As the Venice Beach graffiti walls enter a new era, the man who has helped curate the walls throughout the decade says that new rules should open the door for more exceptional art to be displayed.
A transformation is about to take place at the graffiti walls, which stand in the background of the Venice Beach Boardwalk near Windward Avenue, as new rules are set to take effect Sunday, June 3rd, limiting painting on the walls to daylight hours on weekends and holidays only and requiring artists to obtain a permit.
With the enforcement of the new curating program, the graffiti walls will be renamed the Venice Public Art Walls.
The changes have come in an effort to help preserve the walls and settle residents’ concerns regarding graffiti vandalism occurring away from the walls in the community, says Stash Maleski, director and founder of In Creative Unity (ICU) Art, a Venice-based art production company that has served as curator of the walls since 2000.
In Creative Unity Art will mark the implementation of the new regulations, which are part of a six-month pilot program, with a Paintout event scheduled between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, June 3rd, at the graffiti walls, ocean end of Windward Avenue in Venice.
The event will include DJs playing hip-hop and reggae music, and various vendors. Throughout the day, In Creative Unity Art representatives will discuss the new rules and curating program.
Maleski expects the curating program for the walls to be more formalized, with supervisors in the area who will interact with the artists, and while there may be fewer artists painting due to the restricted hours, he says there should be better quality art.
“I think the quality of the artwork is going to go up,” Maleski said. “You’ll see really beautiful pieces, hopefully staying up for a longer period of time.”
This is possible because in order to paint on the two large graffiti walls at the site, artists are required to obtain a permit, which they may receive only if they have a crew of at least three people and submit a sketch detailing their plans, Maleski said.
The last paintings to go up on Sunday afternoon will remain on the walls until the following Saturday — a main benefit some artists will see with the program, he said.
Prepared sketches are not required for those wanting to paint on the two cone structures at the site.
Permits, which can be obtained from In Creative Unity Art, will be issued free for one day and must be worn in view at all times.
Artists must be 18 years of age or older to paint, and no designs can contain hate speech, pornography, gratuitous violence or pro-illicit drug references, according to ICU Art.
The walls will be closed for painting on weekdays and will be patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), park rangers and city Department of Recreation and Parks staff. Violators will be ticketed by the LAPD.
Program coordinators said signs specifically outlining the regulations will be placed near the graffiti wall.
In response to resident complaints regarding increased graffiti vandalism in the community, In Creative Unity Art and representatives from Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office worked with various community stakeholders and Department of Recreation and Parks staff to ensure not only that the vandalism problem is handled but that the art walls are continued, Maleski said.
“We’re trying to keep these walls here and mitigate any negative impacts they may have on the community,” he said.
Mike Bonin, chief of staff for Rosendahl, said, “I think the whole rationale behind this was to improve the quality of art and protect the neighborhood from vandalism.”
Another focus of the rules is to try to reduce the number of people painting on the walls, which are known to graffiti artists around the world, Maleski said. He added that with so few walls available, the site has become overrun because of the high demand by artists to paint there.
The changes have also been pushed to help revive the curating program that was put in place in 2000, when the art walls were dedicated as a legal graffiti painting site, program organizers said.
Some of the regulations under the original curating program had faded in recent years, which program organizers said apparently led to increased vandalism in the community.
By limiting the amount of painting on the walls and enforcing specific rules, Department of Recreation and Parks officials say they are hopeful that the program will help reduce the problems of community vandalism.
“It’s going to help control graffiti in the neighborhoods, we hope,” said Valerie Punzal, Recreation and Parks Shoreline District supervisor. “We’re hoping that with specific times, and needing to have approval of the art before it goes up, as well as having someone down there monitoring, that it will curb the graffiti.”
Some young graffiti artists have expressed frustration with the new rules, saying their time at the walls will be further limited now that they can come only on the weekends. With fewer opportunities to paint, there could be conflict among the many artists who want a space, some artists say.
Others said they were not approached for input before the rules were created and didn’t see a need for the changes, including the permit requirement.
A main concern for some seemed to be that the rules will make it harder for them to use one of the few places in Los Angeles where they can practice their art freely.
While some artists may have trouble adjusting to the regulations, Maleski said he expects most of the older, more experienced painters who frequent the area to support the program.
“I hope the artists support it, because it’s for them,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.
“If they do, then I think it’ll work.”
Information on the Venice Public Art Wall program, www.veniceartwalls .com/.