Taking the Art to the Streets: How the Citizens of Los Angeles Saved Watts Towers

Taking the Art to the Streets: How the Citizens of Los Angeles Saved Watts Towers

When the assorted community activists and artists banded together in 1959 to save Sabato Rodia’s Towers from City bureaucrats who decreed demolition, sneering that if Pisa’s Leaning Tower were in L.A. they’d take that down too, the genre of art environments had not yet even been defined. Those ―ordinary‖ citizens, whose fight against City Hall was later buoyed by national names like Buckminster Fuller and Carl Sandburg, only knew that this was a series of sculptures and monuments that enlivened their spirits, and that they must not be destroyed. They worked hard to do so—and are still working hard, more than fifty years after the success of the stress test proving that the Towers were strong and stable, capable of withstanding any earthquake, hail storm, or rain torrent that might occur in L.A.—and some of the original Committee members, along with new recruits, are still clashing with City departments in order to ascertain that the ongoing conservation work is done correctly and professionally.