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PUBLIC ART 

Nuestro Pueblo - Simon Rodia 1921 - 1954
Mama Watts was constructed by artists Bill Watts and Curtis Tan with the help of students in the community in 1968. The shape of Mama Watts as an homage to sculptor Henry Moore who’s design ideas are reflected in Mama Watts. Simon Rodia also played a vital role in influencing Bill Watts and Curtis Tan to create Mama Watts; both in the materials (structurally it’s made of concrete and chicken wire, rebar) and in the idea of permanent art piece made accessible to the public.  Mama Watts was the second public art piece aside from The Watts Towers that was constructed on WTAC campus and was intended to be a piece with the same permanence on the campus. Since then, Mama Watts has become a lasting icon in the community.

The current conservation and restoration of Mama Watts is done by Compton artist Charles Dickson.

Mama Watts - Bill Watts and Curtis Tan with community students. Sculpture
Mama Watts was constructed by artists Bill Watts and Curtis Tan with the help of students in the community in 1968. The shape of Mama Watts as an homage to sculptor Henry Moore who’s design ideas are reflected in Mama Watts. Simon Rodia also played a vital role in influencing Bill Watts and Curtis Tan to create Mama Watts; both in the materials (structurally it’s made of concrete and chicken wire, rebar) and in the idea of permanent art piece made accessible to the public.  Mama Watts was the second public art piece aside from The Watts Towers that was constructed on WTAC campus and was intended to be a piece with the same permanence on the campus. Since then, Mama Watts has become a lasting icon in the community.

The current conservation and restoration of Mama Watts is done by Compton artist Charles Dickson.

Peace + Love - Elliot Pinkney 1976 – (Destroyed by termites) Mural was on electrical room door
Mama Watts was constructed by artists Bill Watts and Curtis Tan with the help of students in the community in 1968. The shape of Mama Watts as an homage to sculptor Henry Moore who’s design ideas are reflected in Mama Watts. Simon Rodia also played a vital role in influencing Bill Watts and Curtis Tan to create Mama Watts; both in the materials (structurally it’s made of concrete and chicken wire, rebar) and in the idea of permanent art piece made accessible to the public.  Mama Watts was the second public art piece aside from The Watts Towers that was constructed on WTAC campus and was intended to be a piece with the same permanence on the campus. Since then, Mama Watts has become a lasting icon in the community.

The current conservation and restoration of Mama Watts is done by Compton artist Charles Dickson.

Reflections of a Child's Eye - Joan Kleihauer 1980 WTAC – (Northwest Wall) Mural
 
Joan Kleihauer was the lead artist of the mural and painted it during her tenure as the WTAC campus education coordinator under director John Outterbridge in 1980’s. Kleihauer was working with the “Go CART “program; an initiative intended to bring art to the youth in the inner-city. The design was approved by John Outterbridge and included myriad African symbols and images of native African animals. It was painted on the north-west side of the WTAC building located on the WTAC campus. It has been one of the longest lasting murals on the campus who’s earth tones are still as vibrant as they were when they were painted in the 80’s.

Smoking Mural- Elliot Pinkney (Destroyed in 2008 with warehouse)
Joan Kleihauer was the lead artist of the mural and painted it during her tenure as the WTAC campus education coordinator under director John Outterbridge in 1980’s. Kleihauer was working with the “Go CART “program; an initiative intended to bring art to the youth in the inner-city. The design was approved by John Outterbridge and included myriad African symbols and images of native African animals. It was painted on the north-west side of the WTAC building located on the WTAC campus. It has been one of the longest lasting murals on the campus who’s earth tones are still as vibrant as they were when they were painted in the 80’s.

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Homage to John Outterbridge Alonzo Davis 1980 WTAC - (Southwest Wall) Mural

This mural was painted by artist Alonzo Davis in the 1980’s. The design is a series of zebra patterns and adrinka symbols in a cloth-like form in honor of artist John Outterbridge.
John Outterbridge grew up exposed to the practice of recycling materials through his father, a hauler and mover who salvaged junk and used goods. The family's backyard was a place to discover and play with discarded furniture, scrap metal, and old appliances.


From a childhood spent amid such cast-off items, Outterbridge developed an appreciation for both the practical and the aesthetic moti­vations for using found objects in his own art. Beginning in the 1960s, Outterbridge and other artists sought a new visual language to express the African American experience, one that did not depend solely on representation. Assemblage, coupled with the move toward abstraction, allowed such artists to work through themes and ideas that concerned them without having to fall back on visual types. For Outterbridge, the exploration through art of his heritage, his struggles, and his past intersected with his interest in community activism.
An educator and activist, Outterbridge began teaching at the Compton Communica­tive Arts Academy in the mid-1960s. He became director of the academy around 1970 and of the Arts Center in 1975. Although the directorships limited his time for his own artistic pursuits, he was committed to art education and the role of community art centers for artists and audiences. Outterbridge also worked at the Pasadena Art Museum from 1967 to 1974 as a preparatory and installer, a job that exposed him to the work of Mark di Suvero, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and other artists who experi­mented with materials and tools.

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Cecil Mural - Richard Wyatt 1988 WTAC - (South Wall) Mural
The Cecil Ferguson mural located on the south wall of the Watts Towers Arts Center was painted by muralist Richard Wyatt in the late 1980’s. This is a tribute to Cecil Fergerson who was widely credited with fostering African-American and Latin-American art communities in Los Angeles for over 50 years, and was named a "Living Cultural Treasure" by the city in 1999. While working at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Fererson co-founded the Black Arts Council to advocate for African-American artists and support their community. His advocacy at LACMA and BAC led to seminal exhibitions of African-American art in the early 1970s. Fergerson and Claude Booker's work through the BAC produced results, namely in the form of two LACMA exhibitions," Three Graphic Artists: Charles White, David Hammons, and "Timothy Washington" in 1971, and "Panorama" in 1972, featuring Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge, and Betye Saar. These exhibits paved the path for LACMA's 1976 exhibition "Two Centuries of Black American Art," which traveled to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and the Brooklyn Museum. The BAC ceased activities in 1974 following the death of Claude Booker.

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Spirit of Watts - Anthony Cox, Nicolette Komenisque, Ron Battle 1988 WTAC – (East Wall) Mural
Spirit of Watts is one of the longest lasting murals painted on the Watts Towers Arts Center. The mural painted on the Watts Towers Arts Center by muralist Anthony Cox, Nicolette Komenisque and Ron Battle in collaboration with children of the community in the late 1980’s. During the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus’ annual Summer Arts Camp in the late 1980’s Anthony Cox proposed creating a mural on the Watts Towers Arts Center in collaboration with the campers.
The students drew a few design idea that were compiled into a single image which was projected on the eastern wall of the WTAC to be painted by Cox, Komenisque and Battle.

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Untitled Mural - Anthony Cox 1992 WTAC - (Northwest Wall facing North) Mural
“Untitled” was a mural painted by muralist Anthony Cox in 1992. The mural was commissioned by American Broadcasting Company (ABC) for their new Cybill Shepard detective TV movie called “Stormy Weathers”. ABC reached out to then Watts Towers Arts Center Campus director John Outterbridge to provide a mural on the exterior of the wall to resemble a childcare center. Outterbridge called on muralist Cox who was in town working on piece for the Watts Public Library using the same theme.
Cox agreed to do the mural even though such a short amount of time was allocated before the shoot. Cox employed a few children from the neighborhood as models for the mural and even painted his childhood portrait on the mural. The mural was completed in just a few days in late April 1992. Stormy Weathers TV movie was released May 4, 1992.

The Magic Wall - Patricia Riske, Ja Quedia L. Arbuckel, and Richard Davis with students 1996 WTAC - (Southeast Wall) Tiled Mural

The Magic Wall project began with the then education coordinator Patricia Riske as part of the Summer Arts Camp where students from the Watts neighborhood partake in art activities throughout the summer season. The Magic Wall was an initiative to teach the students about ceramic art and participate in the beautification of the WTAC walls. Artist-In-Residence Alejandro Campos aided the installation of many of the ceramic pieces used to adorn the walls. Riske led the design idea under the supervision of then director Mark Greenfield. The mosaic includes many original art pieces created by the campers for the wall but also include many repurposed tiles and glass bottles from Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers sculpture.

Second Vision - Anthony Cox, Nicolette Komenisque, Ron Battle 1988 WTAC – (East Wall) Mural

The Magic Wall project began with the then education coordinator Patricia Riske as part of the Summer Arts Camp where students from the Watts neighborhood partake in art activities throughout the summer season. The Magic Wall was an initiative to teach the students about ceramic art and participate in the beautification of the WTAC walls. Artist-In-Residence Alejandro Campos aided the installation of many of the ceramic pieces used to adorn the walls. Riske led the design idea under the supervision of then director Mark Greenfield. The mosaic includes many original art pieces created by the campers for the wall but also include many repurposed tiles and glass bottles from Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers sculpture.

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Remembrance - Joseph Beckles 2003 (Donated) Garden Studio – Mixed Media Sculpture

 Joseph Beckles lifelong body of work was influenced by his rich experiences from childhood through adulthood. He would speak of his rural childhood memories in Jamaica, remembering running barefooted over the land and making his own toys from found objects and nature’s bounty.
Beckles was also emotionally deeply moved by his African heritage. “It is the responsibility of the individual to recognize their blessings made possible from their ancestors. Once they recognize their blessings they should use them in a positive light” (Joseph Beckles 1980). A descendent of Africans, out of Ghana, Joseph Beckles said, “I felt like a loss soul returning home to my birthplace.” (Ghana visit 2003).
Beckles writes “…building a form is easier than releasing a form from inside the wood.” This desire began his twenty-five year love affair with wood. Beckles produced these artworks using the traditional European tools of chisel and hammer; the West African Adz. In 1995 Beckles turned to welded steel as a corresponding vehicle through which to express his ideas. A series of collaborative works followed and Joseph Beckles invited known Los Angeles artists such as Jane Castillo and Abel Alejandre to add their creative sensibilities to his metal-multimedia sculpture. This series of sculptural works entitled Remembrance 2002 integrated painted surfaces and found materials such as rubber, wire and wood into each finished piece.” In 2004, Beckles final works were generated by forging molten steel into organic abstractions and forms of a personal nature.

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Welcome to Watts Sculpture - Rogelio Acevedo with students, Bureau of Street Services and Los Angeles Department of Public Works 2006 (Off Campus)
In early 2006 The Watts Towers Arts Center was approached by the Bureau of Street Services, City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works back in early 2006 participate in the “Welcome to Watts” sculpture that is located on the North-East corner of the intersection of Imperial and Central Ave. Educational Coordinator of the WTAC Rogelio Acevedo and a group of students met with the engineers on April 3 2006 to help tile the tall towers that frame the sign. The Bureau provided the broken tile and ceramics used to adorn the sculpture and reward them with certificated and lunch.

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Fountain of Freedom Mural - Rebeca Guerrero with Students 2006 Security Office - (North + West Walls,) Murals
During Summer Arts Camp 2006, then teacher Rebecca Guerrero proposed an intensive, college-level crash course that included charcoal, penciling, life drawing, watercolor as part of its curriculum ending with mural as a synthesis of all the techniques covered in the class.  To prep the students, Guerrero walked through the Watts Towers with the campers for inspiration. Guerrero had no set idea for the mural but explained how both Simon Rodia’s fountain and the fountain found at Union Station in Los Angeles were an influence on the mural.  Guerrero painted the outline of the fountain and allowed the students to paint in the outline a myriad of designs on concepts. Guerrero also allowed the students to paint their own expressions on the wall including butterflies, flags, flowers and trees.  

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New Beginnings - Agustine Aguirre with students 2010 Garden Studio – Sculpture

New Beginnings was constructed by then Artist-In-Residence Augustin Aguirre. Describes the ascension in the life experience. The 8 risers at the bottom resemble what Aguirre calls “a new meaning”, which lead to a group of hearts of three various sizes to represent family at all levels. These previous levels resemble the foundation that lead to the top of the tower which Aguirre calls “the spiritual realm”. The open space at the base of the towers which is above fertile soil was designated for growing strawberries which deems analogous to life; “life is a strawberry, some are sweet, some are sour and sometimes they’re just strawberries.

The Turtle Pond Agustine Aguirre, Norma Haas Rosen and Carlos Spivey 2010 Garden Studio – Tiled Murals

In the spring of 2009, our community garden was started in our unfinished parking lot. Students ages 6-12 came once a week to plant herbs, spices, vegetables and flowers. They also designed weather vanes, painted and tiled flower beds and plant containers. The also helped build bird houses and create sculptures for the Garden Studio. The students, under the tutelage of Rogelio Acevedo and Alejandro Campos, had the satisfaction of watching the seeds become flowers and the smalll plants flourish and bear fruit, which they were able to harvest. The Garden Studio Program with the students from LA's Best explanded to tiling decorative outdoor walls for Watts Community homes. We are very grateful that soon after the Garden Studio was underway, Artist-in-Residence Agustine Aguirre began to volunteer his talent and leadership to this very successful programs. We expanded out A.I.R program which includes Rogelio Acevedo, Alejandro Campos, Crystal De La Torre, Charles Dickson, Jessica Gudiel, Dominique Moody, Norma Haas Rosen, Kenzi Shiokava, Carlos Spivey, and Rosie Lee Hooks. 

The Turtle Pond came about in succession to the different public art projects located in the Garden. Agustin Aguirre, Charles Dickson and Alejandro Campos helped create the foundation of the pond. The mosaic on exterior walls were decorated by Norma Haas Rosen, the inner walls were decorated by Carlos Spivey as well as the south facing wall.
 

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Garcia Family Mosaic - Agustine Aguirre with students 2011 (Off Campus) Tiled Walls

The Garcia Family Mosaic was a partnership between artist Agustin Aguirre and The Watts Towers Arts Center in collaboration with Don Jose Garcia and family. Aguirre presented the idea of creating an empowering mosaic that reflected the iconography representative of the Garcia family in 2007. Don Jose agreed to the idea and supervised the design with the guidance of the WTAC. Director of the WTAC, Rosie Lee Hooks, sponsored the project by providing materials, artists and labor to facilitate the creation of the mosaic.
The mosaics iconography include a Mexican Charro (a Mexican horseman or cowboy, typically one in elaborate traditional dress) to represent the Garcia’s Mexican heritage. The mosaic also includes myriad types of butterflies and flowers that Don Jose, the owner of the wall found aesthetically pleasing. A very important icon commissioned by Don Jose to be incorporated in the mosaic was the patron saint of Mexico, La Virgen de Guadalupe (the Virgin Mary) designed in the style typical of the Mexican state the Garcia family is from.
The mosaic was installed in 2007

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Señora Lupitas Home Mosaic - Agustine Aguirre with students 2011 (Off Campus) Tiled Walls

Señora Lupita’s Family Home Mosaic was a partnership between artist Agustin Aguirre and The Watts Towers Arts Center in collaboration with Señora Lupita and family. This piece was influenced with the Watts old. The area now known as Watts is situated on the 1843 Rancho La Tajauta Mexican land grant. As on all ranchos, the principal vocation was at that time grazing and beef production. Certain part of the landscape of Watts during that time had marshes do to the creek that runs where Imperial and Central Ave. is now. Agustin reflected on this and incorporated ducks, marshes, cattle and a flat lake to commemorate the past.

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Spirit Tree and Bench - Charles Dickson 2012 In front of WTAC/Grass area) Sculpture, functional art

Over the years between 2003 and 2012 we have lost four trees from our campus; with the promise that we would receive three for each one taken. However, we never received any. 


In the Summer of 2012 another tree about 80 feet tall, was slated to be cut down because some of the limbs fell during a very destructive storm. We were able to convince the Department of Recreation and Parks to leave us about 25 feet, just above the three major branches. As we did not want any of our trees to leave this campus, we again convinced the department of Recreation and Parks to mulch as much as possible and cut the big branches in 4-foot pieces, so that we could carve benches for our Studio Garden.

 

On July 18, 2011, Mrs. Lillian Harkless Mobley, a community activist, leader, mentor and long time avid supporter of this campus, passed away. We envisioned this tree to become a monument to those mentors who worked tirelessly for the preservation of what Simon Rodia gave to the Watts Community; Museum and arts education.

 

Our Garden Studio Program Artists-In-Residence, are designing and implementing an artistic plan for our campus including our SPIRIT TREE. On September 24, 2012, with leadership and design of Charles Dickson, we erected three steel Towers onto the branches of our Tree. Charles also carved our first  BENCH that is in front of the Watts Towers Arts Center. The SPIRIT TREE is a work in progress.  

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A Rising Wave Carries Us All - Norma Haas Rosen 2013 WTAC Light pole, Tiled

A Rising Wave Carries Us All is a piece that transforms a light post into a public installation. The mosaic on this light post is made of a combination of new and old tile repurposed from myriad sources. The piece contains different types marble, glass, and ceramic. The mosaic was placed directly onto the light post
Artist Norma Haas Rosen said that she had Simon Rodia in mind when conceptualizing this piece. Rosen explains that “the idea repurposing material and collaborating with young people came directly from Simon Rodia and how he collaborated with the young people in the community to get tile pieces for him. Also here at the WTAC we foster the idea of recycling, repurposing and collaboration to our young people”.
The piece is was installed by Norma Haas Rosen and students of the WTAC on February 2013 – 2014.

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The Madrigal Home Mosaic - Carlos Spivey with WTACC AIR Team 2014 (Off Campus) Tiled Walls

The Madrigal house mosaic project began in conceptualized by the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus Artists-In-Residence team which consisted of artists Carlos Spivey Director, Rosie Lee Hooks, Rogelio Acevedo, Alejandro Campos, Crystal De La Torre, Norma Haas Rosen, and Charles Dickson in 2014 as a collaborative project between the arts center and the community to beautify the houses located directly in front of the Watts Towers. Carlos Spivey was selected as lead artist by the AIR team for the project and chief designer of the mural.

Carlos Spivey fabricated the majority of the mosaics, and directed the other artist on their fabricating journeys. The mosaic includes a few design elements agreed upon by the AIR team and the Madrigal family who own the home. The overall background color is sky blue. The North facing walls have a theme of palm trees and ducks, fish, plants in the water. The south facing wall has a theme of rose buds, mountain landscapes and the lunar cycle. The roses come in red, lavender and pink the moons are yellow and white and the mountains are in several shades of green. The Roses have assorted glass jewels to add ambiance and sparkle. The east and west facing walls have a theme of various types of flowers, hearts and red swirls that thematically reflect the designs on the turtle pond located on the WTAC campus.

The AIR team collectively installed the mosaics and its 297.1 Sq. Ft. in size.

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We Are Watts Gateway Monument - WTACC AIR Team 2015 (Off Campus) Metal Sculpture 103rd Street between Compton Ave. and Grandee

The We Are Watts monument located on 103rd street located between Compton Ave. and Graham was conceptualized and designed by the Watts Towers Arts Center Artists-In- Residence team which consisted of Augustin Aguirre, Crystal De La Torre, Kenzi Shiokava, Charles Dickson, Carlos Spivey, Norma Haas Rosen, Director of the WTACC Rosie Lee Hooks and Educational Coordinator of WTACC Rogelio Acevedo.

The Watts Towers Arts Center was approached by the Bureau of Streets Services, City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works to conceptualize and design a median strip that is reflective of the community here in Watts. This is the first example of an arts center being invited to participate in a project of this type and it was imperative to have it be designed by artist active in watts.

After a series of brainstorming workshops with the city engineers the median strip was installed in 2015 including wayfinding signs that direct people to landmarks, organization and services available to the public. The signs adorned with art reflected on the median strip.

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HYBRID Charles Dickson 2015 (Donated) Garden Studio – Mixed Media Sculpture

Hybrid is a multimedia sculpture created by veteran sculptor Charles Dickson. In this piece Dickson is commenting and pondering on the ideas of hybrid culture and the unification of mediums in our modern world. The piece consists of a blend of wood, plants, plastic, and metal to reflect this idea fusion. Charles Dickson explains “Hybrid is a piece that acknowledges the intrinsic value of hybridity in our culture; everything is away from the root”.
Hybrid isn’t a complete piece and is viewed by Dickson as always in a state of transition. Dickson describes the piece as a “living experiment that will continue to take form”, continually adding and extracting from it.

Parking Sign - Norma Haas Rosen 2016 Entrance to parking lot, Graham Ave, Tiled
The “Parking Sign” is an embellished wayfinding sign adorned with a mosaic constructed by artist Norma Haas Rosen. As an artist Rosen is interested in the transformative properties of everyday objects into art by installing artistic elements to elate these items to the stature of art. Like her piece A Rising Wave Carries Us All, where she transformed a light post into an interactive public art installation here she transforms this ordinary parking sign into a mosaic statue with practical properties. The instillation includes vintage Chinese tiles in honor of the Tai Chi Classes that take place here at the art center. Many of these Chinese tiles have animals that resemble different positions in the 24 Tai Chi Chuan martial art practice. The piece was installed in 2016

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Garden Studio Gate - Charles Dickson 2017 Entrance to Garden Studio, Metal, Architectural Art

During the construction of the parking lot that surrounds the Garden Studio there were plans to install an Omega fence around the perimeter of the garden. The front entrance of the gate was omitted to allow the Artist-In-Residence, Charles Dickson to create on gate entrance. Charles saw this as an opportunity to empower the community by making the west Ghanaian adrinka symbol of looking to your past to move forward to your future called Sankofa as the main design component for the gate.

Charles Dickson explains “we are always looking to our past to build for our future here at the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, so I think this symbol is very appropriate.  Everything that the gate reflects is found inside the garden. The community is rapidly becoming Latino and this gate includes a universal understanding of space and time. The symbols are meant to inspire all across the board with no particular culture it’s supposed to represent. It’s supposed to represent all humanity“.