Save Freeway Murals – Los Angeles

This page tells of the art conservation efforts of this painting restoration lab to save the murals positioned on SoCal – Los Angeles freeways. This section contains information about protecting and maintaining public art, removing graffiti, graffiti protection and working to preserve and protect our community’s heritage, legacy and culture under difficult circumstances and in challenging locations.

Graffiti abatement on a mural

Graffiti removal from downtown LA mural by Kent Twitchell

1. In 2012 a new effort was made to maintain Los Angeles freeway murals and the other 1984 Olympic Games Celebration murals, mostly organized through the enthusiasm of CalTrans’ Vincent Moreno and the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.  Jim Morphesis Monument by Kent Twitchell was the first to be dug out from under 12 years of heavy graffiti. It is located on the 101 freeway under the Grand Ave. overpass. Click here to see videos and written info.

2. Fine Art Conservation Laboratories worked hand in hand with the Department of Cultural Affairs, CalTrans, The Hollywood Bowl, David Ryu LA City Councilman’s office
and the neighborhood organizations to undertake the sensitive issues surrounding the restoration of the 20 ft x 180 ft mural located in the Odin St. underpass used by semi trucks as the onramp for the 101 freeway next to the Hollywood Bowl.

Scott M. Haskins, Head of Conservation brought the “A” Team together with Luisa Pari and Anna Frassine with technician Denver Dillon to undertake the 3 week challenge of cleaning the 3,600 sq. ft painting, repainting damaged details and applying a heavy duty protective coating to facilitate future maintenance. Click here for the webpage and short video summary of the project


History of Mural Conservation – Restoration Efforts of 1984 Olympics Murals

10 living master muralists, commissioned for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, painted the 1984 Olympics murals series that adorned Downtown LA freeways with 13 monumental fabulous murals. The smallest of these murals is 15 feet high and 45 feet wide. The largest is 23 feet high and 300 feet long!! Since their placement on the freeways, however, vandalism graffiti has all but obliterated the fabulous, quality public works of art and has saddened millions of Los Angelinos and visitors. Once tagged, Caltrans has painted over most of the murals through the years with gray paint.

A definitive and actionable planning for this conservation – restoration and maintenance effort was put into action in April of 2011 when The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) invited FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins, art and mural conservator to meet on the freeways with Caltrans. It was proven that the gray overpaint by Caltrans can be removed and the original murals restored to look wonderful. Several graffiti removal processes were evaluated in a subsequent visit in June 2011 to the mural “Jim Morphesis Monument” with Caltrans’ Vincent Moreno and artist, Kent Twitchell. With the “adoption” of Jim Morphesis Monument and the raising of funds for its continued maintenance, graffiti removal tests were done to establish the cleaning and mural restoration processes. Combinations of methodology and materials specifically customized to meet the needs of this particular mural were evaluated with the purpose of discovering the right method to get the job done quickly (a necessary requirement while working on a freeway!) and be able to maintain it easily over time (as the mural gets retagged).

But, efforts have always fallen short when it comes to maintaining the murals and keeping the graffiti off. There have been a number of reasons for this but it boils down to establishing a professional, committed organization/team to follow through and work well with all the entities involved… and the consistency to “stay on it.” Recently, the newly organized Department of Cultural Affairs has implemented a strategy to have applied to murals a hard barrier varnish (not sacrificial) and has contracted with a company to remove the graffiti. The jury is still out.

Regarding the 1984 Olympic Murals, the results of FACL’s research and treatments for this mural have been applied by the artist’s of the murals to undertake or direct the conservation-restoration of the other 12 murals… all in all a great step forward in recuperating our city’s lost art monuments.

Fine Art Conservation Laboratories was contracted with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to provide art/mural consultation and treatment services for a 3 year period. This contract was just renewed. Numerous consultations and projects have resulted and FACL seems to be a preferred vendor as has been stated by the Department and the District’s Councilman’s Office. For example, Blue Moon Trilogy was done through this department. Click here:

11 Responses to Save Freeway Murals – Los Angeles

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