|(Photo by Perhansa Skallerup/LAist)
On the night of October 10th, an event took place on Harvard Boulevard focused primarily on the historic residence located at 2200 Harvard. The promoters teased that “an abandoned mansion” would serve as a blank canvas for the creative talents of an artist known as “Hanksy,” and a group of other artists whose numbers grew as the opening night grew closer. The event was sponsored under the artist’s production banner Surplus Candy, whose Facebook page generated both positive and negative commentaries.
The address was not revealed until the day of the event via social media, and once the doors opened, several hundreds – some say 2,000 – passed through to view the offerings. Indeed, the walls, doors, windows, and ceilings had been covered with a wide variety of graphic art, selections of which were obtained from numerous postings on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
WAHA was not privy to the event until it was a fait accompli, but a public record has been compiled through a variety of websites, including LA.curbed.com, that revealed a compelling art installation. At first glance, it appeared that every surface had been defaced, and several people were shocked at the apparent destruction of a historic property. One of the most vehement challenges came from Sandi Hemmerlein, author of the blog “Avoiding Regret”. A closer inspection of hundreds of images posted online appears to reveal that a good deal of care was taken to NOT damage previously unpainted surfaces, and it is our understanding that all of the graphic images were painted over beginning the next day. However, this effort has failed to mollify most of the people concerned with what they called a “lack of respect” for a historic building.
We have reached out to the artist without reply, but he did discuss the building with LAist. “It's over a century old and while it's a bit banged up, it's still a magnificent beast. And after it's all painted up, it'll be a perfect metaphor for Hollywood. Pretty and pristine on the outside, but all fucked up on the inside."
WAHA has also requested a report from the LA Police department as to the basis for their break up of the event sometime later that evening. While we have learned that a “documentary filming” permit was issued by FilmLA, it does not appear that a Special Events permit was applied for, or granted, for this event.
|(Photo courtesy of instagram.com/creativebark)
So the real issue is not one of “what constitutes art” but what is the impact on our community?
WAHA celebrates the many artists who have moved into our community and the inventive spirit they bring to our historic homes and buildings. We applaud the adaptive reuse of historic spaces. We have presented several "Art in Historic Places" tours.
HOWEVER, we cannot condone events involving thousands of people disturbing the quiet and peace of residents in this neighborhood. We are concerned about not just the disrespect to the neighbors, but also the continuing disrespect to this 1911 mansion. It is not "abandoned,' despite what the artist told the media. We do not yet know if there was damage to the historic fabric of the house itself, but we are compelled to focus on the community, and the neighbors, as much as the bricks-and-mortar of the structure.
When historic buildings and neighborhoods are abused, we need to take issue. We have seen too many examples where our neighborhoods have been exploited. New media makes it easy to organize such an event, but the scale and tenor was not appropriate to this residential neighborhood. Once we have fully investigated the police reports and further checked on permits, when the facts are fully known, WAHA will formulate a strategy to support West Adams as a community. Preservation is also about a sense of place, livability, and quality of life.