Museum Steps in as Budget Cuts Threaten Watts Towers

As the city of Los Angeles's budget faces deep cuts, money to pay for the upkeep of the city's iconic Watts Towers folk art installation has dried up. But a museum is stepping in to try to keep the Towers alive.
February 9, 2011, 10am PST | Nate Berg
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has taken over the operation of the Watts Towers -- and of marketing the art installation to Angelenos.

"Amid increased concern about the towers' fate, the City of Los Angeles, which operates the installation, last month contracted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to restore and maintain it; the three city workers in charge of taking care of the site were lost to budget cuts. The museum is turning to its donor network to raise money for the project - preliminary estimates put the initial restoration at $5 million - and not incidentally, to promote the installation to arts patrons in Los Angeles itself.

'The towers need care,' said Michael Govan, the museum's director. 'They are one of the most extraordinary works of art in the nation. I send everybody to see it; it is so compelling.'

But for the museum, promoting the towers might be as daunting as keeping them in shape. Mr. Janisse's tour group the other day consisted of five paying tourists, two of them from Italy. Officials said a majority of the 45,000 people who visit each year are from overseas. The Watts Towers may hold the twin distinctions of being perhaps the finest example of indigenous Los Angeles art and the least known, or least visited, by people who live in the region."

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 in The New York Times
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email