Artist Ruben Soto has been locked in a decades long campaign to keep his mural on a public stairway across from Echo Park Lake free of tagging and graffiti. But when the name of a movie website was scrawled on the mural last week, Soto didn’t complain. In fact, it was Soto who painted “www.Willoughbythemovie.com” on the stairway walls to promote the movie he co-produced. Soto said he does not consider what he did tagging and won’t clean it up until the movie is shown at a screening this week.
“A lot of the mural has been wiped. out,” said Soto, who painted the mural as part of the 1984 Olympics. “So I decided to use it as a promotion type of thing for my movie.”
It’s not clear whether the laws that protect public murals also allow artists to turn them into billboards promoting other work. But the head of the neighborhood nonprofit in charge of painting out tagging, Central City Action Committee, said she can’t clean up the Soto mural on busy Glendale Boulevard until the city works out an agreement with the artist. Maryanne Hayashi said her group has had to pay in the past for painting over tagging on other murals without the artist’s permission. “We are not allowed to remove graffiti from any mural,” she said.
Hayashi said this is the first time she recalls a muralist painting over his own work.
Soto, who lives in Eagle Rock, said he might use some of the money he makes off the movie, which premiers at a downtown movie theater, to restore his murals. “Hopefully, you can come.”