Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles

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Volume 9, Number 2 -- Summer, 1998



by Robin Dunitz

Hearing about murals under attack is no big surprise for us mural lovers. Two current situations of murals under siege illustrate both their vulnerability and the support that can sometimes save (or resurrect) them.

In mid-June a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered two Ventura businessmen who had painted over a mural called "It's Not Cool to Target Kids" to pay artist MB Hanrahan $48,488 [see accompanying article, this page--Ed]. The ruling was based on the Visual Artists' Rights Act of 1990, the same law used in the precedent-setting decision that awarded Kent Twitchell $175,000 in 1992 after the destruction of his "Old Woman of the Freeway."

The Ventura mural, which featured an anti-tobacco and alcohol message and measured 12' x 72', was painted in 1994 by Hanrahan with local youth and community members in downtown Ventura at 580 North Ventura Avenue. The theme and content were developed in drawing sessions with local continuation high school students. In 1996 it was chosen as one of 50 winners in a national contest for youth-inspired anti-alcohol and anti-drug projects in 1996. Enlarged photographs of the mural were displayed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. that same year.

According to Hanrahan, "The mural was painted in my neighborhood on an avenue disproportionately exposed to liquor stores, as well as alcohol and tobacco advertising. The images depict youth "taking back" public space with messages of their own--stopping the violence, reaching out to the homeless, reconnecting to cultural and historical roots, encouraging positive, enriching activities."

MB Hanrahan, "It's Not Cool to
Target Kids," 12 x 72', Ventura, 1994.


Beall Art Studio, Untitled, one of
17 tile and mosaic murals at
SeaCliff Village, Huntington
Beach, ca. 1970s.


Hanrahan is now preparing to restore the mural. She is thinking of adding a visual statement against censoring art--especially the expressions of young people, and some commentary regarding the fatal and damaging hate crimes taking place in Ventura County and around the country.

At SeaCliff Village in Huntington Beach, another mural drama is underway. Shea Properties, a private developer, recently received approval from the city to demolish the 25-year-old shopping center in late August or early September as part of a major renovation of the 20-acre site.

Around the rustic outdoor center are 17 mosaic and tile murals, as well as metal sculptures and other art works and educational displays, all based on the theme of birds. There are portraits of individual sea birds, an image based on "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and scenes of birds in flight. A large floor tile map mural depicts "Three Major Systems of Migration in the World." Most of the panels are accompanied by lengthy explanatory captions, often credited to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The museum also donated display cases with stuffed birds. The art works were done in the mid-1970s by the Beall Art Studio, then located in Torrance. Barbara Beall and her associates also created murals and other decorations for Encino Town and Country Shopping Center in the San Fernando Valley, the Autry Museum, Panda Inn Restaurants, Epcot Center in Florida, Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and many others. In 1994, Barbara Beall moved her business to Santa Barbara.

The city of Huntington Beach Cultural Affairs Dept. initiated a "SeaCliff Public Art Committee" to raise funds to save at least some of the murals. How much of the art is saved depends on how much money is raised. The developer has pledged $250,000. Local fundraising events are being held. There is talk of asking residents to accept an assessment on their water bill. What will be done with the rescued murals is still up in the air. The developer has not agreed to integrate them into his planned new and expanded mixed-use mall.

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by Robert Rootenberg

Robert Rootenberg, a member of MCLA's Board of Directors and an attorney, recently represented muralist MB Hanrahan's community mural, "It's Not Cool to Target Kids" in the latest test of California's Art Preservation law and the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act. This is his account of the events and importance of the case--Ed.


 U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Paez ordered two Ventura, CA liquor store owners, who painted over a community mural, to pay the mural's creator nearly $50,000 in damages. He further ordered an injunction to permit the artist, MB Hanrahan, to repaint the mural at the same location.

Painted in 1994 [please see accompanying article, "Murals Under Attack" on this page--Ed.], in July 1997 Hanrahan received word that the new owners of the liquor store were planning to paint the mural over. She requested that they refrain from taking any action until she could determine her legal rights. The storeowners allegedly agreed to this, but in August they whitewashed approximately one-third of the mural. The area was replaced by a painting of an American flag with fifty-seven stars and the message, "Fourth of July Independence Day, Welcome to Avenue Liquor." Their actions prompted numerous news articles and radio coverage locally. Ventura residents held a rally to express support for the mural.

I brought the lawsuit in October, 1997 under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), an amendment to the Copyright Act that gives an artist protection from damage or destruction. In March, 1998 a bench trial was held, and the Court ruled on June 3 that the mural should have never been touched. Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler wrote, "The term 'moral rights' has its origins in the civil law and is a translation of the French le droit moral, which is meant to capture those rights of a spiritual, non-economic and personal nature. The rights spring from a belief that an artist in the process of creation injects his spirit into the work and that the artist's personality, as well as the integrity of the work, should therefore be protected and preserved" in Art Law 417 (1989) as part of their commentary on the case Carter v. Helmsley-Spear.

VARA's statutory scheme authorizes an artist to seek recovery for the destruction of artwork if the destruction affected their honor or reputation. An award can be sought to compensate for actual damages or statutory damages of at least $500 up to $20,000. If the infringement or destruction of the art is committed willfully in the judgement of the court, the statutory damage award can go up to a maximum of $100,000.

The Court, in the Hanrahan case, found the mural to be a work of "recognized stature," and also that the artist had suffered damage to her reputation, given her prominent activity in the Ventura community. The total settlement thus consists of $15,000 for the harm done to the artist, $15,000 to restore the mural, and about $18,000 in costs and attorney's fees. Finally the defendents were enjoined from committing further damage to the mural or from interfering with Hanrahan's right to restore the work.

There is an important balance between the property rights of building owners and the moral rights of an artist. More works of art are incorporated into shopping centers, malls, and entertainment complexes than ever before. Muralists should take great care to understand the nature and extent of the rights held under VARA, which exists independently from ownership of the work of art itself or its copyright. As an artist, you can conceivably control the development or use of a building by virtue of the art you incorporate into that building. . . .so, get to work!



by Orville O. Clarke, Jr.


James Redmond, "Early California"
(detail from 1 of 4 panels), Compton
Post Office, interior, Willowbrook
Ave. at Compton Blvd., 1936.

One of the most beautiful sets of mural panels executed under government sponsorship during the depression is James Redmond's panels for the Compton Post Office. Unfortunately, because of their location, they are also one of the least visited sites, which is a pity since they are so captivating in person.

Executed in 1936 under the umbrella of the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP), the most prestigious of the Federal Art Programs, these murals serve as an excellent example of the impact that the government had upon the selection of subject matter. As I had mentioned in earlier articles in this journal, the federal administrators were very concerned about public opinion, and wanted to make sure that the subject matter of the murals did not create any controversy, which could jeopardize future funding from Congress.


Redmond's selection of the myths of early California as an appropriate topic to explore in his murals speaks volumes on the need to conform to the "public perception" of what was our past. The public had been conditioned through a series of myths that created a powerful public image. In the 1920s and 1930s, the image of early California was a romantic one heavily shaped by novels such as Helen Hunt Jackson's "Ramona." Furthermore, the early Spanish Missions were in the process of being restored after years of neglect, and were visible reminders of a more relaxed and elegant past. Even our domestic architecture at that time glorified our Spanish and Mexican heritage with the Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial, and clay-roofed Mediterranean styles that are still popular to this day. Public buildings such as the Burbank Post Office or the Santa Barbara Junior High School also were designed along this theme, looking like haciendas. Even the silver screen wasn't safe from romantic stories of life in early California with Dolores Del Rio or the exploits of Zorro.

So it should not be surprising that Redmond selected a "safe" subject. In his letter to TRAP administrators describing his sketches he stated: "This wall depicts scenes of the pastoral life in early California during the historical Spanish period. Such scenes as this might have occurred about the great ranchos and missions which flourished during this period." The key word here is "might." The artist goes on to say that "I am using every source of reference procurable in early pictures, museums and histories of the period to furnish data for authentic details of racial types, clothing and equipment, such as saddles, bridles, etc." However, he continues" The pictures of Anza, Father Serra, Portola and Father Lausen are from portraits, although they are not carried into extreme detail in the sketches."

So the artist has given us a view that "might have" occurred, based loosely on historical data as to the clothing and accessories, and basing his portraits on early paintings whose accuracy we cannot vouch for and most likely were idealized. Furthermore this is the perfect subject since: "The land on which Compton now stands was part of the old Dominquez land grant, which was near the pueble {sic} of Los Angeles and the Mission San Gabriel." It was a perfect marriage. The visitors to the post office would readily identify the images as "fact" since they conformed to the images that they expected to see. Redmond himself confirms this in another document from the National Archive when he states: "The west wall has no particular historical incident depicted but represents the dreamy pastoral life of early California." Give the public what they want--they would be reassured by the past that they are presented, and the officals at TRAP would have done their job by giving the public art that comforted a people badly shaken by the economic hardships of the depression.

Yet the pastoral images as created by Redmond are beautiful. While they shouldn't be taken too seriously as historical fact, as pleasing works of art they are very successful. One of the problems with creating murals for small post offices was identified as the "cave effect" by another TRAP artist, Milford Zornes, when creating drawings for the Claremont USPO. If one used too dark a pallette, the room turned into gloomy caves. Obviously, Redmond was aware of this problem and selected a high key pallette that turns the room into a kaleidoscope of colors.

One of the most elegant images is the figure of the old shepherd resting against a tree, while the younger one watches the sheep grazing in the background. The older man is a triangle, giving the composition great strength by anchoring his form in the foreground, while the eye is carried around by a complex pattern of diagonals. He holds the entire painting together by his use of greens of various hues. Redmond takes a complex arrangement and makes it look deceptively simple. It is through this masterful handling of color and form that Redmond is able to unify the entire room and capture our attention.

James Redmond is able to recreate a mythical time when the pace was slower and we had time to appreciate the beautiful land that we inhabit. It is the longing for a romantic and meaningful past that the people wanted. If you are in the area, take the time to visit this neglected gem.

News Briefs


MCLA has received $10,000 from the Cultural Affairs Department for the 1998/99 fiscal year. As has been the case in the past, the grant will go to support the Mural Rescue Program as well as information dissemination activities in support of it (i.e., the Newsletter and Web site).

The $10,000 figure represents the second consecutive time MCLA has received its full request, and is the largest amount received from the Department to date.


It's been five years since Robin Dunitz published "Street Gallery: Guide to 1000 Los Angeles Murals," which immediately became the primary resource to L.A.'s public mural art. In October Dunitz will release its second edition, featuring more than 200 new murals created during the last five years.

As in the first edition, 22 detailed street maps will pinpoint the locations of all documented murals, making it easy for readers to design their own mural tours.

In addition the new edition will include over 100 artist biographical sketches, a bibliography, and is fully indexed. Cultural Affairs Department General Manager Adolfo Nodal contributes a Forward, and Dunitz rounds it all out with a new series of photo-essays on mural-related subjects.

The next Newsletter will carry pricing and ordering information.


Frank Romero and Kent Twitchell are underway with production of their respective special edition serigraphs to support special work on their Olympic murals, "Going to the Olympics" and "7th Street Altarpiece." As reported in the last Newsletter, funds from the sale of each will enable Romero to repaint his lively image of cars, hearts and palm trees; and Twitchell's two-part mural to be relocated a mile north on the Harbor Freeway because of Caltrans earthquake retrofitting work.

Cost of the prints has been set at $1,200 for each (both will be published in editions of 100). MCLA members receive a 20% discount, plus a 10% reduction for the purchase of more than one.


compiled by Robin Dunitz

The following new murals were completed through June. If you want your public to know about your newest mural, please send the information, along with a picture if possible, to Robin Dunitz, PO Box 64668, Los Angeles 90064. Or you can call (310) 470-8864.


Judith Baca, Patrick Blasa, and the SPARC Digital Mural Lab, "Our Victories, Our Future," Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union Local 11, exterior, 321 South Bixel St. (near 3rd St.), Downtown L.A., digital collage on vinyl, 39' x 20'. Portraits of a chef and a bellhop in combination with historical photographs from labor marches.

Art students under the supervision of artist Tim Fields, "Life's an Open Book," Los Angeles High School, exterior above football bleachers, 4650 West Olympic Blvd., Mid-City L.A., acrylic, 200 feet long.

Elizabeth Eve and the children of the Esperanza Community Housing community, "Picture Me!: Kids' Self Portraits in Hollywood," Hollywood Galaxy Complex, Hollywood Blvd. at Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, acrylic, 6' x 30'. Life-sized portraits in a land of trees and imagination. Sponsored by Esperanza, the Museum, and Dunn-Edwards Paints.


UTI, Asylum, Vyal with COI, Untitled, Brooklyn House, exterior, Spaulding Ave. at Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, aerosol, approximately 15' x 75'. Awesome piece with snowboarding and skateboarding theme.

Bill Madrid assisted by art students, "Mike Haynes," John Marshall High School, interior boys' gym, 3939 Tracy St. (near Griffith Park Blvd.), Los Feliz, acrylic, 10' x 12'. Portrait of recent Football Hall of Fame inductee, Oakland Raiders' defensive back Mike Haynes. Both he and artist Bill Madrid are alumni of the school.

UTI/Asylum/Vyal/COI, Untitled, Spaulding Ave. at Melrose Ave., Brooklyn House, West Hollywood, 1998.


Louis Cameron and David Burke, with 4th and 5th graders, Untitled, Glassell Park Elementary School, exterior front, 2211 West Ave. 30 (at Cazador St.), Glassell Park, acrylic, approximately 4' x 150'. Space scene with cartoon characters. Inspired by the school-sponsored 1997 trip to Space Camp in San Jose by the school's 115 5th graders.

Terry Schoonhoven, "Police and Fire Opera," Burbank Police and Fire Facility, interior lobby, 200 North 3rd St. (between Orange Grove and Palm Aves.), Burbank, acrylic on applied canvas, several walls with varied dimensions. Historical and contemporary images of police and firefighters in action.

Gary Palmer, Untitled, Bloomoon Graphics, interior ceiling, 3595 Wonder View Dr. (near Cahuenga Blvd. East), Universal City,acrylic, 10' x 22'. Trompe l'oeil designed to appear as if the ceiling were removed and we can see into an imaginary world beyond. There's a man riding a horse to the moon, an impish character floating among the stars while another peers over a mushroom, and a dreamy couple lives contendly between blades of grass. Dr. Seuss once lived in this building.



Alfredo Diaz Flores, "Indy 500 (Carrea
Grande)," Golden Brothers Auto Repair,
exterior, 7125 Remmet Ave., Canoga
Park, 1998.

Alfredo Diaz Flores,"Indy 500 (Carrea Grande)," Golden Brothers Auto Repair, exterior, 7125 Remmet Ave. (between Gault St. and Sherman Way), Canoga Park, acrylic, 12' x 65'. Four race cars whiz past a blur of fans.

East Los Streetscapers, "Mission Statement in Action" (interior lobby) and "Training for Tradition" (hallway), L.A.P.D. Recruit Training Center, 5651 Manchester Ave. (at Aviation Blvd.), Westchester, acrylic. Part of a larger project that also includes a sculpture court with a bronze sculpture, 14 medal of valor columns, benches and lighting. The mural imagery is of the past and present goals of the L.A.P.D.

Elizabeth Eve supervising children from Budlong Apartments and Villa Esperanza, "No Killing," Budlong Apts., Budlong Ave. near 27th St., South L.A., acrylic, 20' x 16'. Bucolic scene in which animals frolic and the earth is happy.


Tim Fields with students, "Get Into Those Books, the Cheese Stands Alone," John Adams Middle School, exterior, 151 West 30th St., South L.A., acrylic.

Theresa Powers, "Planting Seeds," Blazer's House, 1517 West 48th St. (between Denker and Halldale Aves.), South L.A., acrylic, 30' x 6'. Blazer's House is a community safe-haven and an after-school program

Alma Lopez and Noni Olabisi, "Education is a Basic Human Right," Angeles Mesa Library, West 54th Street at Harcourt Ave., South Los Angeles, acrylic, 11' x 25'. Showcases two important desegregation cases featuring African American and Latino families.

Paul Tzanetopoulos, Untitled, Manhattan Beach Pier, shower area and seawall, Manhattan Beach, mosaic tile and cement tile, 2 panels (cement one is 600 feet long). Decorative, abstract design.

Roy Herweck, "Sixty Years of Coast Cadillac," Coast Cadillac, interior lobby, 3399 East Willow St. (between Temple and Redondo Aves.), Long Beach, acrylic, 2 panels (28' x 7' each). Over a dozen classic Cadillacs from the past 60 years cruise on Ocean Blvd. along the coast route in an imaginary Long Beach landscape.

Peter Quezada, assisted by Memphis P., "Year of the Tiger," North Broadway near Elysian Park Dr., Elysian Park, acrylic, approximately 8' x 20'.

Designed and painted by 18 students under the direction of lead artist, Eliseo Art Silva, project coordinator Luis Amador, and instructor Jaiming Liu, "Journey into the Heart of America: the Asian Pacific American Experience," API Student Center, interior, California State Polytechnic University, 3801 West Temple Ave., Pomona, acrylic, 8' x 20'. This project was done in conjunction with an Ethnic and Women's Studies class entitled "Ethnicity and the Arts: Mural Art in Asia America."

Terry Schoonhoven, "Poets' Table," Huntington Beach Pier Plaza, Huntington Beach (Orange County), ceramic tile, 9' x 38.


Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles Journal

Published quarterly, © 1998, Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA).

Editor: Bill Lasarow
Contributing Editors:
Robin Dunitz, Orville O. Clarke, Jr., Nathan Zakheim
Masthead Logo Design: Charles Eley.

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles was formed to help protect and document murals, and enhance public awareness of mural art in the greater Los Angeles area. These programs are made possible by the tax-deducible dues and donations of our members, the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the California Arts Council, the National/State/County Partnership Program, and the Brody Fund of the California Community Foundation.