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Freeway murals along the 101 attract attention, resist graffiti

By Kylie Reynolds
Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2012, at 10:46AM
Mural Emily Chu/blogdowntown

Local artist Rene Trujillo's "Birdsee(d)" went up along the 101 last week for the third phase of a pilot project by Caltrans to improve the look of L.A. freeways.

Regulars of the downtown L.A. drive along the 101 might have noticed a recent addition to the landscape: vivid murals flanking the freeway's walls.

The murals were hung last week along the freeway stretch between Alameda Street and Broadway for the third installment of Caltrans' Mural Preservation Demonstration Project, which began in 2010 to improve L.A. freeway aesthetics. Caltrans partnered with Wells Fargo Corporate Properties and the Wells Fargo Foundation to fund the pilot project that plans to run until 2017.

The four new murals giving color to the downtown freeway are replicas of local artists Jimmy Centeno’s “Viaje” and “Un homenaje a la Mujer Latinoamericana,” and Rene Trujillo’s “Birdsee(d)” and “Bomba."

Last week's additions - which are joining the company of work done by artists like John Werhle and Ruben Soto - bring the 101's mural count up to nine. While the project's previous murals were replicas of work already painted on that stretch of the 101, the replicas hung last week are entirely new to the freeway, said Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler.

And setting them apart from other freeway art, the 101 replicas are graffiti-resistant.

Printed on canvas made of recycled plastic and vinyl fabric, the murals are easier to maintain than artwork painted directly on the freeway walls. If vandalized, the murals can be removed and any paint wiped clean, Chandler said.

"We're wanting a better looking town," he said. "Over the years, vandals and taggers...they used to stay away from art that was up, but now they actively attack it."

Chandler said Caltrans hopes the murals - and their tag-resistant canvas - will spark more conversation and debate about public art and vandalization in L.A.

The project is currently in a pilot phase to test the effectiveness of the grafiti-resistant material, so there is a lot of flexibility with the program, Chandler said. He said Caltrans could try putting murals on other L.A. freeways or have new artists featured, but it is hoping for a response from downtowners who see the murals daily.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people in Los Angeles who feel good about it. But if they have any thoughts or ideas, it's definitely open for discussion," Chandler said. "We want to hear from people. We should hear from people."


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