jwaldman
Monday 16th , 2015
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Los Angeles is a mecca for the strange, bizarre and interesting. As a Southern California native, I feel lucky to be able to see some of the strange, exciting things LA has offered. As a child, I remember often exploring an abandoned theatre, old railroad tracks and strange businesses such as Clifton’s Café. Children are naturally curious explorers and I believe it was my urban explorations that led me to be so interested in the arts. I found many art pieces throughout these adventures such as wall murals and stickers that I can still remember. If you live in or near Los Angeles, I suggest taking your little ones on a street art viewing trip. Little ones will especially dig this medium as it opens their imaginations to the idea that anything and everything can be their canvas, although this may be your white walls or the family dog.

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While there is a strong contemporary art presence throughout Los Angeles in museums such as LACMA, The Broad, and MOCA, there are also cheaper and more adventurous ways to view amazing art. Luckily for Angelinos, we have fantastic street art throughout our great city! Before you say the dreaded phrase, “Graffiti is vandalism, not art”, let me explain the difference between street art and vandalism.

In most people's minds the connotations of the words "street art" and "graffiti" are one in the same -interchangeable, and often associated with vandalism, gangs, urban plight, and decay. While both graffiti and street art involve the re-appropriation of public space to create a finished product, there exist strong differentiations between the two forms of expression. Graffiti is done without permission, therefore can be considered illegal. Sometimes graffiti is simply tags to proclaim an area of the city. I do not classify this as art, but rather vandalism. However, graffiti writers such as Os Gemeos (a set of Portuguese twin brothers) create large scale works of art on buildings and planes, which feature yellow characters they have seen in dreams. This is the type of graffiti I, along with much of the art world, agree is art. There is much skill involved, as well as an image that makes us feel something rather than some scribbled illegible name. Graffiti writers are limited to what they can create with a spray can, whereas street artists have a much more broad way to work. Street artists employ some of the application techniques of graffiti, but often involves a finished product that is ready-made and brought to the location; stickers, wheat paste prints, and stencils. Bansky, a mysterious artist, has produced some brave work including sneaking up (and passed security!) to the Prime Minister of England’s house and created a stencil on the front door.

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Whether these street works seem utopian or anarchic, aggressive or sympathetic, stunningly well-executed or juvenile, original or derivative, most street artists seriously working in the genre begin with a deep identification and empathy with the city: they are compelled to state something in and with the city, whether as forms of protest, critique, irony, humor, beauty, subversion, clever prank or all of the above. The pieces can be ephemeral, gratuitous acts of beauty or forms of counter-iconography, inhabiting spaces of abandonment and decay, or signal jams in a zone of hyper-commercial messaging. A well-placed street piece will reveal the meaning of its material context, making the invisible visible again, a city re-imaged and re-imagined. Despite this dichotomy between graffiti and street art, neither art form should be considered more culturally valid than the other. Street art and graffiti are both powerful forms of public art that use visually striking, bold images and metaphors to convey a message. Children will most likely not be introduced to these images in an academic environment, especially with its negative stigma, so I invite you, as a parent, to show your little one a bright and changing city using this street art guide.

1.    Downtown Arts District- Los Angeles has a charming Art district where many murals live. Beau Stanton created a modestly sized piece on the corner of Mateo and Seventh is visible only when traveling south on Mateo. Its electricity serves as a fitting centerpiece to the neighborhood. Your child will enjoy looking at the intricate design and bright color in the piece. Further down, on Jesse Street and Imperial Avenue, you will find a giant sleeping creature done by ROA that children will surely enjoy. 

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2.    Hollywood- Often called Hollyweird for its eclectic aesthetics and people. There is much art to see in Hollywood and the kids would enjoy Space Invader. He does not use paint, or stickers, but rather tiles to create cartoon mosaics! You can find his small work on the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park, hiding underneath the W! Speaking of small scale art, check out Paige Smith (AKA: A Common Name) finds inspiration in small cracks in the sidewalk, a drain pipe or a missing brick. She places her art inside of these spaces to fill them in perfectly. It’s a bit like Legos! You can find one located at the corner of El Centro and Hollywood Boulevard, but you’ll have to look hard!

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3.    Silverlake- Perhaps you don’t want to travel too far into the depths of the concrete jungle. Have no fear, Silverlake is a mecca for art murals as well. ‘Carl in Silverlake’ is a well-known black and white piece of a man with a big expression on his face. Ask your street art observers how does the man feel? Why do you think he feels that way? This mural can be found at 1755 Glendale Blvd. Baller True Value Hardware store at 2505 Hyperion Ave. features Shepard Fairey’s “Make Art, Not War”. This powerful piece lends itself to asking your little ones questions as well. “Do you like to make art?” “Why do you think he used those colors?” “What do you like about it?” 

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I do hope you take your family to explore the underground art community that is too often mistaken for delinquents and criminals. Viewing art outside of a museum is a fun, worthwhile experience that guarantees children a broad understanding of what art can or cannot be. 

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Blog by:

Jacquie Waldman, Arts Specialist, has been with Kidspace since 2013. Previously a Museum Educator, she is a graduate of Whittier College with a degree in theatre performance and studio art with an emphasis in photography.

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