However as Venice gets a face-lift with new condos, housing, and retail in some areas, the walls have come under attack by some residents that such a place promotes tagging and graffiti in the surrounding areas, defacing valuable property. What really happens however is that many non-artists often pick up the left-over spray paint cans from constantly over-flowing receptacles and either tag over great art on the walls, or on buildings on their way out of the area. ICU Art (In Creative Unity) stepped in to create a compromise between the City of Los Angeles, residents, and graffiti artists with a program that lunched June 3rd that will now require artists to obtain permits and a laminated pass to paint on the walls, which will only be open on the weekends. Basically, the last art up on Sunday night will be what’s in place until the next Saturday.
Last Sunday, ICU Art hosted a paint-out celebration marking the changes in structure of the graffiti done on the walls, which included a select group of different styled artists all doing artwork on the large walls, “smart walls” also known as the cones, and additional walls set up for the weekend. Dub DJ’s where on site spinning, as well as fans of artists collecting tags for their graffiti books, heavy security, protestors, and a multitude of photographers and filmmakers.
The art created was inspired and competitive to be sure. However many on site wondered if the ICU Art alternative, which is a pilot program for 6 months for Los Angeles, will work. First off there’s the fact that you have to submit your sketches beforehand as part of the permit process which to many people is the antithesis to spontaneous creation. In addition, because there are so many artists that frequent these walls, getting a permit may take a long time (this timeframe is yet to be determined since at the time of this writing, the permitting process just started); more Los Angeles Police and wall security forces will now be present in the area giving people fines if they are not permitted; the large walls require crews of at least 3 people (which is odd considering most artists create on their own); and those under 18 cannot use spray cans, which basically shuts down a fair number of younger artists. Finally, because artists have to submit a proposal for a permit and wear a pass, it’s easier for commercial and filmmakers to scout out new artists. While some artists are OK with this and wouldn’t mind using their art in other forms of media or advertising if approached, others find it too Big Brother.
We asked several artists in attendance and the ICU Art organizers and security how they felt about the new permitting system. Two artists who had bused in from downtown Los Angeles early in the morning thought it was a good idea since it could create more quality art, and it would be up for longer periods of time, but they were worried about how long permitting may be. A group of 17-year-olds were completely bummed, watching the artists from the sidelines because their medium—the spray paint can—is now banned based on their age, so they were contemplating just how to create the same sweeping effects as can movements with brushers and rollers. The organizers basically agreed that this is a compromise solution to at least stopping the walls from being ripped out resulting in no place for artists at all. And if it works, it may be a program that will create more permitted-graffiti walls around the city. Protestors who were mostly long-time residents of Venice carried signs against the permitting of “free” art and the ruining of Venice’s creative free spirit. Security couldn’t answer many questions such as how does the ticketing process work if they catch an non-permitted artist since they’ve never ticketed anyone yet; and high-end residents who complained against the Venice art walls to begin with, were still somewhat disgruntled that such “art” was still permitted in their area, but at least they would have an increased presence of the LAPD. However as one smart kid collecting artists’ tags in his sketchbook put it, “You’d think that the city’s law enforcement and tax payer dollars should be used towards improving traffic or stopping real crimes like shootings, than patrolling a bunch of artists armed with paint cans.”
For more information go to www.veniceartwalls.com