Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Tim Tunks
Special to the Observer 

Arts administration isn't brain surgery-it's harder.

A 43-year Ocean Park resident wrote us about prospective problems with painting the parklet K-rails

 

November 16, 2020

K-rails are vulnerable to graffiti

Arts administration isn't brain surgery-it's harder.

With brain surgery, the person you have to please is happy if they wake up. If they don't wake up, they won't be around to be unhappy. With arts administration there are a lot more stakeholders who all must be led and cajoled and coordinated to fulfill their individual disparate roles before the installation is complete. Like sex, orchestral music and synchronized swimming, it's best when all finish at the same time-a feat requiring coordination and one that is difficult to accomplish without a certain amount of practice and experience.

The Main Street K-rail painting project should begin soon with $20,000 from the City and major project administration by BeautifyEarth.com. The parklet promoting cohort have visions of elegant beauty displayed on both sides of the thru traffic lanes-how could Al Fresco be anything but a huge commercial success? I predict they'll soon discover that much acreage of quality art is not magically produced, and it will be much more difficult to preserve it once finished. Another prediction, volunteer artists will be less likely to participate when they consider the difficult conditions they'd be working with and how vulnerable their art will be to modification and destruction.

I visited the BeautifyEarth.com website to review their impressive portfolio of mostly public space wall murals and images artfully executed, but I saw nothing like the challenging task these K-rails present. Let's get into the details of the project to see where devils reside:

The cement surfaces have to be cleaned and prime painted with some graffiti proof filler paint, something complicated by the various parklet improvements now in place that will have to be either protected or removed. The recruited troop of artists will submit sketches of their proposed artwork for approval from some, as yet, unidentified agency according to some, as yet, unspecified criteria.

Assume a sufficient number of artists and images to treat all the K-rails materialize (How lousy would it look if this was just a partial job with many left unadorned?) and assume also that there is enough time before the holidays to complete the work. Assigning artists and images to their locations, scheduling, arranging for safety barricades to protect the squatting painters, and transporting materials from secure storage places to their assigned K-rail when all is ready for work-all must be coordinated with the regular Main Street activities.

The K-rail surfaces are subject to physical abuse and will require regular cleaning to remove soot and road filth-hopefully, not removing difficult to re-touch decorative paint details. (As a show designer in Las Vegas 45 years ago, I was regularly called upon to retouch scenery damaged during transit. Matching paint color was hard enough without the challenge of outdoor weathering effects.)

I wonder how much say will individual store owners have on what images sit in front of their display windows?

Were I the King with the power to revamp this project, I know what I'd do. I'd define a manageable concept focused on the designs and materials required to execute them, as opposed to first recruiting a bunch of individual artists each charged with submitting their own sketched ideas for approval as is the case now. Then I'd seek out a paint materials expert and a talented color consultant to produce a pleasant palette to paint each block its own solid color, assembling vivid rainbows and rhythmic patterns when looking down the street. Perhaps some stenciled images or identifying signage in the specified font and size could be applied by the individual business operators to the K-rails fronting their establishments, if they so desired.

Imagine if instead power spray equipment using durable specialized paint worked in a staging yard last June, the K-rails would have been painted the day they were set in the street. That's what I'd do if I were King. Soon we'll see how the present plan works out, and I hope it won't be as bad as I fear.

This recent graffiti attack will be easily over-painted but graffiti abatement will be dramatically more difficult after the crew of artists decorate them as planned. Perhaps it's time to re-think the plan.

Tim Tunks is a 43-year resident of Ocean Park

 

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