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Photo by Ruben Rojas/Beautify Earth

A turning point for Wende Museum of the Cold War 14 MIN, 39 SEC

Fifteen years ago Justinian Jampol began collecting the art, artifacts and detritus of the daily lives of people from the former Eastern Block.

This was the foundation for the Wende Museum of the Cold War, which now has a collection of 100,000 objects ranging from statues of political leaders and state-sanctioned art to tea towels, restaurant menus, military uniforms and toys like the Pittiplatsch hand puppets beloved by children in former East Germany. It is the largest collection of Soviet-era art and artifacts outside of Europe.

Now Wende -- German for "turning point" or "change" -- has gone through a big change of its own. It has moved from its longtime cramped space in a nondescript office park in Culver City to a permanent home in a space that comes with a nice historic twist: a National Guard Armory built by the US Army in 1949 with, says Jampol, "the explicit purpose of surviving a first strike of Soviet bombs."

With a big assist from many supporters, including art and design book publisher Benedikt Taschen and designer and preservationist Michael Boyd, the concrete bunker-like building has become an open, light-filled, unadorned space with galleries formed by movable partitions.

"Cold War Spaces" at the Wende Museum
Photo by Michael Underwood

The museum's inaugural exhibitions include Cold War Spaces, devoted to "public space, private space, Utopian space, secret space, outer space, etcetera. The show, says chief curator Joes Segal, is intended "to highlight different aspects of socialist life" from politicized public space to bunkers in the East Berlin Metro. It includes black and white photos of some choice Soviet-style brutalist architecture.

So what do former residents of the Soviet Union think about this museum? DnA talks to women who grew up in East Germany, and finds the objects trigger nostalgia for the happy aspects of childhood in an oppressive society that they remember nonetheless as secure and safe.

The Wende Museum's relaunch feels strangely timely, now the US is back in the shadow of the Cold War as a special prosecutor investigates whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

Justin Jampol promises lectures, programs and workshops that will engage the public in dialogue about past and present.

He told DnA, "the museum has a responsibility and a chance to really be a forum for civic engagement around so many of these themes that directly relate to the Cold War era... Open up a newspaper or look online and it's stories of Russia, North Korea and walls and surveillance and spying. And so these are very Cold War themes but they're contemporary as well."

Justinian Jampol, Founder of the Wende Museum (@wendemuseum)
Joes Segal, Utrecht University / Wende Museum
Antje Weser-Johnson, Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Ines Garstecki, Flowermaid
Angela Thompson, consultant

The Guardian: The Wende Museum opens its doors as the cold war opens another front
The Los Angeles Times explores the 100,000 item collection at the Wende Museum
LA Weekly coverage of Wende Museum's new home

Want to paint over an ugly wall? Beautify Earth needs you. 13 MIN, 52 SEC

"Dreamer" mural by Ruben Rojas, co-founder of Beautify Earth

When Evan Meyer found himself increasingly offended by an ugly bench in Santa Monica, he got a pot of paint and decorated it. So goes the origin story of Beautify Earth, a collective of artists dedicated to nothing less than "ending urban blight by painting the world in color."

Operating now in multiple cities and countries, the nonprofit brings together business owners, landlords, nonprofit foundations and artists with the goal of painting over blank walls with "positive," colorful and inspiring murals.

Now the public is invited to participate in the mission: Beautify Earth is putting out its first public call for submissions for murals for 2018. The deadline is December 1.

Ruben Rojas, an artist and co-founder of the group, talks to DnA about their mural-painting movement, what "beautify" means to them, when to leave a wall alone and how he got his start as an artist when he won a sixth grade competition.

Ruben Rojas, Beautify Earth (@Beautify_Earth)

Santa Monica's newest selfie moment: street art off the I-10

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