The Los Angeles Times’s Mike Boehm tells the story of the Watts Towers, a monumental piece of Outsider art that LA has decided to raise private money to maintain. The city will seek to establish a non-profit support group to raise the approximately $5 million that’s needed to restore the work:
One man may have made the towers, but stopping nature from unmaking it could depend on mustering a cooperative effort to fund its future. The Towers in Watts committee, which donated it to the city in 1975, has been at frequent loggerheads with officials over the last nine years. The state of California has owned the towers since 1978, taking ownership as a result of legal wrangling between the city and the citizens group. The city continues to maintain the towers and run guided tours on a lease extending to 2028.
In defense of what her department has done, Garay noted that consultants hired by the state parks department to study the towers’ condition and conservation techniques gave the city passing grades three years ago, finding that its work was “consistent with generally accepted standards.”
But she acknowledged that of 10 recommendations made by the consultants, Architectural Resources Group, just one has been fully implemented, another has been partly accomplished and the rest have gone unaddressed due to budget restrictions — including testing new materials to see whether they might be more effective in mending cracks than the epoxy that’s being used.
Garay said she has been in contact with the Getty Conservation Institute, a branch of the J. Paul Getty Trust that funds and lends expertise to art conservation projects around the world, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, whose director, Michael Govan, prizes the towers.
“We’re very early in the exploratory stages, but my hope is that civic pride will lead … these two gigantic entities to join forces with the city,” Garay said.
Overall, she said, $6.2 million has been spent on the towers’ upkeep since 1991 — about $3 million each from the city and the state, and $155,000 in grants from private foundations.
Strapped City Wants Donors for Watts Towers Conservation (Los Angeles Times)