It’s been years since I visited the Watts Towers (which blew my mind, they’re incredible, and I wish I could find the t-shirt with a picture of them ironed on to it that I bought out of a guy’s house next door), so things may have changed since then, but it was definitely my sense that they could make a fantastic linchpin for further artistic development if that was something the neighborhood and city thought would be valuable. And I’m definitely in favor of things that make it easier for folks to find their way to great public art, particularly if it brings more art to people where they live, so I’m excited to hear that there’s a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant headed to the area that will, among other things, create an arts trail from a historic train station to the Towers site.
A trickier question is whether to support a skate park that’s supposed to go in right next door to the towers. On one hand, it would definitely be obnoxious if the only development around the Watts Towers were geared at tourists who will make at most occasional excursions into the neighborhood. On the other, there are perhaps community projects that would be less likely to impact a fragile piece of folk art that even with seismic stabilization, can be damaged by bad windstorms. I don’t think teenagers are inherently bad or responsible people, but people have been known to act like fools in groups and accidents can happen. A more stringent review of the project that asks questions about how to make sure the Towers stay safe and plans for remediation if they’re damaged seems fairly reasonable. Hopefully, a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood will be able to balance benefits to art-lovers and neighborhood residents.