tower of Folk Art"Artinfo

Nuestro Pueblo is NOT folk art, anymore than that of such other non academically trained artists as Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Braque....etc.

Academic artsits are Fine artists, creating works to appease the wealthy adn there need for control adn illustion of superiority.

Creative art defines who WE are as a common humanity, not folk arts local and decorative function. It doesnt matter what you make art out of, pieces of colored wood like Kurt Schwitters are far superior to all the skill limited techy garbage coming out of art schools that are dated as soon as they are made. Schwitter's destroyed Merzbau was considered creative art by these same Pharisee's of art, why not Mr Rodia's?

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the decadent Ivories.

Designations of folk or fine art aren't really the issue here, to me. Rather--it's this skate park.
I think it will be a good addition. A new skate park was just built in a park near me and the teenagers are showing it respect. It will make this spot even more vibrant.

My only hesitation is that skate parks are most popular with boys--what do the female youth of Watts get?


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