The streets are alive with public art

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If you have visitors in town and you want to show them some art, do you take them to a museum or gallery or do you simply ride, walk or drive the streets of Los Angeles -- with your eyes wide open?

You might choose the latter, because right now the streets are alive with public art, some of commissioned by the City and Department of Cultural Affairs or by Metro, some of it appearing overnight on walls around town.

So if you ride the newly opened Gold Line Foothill or Expo Line extensions, you can check out artworks at each station. Judithe Hernandez was responsible for the glass mosaic panels entitled LA Sonata at the 4th and Colorado station in downtown Santa Monica.

"I decided to take every iconic cultural image I could find that was appropriate and weave them into a tapestry of Los Angeles, the remarkable diversity that is here. And tell the story of the passage of the day on one side of the platform and the passage of the seasons on the other," Hernandez said.

Or there's this summer's temporary public art biennial, Current:LA Water, featuring conceptual artworks that address the topic of the Southland's relationship to water.

Sunday, August 14 is the final day for Current:LA Water and to close there will be lots of programming. There are family friendly workshops, there's a gardening expo at Bowtie Parcel with artist Mel Chin, musical performances at Norman Houston Park in Baldwin Hills, and on Saturday and Sunday night you can watch video projections at First Street Bridge. The images were derived from mapping LA's underground aquifers.

The goal behind the Current LA work is that it is highly participatory, not just artwork that is large-scale to look at; the artists created experiences for the residents to interact with.

"Current LA flips the traditional biennial model over and it takes art out of the four walled environment and into our neighborhoods, along our waterways and into communities, creating access to art for the people of our great city," said Danielle Brazell, general manager of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs.

Another piece getting a lot of attention is "Liquid Shard," a shimmering kinetic sculpture by Patrick Shearn in downtown LA's Pershing Square.

Then there is street art. You may remember back when murals were being painted over as fast as they appeared. Ever since the passage of a mural ordinance in 2013 we've seen the reemergence of murals on LA's walls.

It took a while to get started and there's a fair amount of bureaucracy so some murals are sanctioned while others didn't go through the process. It requires a $60 registration fee, the registrant has to hold a community meeting to vet the proposed mural image with the building's neighbors, the building owner must get the final registration "covenant" notarized, and a protective, anti-graffiti coating — the city shares this expense— must be applied.

You can find a flowering on Abbot Kinney in Venice, in the downtown art district and the commercial downtown area. You can find them on Melrose, and in Pacoima which has "mural mile," and in Historic Filipinotown -- where, since 2015, more than 80 artists from all over the world have turned the neighborhood's alleys, buildings, and parking lots into an outdoor art gallery.

And there's a whole new crop of murals on Lincoln and Pico Avenue in Santa Monica. They are the work of a nonprofit called Beautify Earth, whose work on the west side is helmed by Ruben Rojas.

They reach out to private businesses and ask if they'd like their walls painted, and they are doing this with approval from the City of Santa Monica.

How are people responding?

According to Beautify Earth, businesses report an uptick in revenue when they decorate their wall or are part of a cluster of decorated walls, as it indicates pride in and commitment to the neighborhood.

Now the Current LA organizers have been collecting data at each site, trying to find out how people are reacting when an artwork appears in their neighborhood.

And some are indicating they wish it wasn't being dismantled.

Photo: "Liquid Shard," 2016, by Patrick Shearn (Chris Valle via YouTube)