Occupy LA Day 2: Dudes Abide in Peace

Well, things are going pretty smoothly at Occupy LA. A mini-tent city which now holds about 300 people most in their 20s and 30s, though there some in their 40s and upwards, and an array of Anonymous. Drum circles, a massage table, dogs and a crystal healing area make it a mini-fest, while the bacon wrapped hotdogs lend a truly Angeleno flavor (they are a revolution in food!).

There were groups doing signing making and others holding meetings about media training, outreach and other matters.Names are placed in a “stack” (the list/queue), you state your point and people wave “spirit fingers” (peace symbol) for yes, wave hands for applause/enough, cross arms if they disagree. During a hot button issue,  it can look like a St Vitus dance in time to the  “Hokey-Pokey.” But it works.

A table  for volunteers is up. American Sign Language interpreters are needed, and they would also like fluent Spanish speakers, as well as those fluent in Armenian, Mandarin, Vietnamese, etc.

It’s pretty funny to see signs saying

The revolution will not be televised

since Occupy LA has been covered since it started, due in part to the major media noticing what was going on in NY. It doesn’t hurt that this a mega-media savvy city (the porta-potties were rented from Sir Reel, which supplies film shoots; I passed a slew of them parked for a shoot on Sunset Blvd as I was driving to downtown). The media tent is up and running, there are cameras and citizen journalists everywhere and Occupy LA has been in the Los Angeles Times, and on local news channels, though the KTLA story was a little histrionic. The trial of Dr. Conrad Murry in the death of Michael Jackson, just two blocks away with worldwide coverage and lots of satellite TV cameras, resumes Monday.

It has been almost 90 degrees this weekend, and rain is expected Wednesday, with cooler temperatures all week.

They have lots of food donations. One guy on his cellphone excited exclaimed

I have a tent now!

A man and woman dropped off half a dozen brand new blankets (no smallpox!) which were taken to the first aid tent. The couple happily said:

These are made in America!

A group of occupiers staged an action today where they went to the Metro and rode LA’s subways wearing bandanas decoracted with


gagging their mouths. Difficulty arose when a portion of the group expressed their dislike of the policeto the police’s face and attempted to instigate a conflict. I was the the campground while there was a meeting and listened while people expressed upset over

police brutality

though the LAPD have been pretty much ignoring the City Hall campers, even when a few overstayed on the lawn pass the deadline of 10:30pm. LAPD headquarters is across the street (as is the LA Times).

There have been no arrests, so police brutality is not an issue for Occupy LA  yet, as more than one speaker pointed out. And it be an issue won’t be unless agitators try to provoke things. Granted there are people at Occupy LA who have experienced police brutality in other communities and in other circumstance, but trying to provoke the police to get that specific point across is simply short-sighted and selfish. It puts the entire Occupy LA at risk, and creates fissures in the group’s cohesive ideals and integrity. Seriously, please find an “affinity group” elsewhere.

“Hey, the cops are being cool!”                                  This man discussed the French Revolution

Monday night at  5pm, Occupy LA, or at least those so inclined, will march in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street to protest the mass arrests this weekend and last weekend’s macings and arrests. Hopefully the those dislike the LAPD will find it in their consciences to look at the bigger picture, stay on the sidewalks and cross on the green lights.

Looks like the City Council is behind the occupation, at least in the short term. Blogger/filmmaker Clay Claiborne shared this letter with me from LA City Councilman Richard Alarcon which kinda spells out how it’s gonna be, unless people start making trouble.:

A lone, and empty police car is parked at LAPD’s headquarters, Parker Center, across from City Hall.

The dudes abide. In peace!

Los Angeles City Council Targets Municipal Gallery for Privatization

Barnsdall Art Park is vital part of Los Angeles — and municipal art gallery and park that the LA City Council now wants to privatize, citing budget issues. To do so would limit citizens’ access to enjoy and create art and go against the goals of the land’s donor. Sadly, the privatization seems to be steamrolling ahead with minimal community outrage input as a way to keep Barnsdall open.

Barnsdall Art Park, atop a hill in the center of East Hollywood,  was the gift of Aline Barnsdall to the people of the city of Los Angeles to be used for arts exhibits and arts education. Aline Barnsdall, who had moved West to develop a theatre company, commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design her home  on land at the intersection of Vermont Ave. and Hollywood Blvd. The resulting building, Hollyhock House, still stands and is part of the facilities at Barnsdall Art Part which also includes the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Founded in 1952, its mission is to promote, interpret, and present to the art of emerging, mid career, and established artists from culturally diverse Southern California. The Gallery showcases art from other parts of the world that is of relevance to the people of the City of Los Angeles.

Programs at Barnsdall include the Junior Arts Center which offers affordable arts education programs to young people both on site at Barnsdall Art Park and in extensive outreach, and eight-week classes that include everything from figure drawing, photography and weaving to ukulele playing and drumming. There’s also the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, available a low-priced rental house for live theatre, dance, music, spoken word, lecture, film and special event presentations. Barnsdall is also a go-to site for weddings and there’s a weekly farmers market held in the parking lot. Oh did I mention admission is free? And so is parking!

Barnsdall was recently the site of the second annual Beyond Eden Art Fair which showcased contemporary Low Brow/Pop Surrealist artists,  a West Coast movement that is gaining worldwide recognition thanks in a great part to Robert Willams whose paintings, mentoring of art geeks and his creation of  Juxtapoz Magazine have inspired artists and collectors alike to delve into the brash figurative style with its emphasis on pop iconography and exquisite technique.

The city Los Angeles faces serious budgetary problems. Heck, my street has needed repaving for over a decade and we’re always overlooked for pot hole filling.  That minute detail I can live with — it helps cut down on speeding shortcut takers, since nothing like hearing some maroon’s testosterone-mobile bottom out to really brighten my day — but the city council is mulling the idea of privatizing of Barnsdall, which is short sighted and stupid. The main contender: MOCA, Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art.

The mandate of a municipal gallery is to provide art for the people and by the people. In a letter on behalf of the board of Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery letter asking for community support, Maria Luisa de Herrera, board president wrote of Barnsdall:

It occupies a unique niche in the city’s cultural landscape, being neither a museum, nor a commercial gallery, allowing it broad curatorial latitude not enjoyed by other institutions…We should be questioning the wisdom of, or the lack there of, any idea ceding total governance of such an important asset to any institution or individual who’s agenda is not in keeping with the public character of the LAMAG. Such a move has the effect of a greater stratification of the visual arts in a city where the disparity between so called “new school” or “high art” and more populist artistic genres is growing ever wider. Other cities are expanding their municipal exhibition spaces and establishing new ones. Many of these cities are facing the same budget challenges as are we, and see public safety as their number one priority. However they have never lost sight of the fact the that part of their responsibility in providing public safety includes promoting the general well being of its citizenry.

Mat Gleason, the editor of Coagula Art Journal, himself a maverick and strong supporter of the Los Angeles art scene had this to say to me:

Let’s get angry and maybe put energy into making these spaces a little more vital – the problem is not the administration of these spaces, it is the art public that is spoiled and passive, what are they going to do when all the spaces are privatized and operate as a monolithic statement of fashion?…As far as privatization, it would make for stunningly boring and insignificant art spaces catering to nobody outside of small cliques of whoever might be close to the players connected to taking over the space. It is the difference between the current slow suffocation and a quick one.

Gleason offers a radical solution:

make all of these art community centers lottery exhibition spaces for artists. the city budget can basically be for maintenance and insurance. Have lotteries for artists to get month long exhibits. Have an on-site administrator act as a den-mother/bad cop to hold of extremes that threaten the physical property but otherwise, let artists nobody knows have a chance at magically being awarded their fantasy of having the space for a month to show their art.

The shows would be interesting and would engage a much wider democratic dialogue than all of the insiders could ever deliver what with all the friends and relationships that the art world naturally foists on all of its players. And that is what the city stands for any way, right, we the people?

This would save boatloads of money and excite the “what the hell might happen next” in all of us.

I’d add to this by throwing in two curatorial lotteries for group shows. And let Barnsdalls, like any gallery get a percentage of the sales of art exhibited.