[UPDATE: CityBeat's archive no longer online. Glad to have preserved what I did.]
As though to compensate for the weird cover on LACMA last week, CityBeat this week catches up wtih Sandow Birk, who's mural for the percent-for-art element of the Hollenbeck Police Station makeover has been criticized in some quarters as condescending:
Only the story isn’t so simple as an elite outsider cocking a snook at a working-class community. “I’m really quite distressed that there’s been such an outcry on what I think is a great project, and that the criticisms are so outlandish and false,” Sandow Birk let me know via e-mail. “The LAPD was involved in the project at every step of the way, and the imagery in the mural was suggested by LAPD officers from Hollenbeck station themselves. This has been a huge project that has been going on for five years, from planning to coming up with a design to the final creation of the mural. At every meeting that I have attended there have been LAPD members and community members involved. They told me stories about the history of the precinct, gave me a tour of the facilities, and showed me their favorite places to eat, as well as memorabilia and stories of remarkable police officers. All of their input was used in the creation of the final design.”
As a long-ago arts admin for the City, I can only add that my experience is that the LAPD was the easiest City agency of all to work with when working on an arts project. (What was the most difficult? The Libraries, of course, because everyone there already knew everything about art, as they kept telling us). And as a guy who's spent an afternoon of classroom time with Birk myself I have to say that the guy is a very dexterious thinker as well as an intriguing artist.