If Pacific Standard Time is about celebrating the giants and rediscovering the lesser-known figures who made L.A. culture the lively, polyglot thing it is, then it must in part also be about advocating for the preservation of that history. “Civic Virtue: The Impact of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Arts Center,” opening this week at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery atop the beautiful Barnsdall Art Park, happily takes on that challenge. Presenting the work of more than 130 artists, activists and architects — from Frank Lloyd Wright and Simon Rodia to Julius Schulman, John Altoon, David Hammons, Ulysses Jenkins, Llyn Foulkes and Betye Saar — the show is organized around the histories of LAMAG and the Watts Towers, two sites of extraordinary architectural and social significance, cultural populism and community engagement. As curator Pilar Tompkins Rivas explains, “While disparate in purpose, form and locale, these histories overlap. Hollyhock House and Watts Towers each exist at the intersection of architecture, artwork and poetic offering to the people of Los Angeles. Artists of all sorts, along with community support groups, have contributed to these sites for decades, and continue to recognize that they are municipal treasures. In doing so, they are telling their neighbors and City Hall that these cultural landmarks are inherited gifts representing our collective civic virtue — and they deserve to be supported.” And yes, this will all be on the test. Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; thru Feb. 12; Thurs.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; first Fri., noon-9 p.m.; free. (323) 644-6269, lamag.org.

Thu., Dec. 15, 6-9 p.m.; Thursdays-Sundays, 12-5 p.m. Starts: Dec. 15. Continues through Feb. 12, 2011

LA Weekly