Standing next to a freshly painted design on the Venice Beach graffiti walls, one young graffiti artist pointed out that he was at one of the few places in Los Angeles where he can practice his art freely.

“We hardly have anywhere to go paint anymore,” said the artist, who preferred to be identified by his nickname “Fatoe.” “This is one of the select few places we have where we can go paint without having to worry about getting rolled up on by the cops.”

The graffiti walls, which stand in the background of the Venice Beach Boardwalk near Windward Avenue, just off the beach bicycle path, were dedicated as a legal graffiti painting site in 2000.

The two walls and cone structures that currently occupy the site are what remains of the Venice Pavilion that was torn down in 1999. The Pavilion area had for years been a place for graffiti artists to express themselves, but the site entered a new era when a portion of the walls was preserved and painting regulations began being enforced under a curating program.

With some of the regulations appearing to have faded in recent years, the curator of the walls and city officials say they are working to revive the curating program from the early part of this decade.

The effort calls for new rules and regulations to be put in place at the Venice Beach graffiti walls, primarily restricting the hours of usage to weekends only and requiring artists to obtain a permit.

Program organizers say the City Attorney’s Office must still review the program regulations, which could be implemented by the end of March, when the beach graffiti walls are to be renamed the Venice Public Art Walls.

“The program will be much more formalized,” said 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. “There will be on-site mentors and supervisors in the area to keep an eye on things and talk to the kids.”

Maleski says the new regulations stem from an effort to help settle residents’ concerns regarding graffiti vandalism occurring away from the walls in the community.

Some local residents at community meetings in recent months have expressed frustration with the vandalism, claiming that many spray-painters who come to the beach graffiti walls are leaving the site and then tagging other parts of the community, such as sides of buildings, street signs and trees.

The concerned residents have said something needs to be done to stop the community vandalism, and some had even suggested that the beach graffiti walls might need to be taken down as a potential solution.

But Maleski said ICU Art and representatives of City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office have worked with various Venice community stakeholders to ensure not only that the vandalism problem is handled but also that the graffiti walls are preserved as a place of artistic expression.

In revamping regulations under the curating program, the program coordinators have put together a “mitigation strategy to reduce any negative impacts the walls have on the community,” Maleski said.

The rules are also being implemented as a way to try to reduce the number of people painting on the walls, which are known to graffiti artists around the world, he said.

With so few walls available, the site has become overrun because of the high demand by artists to paint there, Maleski said.

To help solve this problem, painting on the walls will now be restricted to daylight hours on weekends only.

In order to paint on the two walls, artists will be 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 design plans.

Prepared sketches are not required for those wanting to paint on the two cone structures.

Permits, which can be obtained from ICU 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, Maleski said.

Program coordinators said signs specifically outlining the regulations will be placed near the graffiti wall.

By having artists submit design sketches, the program will allow for “better-quality pieces to stay up over a longer period of time,” he said. The last paintings to go up on Sunday afternoon will remain on the walls all week until the following Saturday — a main benefit some artists will see with the program, he said.

While some artists may have trouble adjusting to the regulations, Maleski said he expects most of the painters who frequent the area to support the program.

But some young artists expressed frustration with the new rules, saying their time at the walls will be further limited now that they can come only on weekends. With fewer opportunities to paint, there could be conflict between the many artists who want a space, they say.

“I think they should talk to the locals first before they try to hit up these rules,” said one artist, who grew up in Venice and preferred to be identified only by the name “Janxnts.”

“They should just keep it how it is.”

Another artist, known as “Slang,” who comes to the walls twice a month from Orange County, said he feels a permit isn’t necessary.

“They know what we’re doing; why do we need a permit for it?” he asked.

The artist Fatoe added that the rules might not be such an issue for the graffiti artists if they had more places in the area to paint freely.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with it if we had a lot more spots,” he said.

Representatives at the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice say they support preserving the Venice Beach graffiti walls but would also like to see that more monitored public graffiti sites are provided for the community.

“We want to see more walls throughout the city,” said Suzanne Thompson, SPARC associate director. “We need more public spaces for graffiti artists to express themselves.”

While the new regulations will help ensure that the popular beach graffiti walls are preserved, Thompson said the program should also incorporate an “educational component.”

Venice Neighborhood Council member Linda Lucks, who also serves on the council’s Ocean Front Walk Committee, said a main improvement the program should provide is more oversight of the area.

“This is an effort to deal with the graffiti problem in Venice with a practical solution that includes more oversight of the walls,” Lucks said.

Venice resident Rand Denny, who has expressed frustration at Neighborhood Council meetings regarding graffiti vandalism in the community, added that the regulations will also allow police to crack down more on tagging occurring outside the walls.

Denny said he is hopeful that the program will make a difference by reducing the problems of vandalism in the community.

As the curating program enters a new phase at the Venice graffiti walls, Maleski said ICU Art will continue to work with the artists to ensure that the site remains a unique place of artistic expression.

“We’re definitely trying to work with the artists,” Maleski said. “I think it will be a unique opportunity for them.”

Information on the graffiti wall program,

www.veniceartwalls.com

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