LOS ANGELES—For mural artists in Los Angeles, the city can be an empty canvas or a maze of red tape.
A large downtown mural was painted over last month, despite an online petition that garnered almost 12,000 signatures and a failed intervention by the Mayor’s office.
The 125-by-150-foot mural was commissioned by the band “Foster the People” as a promo for their new album “Supermodel”. The mural was on the album’s front cover.
A joint statement from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the band, and the building owner, said they had reviewed all possible options to save the mural before it was erased from the wall of the Santa Fe Lofts.
“Since the Santa Fe Lofts is a State Historic Building that receives tax credits for maintaining original design features under the Mills Act, it is necessary to remove the mural to return this historic property to its original state,” said the group.
It had also not gone through the complete registration process with the city before it was painted, plus the mural was considered borderline advertising for the band, which is against city rules.
One year ago, the city repealed an 11-year ban on public murals that saw many murals in the city whitewashed. The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and documenting murals, worked with hundreds of muralists to draft new city legislation that would let the public works of art live on.
Even though the ban was removed, several other murals have been painted over because of missing paperwork like Foster the People faced with protected historic buildings. It is these extra ropes artists have to jump through that make the process difficult.
The executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, Isabel Rojas-Williams said she hopes in the coming years, there will be a resurgence of mural art that will bring the designation of Mural Capital of the World back to L.A..
“Our murals are a mirror, are a reflection of this rich diversity that is Los Angeles,” she said.
As of July, the Department of Cultural Affairs had registered three mural projects with sixteen applications pending. At least three murals have been whitewashed already.
As for the Foster the People mural, the statement said the group has “committed to working together to create a new mural in another downtown location that all Angelenos can enjoy for many years. Details of the mural will be revealed at a later date.”
Correction: This article incorrectly stated the time the “Foster the People” mural was taken down.