It Takes a Village to Keep the Watts Towers Safe

The cultural landmark gets attention (but not the kind we love) from Washington D.C.
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The Watts Towers gained a bit of national recognition this week, but not for a happy reason: The outdoor sculpture composed of salvaged steel, seashells, tile, glass, wire mesh, and concrete by Simon Rodia was included on a list of 11 at-risks sites released by Washington D.C.’s Cultural Landscape Foundation.

The Towers, which were built over 34 years and completed in 1955, are well known to conservationists. The Federal Emergency Management Agency doled out nearly $2 million to fix the Towers after they were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Inspections and maintenance—provided by the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles County Museum—are now routine.

“By their very nature, the Watts Towers have special needs in terms of restoration, continued maintenance, and preservation,” says Danielle Brazell, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. (We profiled Brazell in our September issue.) “The Watts community has been fierce advocates for the Towers, and the City has a responsibility to repair, restore, conserve, and preserve them for future generations to view and appreciate. As the stewards of this National Historic Monument, Mayor Garcetti, with the full support of the City Council, allocated $2 million in funds for the next phase of the restoration scheduled to begin in 2015.”

“To date, we have been very pleased with the incredible resources LACMA has provided to oversee the seismic testing and initial repairs on the site, with the support of Michael Govan for our partnership, and for the institutional commitment to ensure the Towers remain intact and safe,” she added. “It will continue to take a village to keep these remarkable sculptures safe for generations to come.”

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