udy Baca created a mural in 1984 to mark the first time women were allowed to compete in Olympic Marathons and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently admitted to destroying the work of art after Baca threatened pursuing legal action. Although this is a tragic loss for the art community, this sort of misunderstanding of urban artworks runs rampant throughout America.

Hitting the Wall, 1984, Judy Baca

This is an excerpt of a speech from 1995 as Mayor Giuliani was Signing Anti-Graffiti Task Force Executive Order, "Graffiti is vandalism.  Where graffiti flourishes, communities suffer.  Graffiti intimidates residents.  It encourages street gangs.  It discourages tourists, lowers property values and invites other kinds of crime.   Graffiti painted New York City into a corner, but we don't have to stay there." This sort of antagonistic attitude towards art is very dated and we have to accept the fact that these pieces of art actually create the culture that these cities are trying to maintain by destroying them.

Fortunately some cities like Chicago have been changing their views on graffiti. In mid-April the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced a Mural Registry to protect murals in Chicago. The program will allow artists to register their works with the city to protect them from grave mistakes. It's too bad Los Angeles didn't have this sort of program.

Photos by
Judy Baca