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Muralist Kent Twitchell on LA's new mural-friendly ordinance

Muralist Kent Twitchell working on
Muralist Kent Twitchell working on "Holy Trinity with the Virgin" on Wilshire Blvd in 1978.
Anne Laskey/Courtesy LA Public Library

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to tentatively rescind a decade long ban on murals. Under the new ordinance, muralists will again be able to paint in public the works they've wanted to do for years, pervaded the Department of Cultural Affairs gives them the go ahead. 

One of the biggest of supporters of the ordinance was muralist Kent Twitchell, he painted the Freeway lady along the 101, the LA Marathon Mural, and giant Los Angeles Conservancy portraits next to the 110 freeway in Downtown LA. Twitchell also co founded the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.  He talked with Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson about the new law.

On how Los Angeles became the mural capital of the world:
"I think when the Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad first started, in 1969, 70, 71, in Venice, it was sort of an outshoot of the hippie days. They painted the most exquisite paintings that belonged in a museum, but they were right out in the streets. It just got the attention of so many people, all over the world, that it really inspired me. I started painting my pieces in 1971. A lot of the pieces in East LA and in South Central Los Angeles began in 71, 72. 

"We had perfect sunshine, we could paint murals here year round. A lot of it was just, from my perspective, was just to beautify the world. We were kind of naive back then, thinking that the world was a beautiful place and people would appreciate what we're doing. 

"I think the reason, perhaps one of the very major reasons, that restrictions happened was not to eliminate murals--the city council has always been very supportive of public art. It was to try to cut down on all these huge signs that began going up on the sides of buildings."

On what the new ordinance means for the Los Angeles art scene:
"I think it will explode now, again. And you can't just go do anything you want. You have to make sure it's OK with the neighborhood--I'm OK with that. I think probably the only negative part of it right now is that they passed B, instead of A."

The city council weighed two different ordinances Wednesday, one would permit murals on private residences (part A) and the other would prohibit it (part B)--the council passed the latter of the two.

"Willie Herrón, the great legendary muralist from the east side, tried to tell everybody who would listen to him that the same thing is gonna happen that happened before: an unwitting banning of a certain kind of art. The neighborhoods that don't want murals, because they have this idea of what a mural is--an homogenization of a beautiful painting covered with tagging. They don't want that in their neighborhood and so they simplistically say 'no murals in our neighborhood.'"

On what the new ordinance means for his own artwork:
"It will allow me freedom to begin to conceive of ideas, and things that I would like to do. I'd like to do some more pieces and around Hollywood. I'd like to paint Alan Ladd as Shane. Small, two story pieces around that I really won't have any worry. It's almost that when there's a restriction, your creative juices don't flow. And you're not even conceiving of ideas and things that you'd like to do."