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To the business owners on Melrose Avenue, the outdoor walls and streets are covered with art worthy of a museum. Last Thursday, they announced a new initiative intended to better realize that idea.
“The basic concept is that Melrose Avenue will be a museum of street art,” said Donald Duckworth, executive director of the Melrose Business Improvement District (BID). “The BID can play a roll as an intermediary, working with the property owners, the city and the artists — hiring a curator like Justin Bua.”
The Melrose Mural Project was announced at a special pop-up show featuring the work of well-known streets artists such as Dytch66, Slick, Annie Preece and Jules Buck.
Bua is a street artist better known as BUA. He is also the host of “Street Art Throwdown” on the Oxygen Network. As curator of the Melrose Mural Project, he said it was important to approach the project carefully. The street artists crew known as CBS (often interpreted as Can’t Be Stopped, but not always) has painted on Melrose Avenue for as many as three decades.
“Here, you are dealing with real people … you are dealing with a legitimate crew, CBS, who have basically run the Melrose street since about 1983,” Bua said. “So all of the great work up here, most of the work here is done by CBS, so you have to walk a really fine line.”
The Melrose Mural Project’s eventual goals include bringing in new artists to collaborate with members of CBS, painting over some murals or adding to them, and having approximately 10 to 15 walls that could be the main crux of the outdoors museum. A cellphone app could act as a guide through the district.
“We’re trying to pay homage to CBS and art,” Bua said. “What is really attractive about Melrose, and different than almost every place in L.A. and the world, is the art. It’s so completely saturated with history and art history.”
Street artist and CBS member Dytch66 had several pieces in the pop-up show. He described his style as a 3-D interpretation, with an organic and fluid metal feel.
“It’s more of a modern version of the traditional style,” he said.
He has produced murals in many locations across the city, including at Melrose and Curson avenues, at Melrose and La Brea avenues and at La Brea Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard.
Sometimes a business owner will approach the artists and sometimes — like in the case of a wall near the intersection of La Brea Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard — an artist like Dytch66 will see the potential and approach the owner.
He is reluctantly optimistic about the Melrose Mural Project.
“If everything is what it is supposed to be, that would be great,” he said. “Everything could build and grow. People could see our work and it would make things more official and give a better understanding to us, since as a community, I think people are still confused.”
Dytch66 said he believes it is necessary to take any negotiations slowly and carefully, but he added that street artists could always use more support.
Bua said he and his team are examining all the walls — blank and with art — for the best way to curate the project.
“If we got between 10 and 15 really powerful walls, that would be really important,” he said. “We’re trying to be slow and calculated at the start. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. There is a rich history. At the same time, you want to make Melrose the spot.”
Duckworth added that by embracing the street artists’ history on Melrose, the business and culture could really benefit along the street.
“Part of that is attracting people and creating a buzz and establishing this area as the art center of Los Angeles, which it truly and historically has been,” he said.
Melrose Avenue also has a history of nuisance graffiti and tagging, which will have to be navigated, officials said.
“That area has always been a hotspot for vandalism, and our contractors really have to meet up with it on a daily basis regarding the nuisance stuff there, including on the historical murals,” said Paul Racs, director of the Los Angeles Office of Community Beautification.
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