The DOT Box Art Story — Revealed!

by Gail Carlson

The first ever STNC Beautification Committee had set a goal in September, 2014 to get the DOT boxes painted with amazing art. We modestly started with a goal of 10. We put out a call to artists from October until December 2014.

We received 69 submissions. The community — mostly local women — wanted there to be community voting on the art and not merely the art chosen by the committee. So we held two separate voting locations (the YMCA and NVCH) on January 24, 2015. We had 129 people vote that day. All volunteers were present to tally the votes by non-committee members, to show objectivity. It took them six hours to tabulate the votes.

We got a top 25 list of the highest vote’s submissions.

Plan A began when I met in person with CM Felipe Fuentes on February 12th, 2015 in Pacoima with his Chief of Staff who was present taking notes. I present the top art voted on.

Felipe reviewed all the art and said he loved the artwork and these kinds of community programs. At that meeting I graciously asked him for financial support (like CM Huizar did) for the artists.

Felipe said he could help only with the art supplies, which came to an average of $100 per box, or $2,100. (I had changed the original plan of 10 boxes and said we are going to do all 21 boxes, so as not to go through an entire voting process again).

The artists would not be paid for their art but would volunteer their time.

Fuentes made the motion in city hall the next month on March 24, 2015, for funds from the city for: paint supplies AND anti-graffiti top coat paint, a total of $3,460. The motion passed.

Because Fuentes chose the local Rotary Club to funnel the city funds through a required 501(c)3 organization, that is what the motion read. He said it would be easy and his staff would handle all the processing of paper work with the various departments.

The following month, Wesley Hernandez, Area Director of the Tujunga field office for Fuentes, gave notice and moved on. The gap of communication on this very important project began then with the council office. The project stalled but I continued to persist in other directions and kept communication with all the artists.

Unfortunately neither Fuentes or his staff ever called or emailed the Rotary Club to ask if they could cover the insurance or help. He never told the Rotary that they had been chosen to help funnel the city funds for this project to the artists for paint. He never contacted the Rotary Club so that when the Bureau of Street Services (BOSS) finally sent the 32 page letter of agreement (LOA) nine months later to the Rotary Club, it was impossible for them to commit and agree to sign it.

They did not have enough funds and not enough of the type of insurance required in the LOA that was agreeable to the small club.

Plan B was to go back and forth with numerous CD7 representatives trying to get a neighborhood grant, or another 501(c)3, but nothing was getting done to officially change the motion to a different nonprofit from the Rotary, to one the city of LA often uses.

Then on in March, at the request of STNC President Mark Seigel, Board of Public Works Commissioner Monica Rodriguez attended the STNC board meeting. Plan C, a miracle, was about to begin. Monica and I connected. She asked if she could help me. I nearly cried with relief!

A year and one half of struggling with the city departments was weighing heavy on my heart as I felt abandoned by Felipe and meanwhile my own brother’s cancer began to spread. It is and was a difficult time for me.

So Monica agreed to meet with me on that following Saturday (March 12), at the Back Door Bakery, where I gave her a flash drive of all my files over the year, all the art, all the artists, the locations for each piece of art, and the funds broken down per person, etc.

Two weeks later Monica called me and said we got the green-light through Office of Community Beautification that had the motion transferred from BOSS, and our art was then approved by the office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

As of today, six of the 15 artists are starting their artwork nearly 18 months after it all began. I kept them informed each month and every single step of the way. I kept the STNC board and stakeholders in the meetings up to date as well.

The artists are now like my friends as we all went through this long process together! Many of the artists are very private and some do not want to be bothered or interviewed, as they are all unique.

It has begun. A vision which I had in July, 2014 to beautify our town came from visiting Ocean Beach, CA and loving their DOT box art, all with an ocean theme along otherwise drab city streets.

A passion and commitment to gather the artists, the committee and the STNC board to fully support this project into a reality drove it to fruition. I did it for nothing other than to make a difference, help promote the artists, and maybe get some publicity here in Sunland-Tujunga.

Trees, clean-ups and getting the DOT boxes painted with cool art: these three initial goals of the first two years of the Beautification

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