Artists Fight Back

We'll admit it: There are weeks when we're swimming in a mudbath of angry criticism. (There was that time someone told our news blogger, Dennis Romero, to “eat a bag of dicks” — and that other time when someone wished a shark would give Music Editor Ben Westhoff a blow job.) It can get depressing! But this week, oddly enough, everyone loves us.

In fact, the praise continues to pour in for our Aug. 23 cover story about L.A.'s crackdown on graffiti (“Los Angeles' War on Street Artists,” by Simone Wilson). Artist pETAL1 writes, “Thank you for exposing the assault on public art in L.A. Muralists in L.A., primarily graffiti artists, have been experiencing unfounded discrimination for the past decade. In efforts to beautify our communities and overcome urban blight, many muralists have donated labor, supplies and ideas free of charge, only to have a city-contracted 'graffiti abatement' company come and erase their artwork. To add insult to injury, abatement companies actually get paid to destroy these donated works! Could any more oppressive a policy be in place to discourage public art?

“Meanwhile, there is an unregulated proliferation of illegal billboards throughout the city. I have never seen a whitewashed illegal billboard. Perhaps the city would like to trade in our former esteemed title of 'Mural Capital of the World' for the dreadful title of 'Billboard Capital of the World'?

Who are the real criminals here? The artists doing murals with the permission of property owners, or the companies putting up illegal billboards? Clearly, the billboard companies are the ones breaking laws. So why then are the taggers and graffiti artists being framed as hard-core criminals? Taggers are now serving years in prison for vandalism, while true criminals are slapped on the wrist for crimes like rape and extortion! How does this help communities, or make society safer? It does not.”

We also heard from the artist Tempt. He writes, “It's a great tragedy that Los Angeles is suffering from the loss of its rich history and tradition of mural and public art culture. Murals and graffiti art retain the cultural memory of our local communities and are the greatest visual representation of a participatory democracy.

“I believe that vandalism should, of course, be punished, but the punishment should fit the crime. Eight years for what used to be a misdemeanor??? And ruining a young person's chance at turning his life around? That's cruel and unusual punishment and does not benefit our communities. Why can't our young people's creative energies be encouraged, supported and redirected into positive and socially acceptable channels?

All across the world, L.A.'s graffiti artists are welcomed and received as the great artists that they are. How sad that they are persecuted in their hometown. German, French, Italian, English and Japanese youth know more about our city's unique contributions to the international arts than our own community.

“Moreover, L.A.'s one existing legal wall to paint graffiti art — the Venice Beach walls — have been closed down for good, which leaves kids with no legal outlet for public expression. Meanwhile, alcohol, tobacco and coca cola ads get carte blanche treatment all over Sunset, Wilshire, Hollywood, La Brea and all of our major thoroughfares. What is wrong with our priorities and value systems? What kind of message does that send to our kids? That only the rich have a say?? That nothing has value or merit unless it is in the pursuit of consumption and the almighty dollar?”

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

We also heard from Danny Derakhshan, whose heart-warming note seriously made our day (OK, our week!) He writes, “I started reading L.A. Weekly in February 2012. I went to a film networking group in the Hollywood Hills a month after moving here and the guest speaker told the group that to make it in the business and industry, read the reviews of films in the L.A. Weekly. And I did. Every Thursday I'd go and pick up the newspaper and skim through it to get to the movie reviews.

“Then something got me going after a month of skimming the pages: I really started looking forward to the weekly trips on Thursday to pick up the paper. I would read the paper from cover to cover.

“I now look forward to the articles about what is happening around here. I love the 'Ask a Mexican' column. I even added Gustavo Arellano's book on cooking to my Amazon wish list. Henry Rollins' column gives me a head-nodding grin; it is such a good feeling to know that he has become such a voice. The 'Five Artsy Things to Do This Week' got my social skills going. I started to connect with my city. Yes, my city. Los Angeles is my home now. I started to go to these cultured events and have experienced the little pleasures of life in the big city with crazy traffic.

“Conversations are now started with people about what is going on out here. I'm proud to be a part of such a melting pot in a town of diversity.

“I go on the website and try to get free swag on occasion. I haven't won anything yet, but I'm gonna keep trying. I even found a baseball exhibit to take a sweet-hearted actress who drove me with her to an Angels game the other day. I saw an ad for the Craft and Folk Art Museum in the paper to know this is where I want to take her, to return the favor of her company.

Life is pretty sweet once you realize that home is where you make it. Thanks to all the hard-working staff writers and copy editors there. You all do make a difference!” Aww, Danny, thank you!

You Write, We Read

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