It was SCRATCH exhibit Family Festival day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA). It was a September Sunday, the first day of fall, which started slightly overcast and happily turned into a gorgeous day in El Segundo, California.
Family festival events included (in addition to admiring the exhibit’s art):
- face painting,
- mask decorating with PETAL and BLOSM, and
- drumming with DEMER.
Discounts were available from festival partners, Havana Sandwich Co and Blue Butterfly Coffee Company. Attendees were invited to share their SCRATCH memories on Facebook and Instagram using @esmoaorg and #scratch.
The exhibit took almost two years from idea to SCRATCH exhibit opening. Idea genesis began with Ed Sweeney noticing that some street artists would carry black books for recording their art ideas. Ed got in touch with Marcia Reed, chief curator at Getty Research Institute, to express interest in creating something similar to the street artists’ black books.
David Brafman, Ph.D., rare books curator at the Getty Research Institute, was brought into the mix to bring the project to life. He being the same David who stood on the art covered floor of ESMoA on opening day to share the story of the events leading up to the SCRATCH exhibit and to voice appreciation for those who helped bring the vision to life.
Energy was electric on that opening day, June 8, 2014. The paint on the walls was barely dry. Artists were still scratching the day before. If you visited the exhibit those first days, you would notice a mere 106 days later on closing day that there have since been some tweaks to the walls and the floors.
The floors were being organically transformed with black tape necessitated by the floors buckling. An interesting turn of events considering the floors had organically become part of the SCRATCH exhibit.
As DEMER was setting up his drums, he shared that he is more than a drummer. That’s right! He plays piano too.
And for those who know, DEMER and his RTN (rocking the nation) crew were responsible for the art displayed on the left wall toward the back of the SCRATCH exhibit.
DEMER shared that originally the artists thought the floors put down over ESMoA’s floors were intended as a sort of drop cloth for the painting going on the walls. He mentioned there was a lot of down time for the artists during the installation.
“What’s an artist to do?”
That’s right! Find an empty space and draw something. As the floor began to come alive with art, a discussion ensued about keeping the floors as part of the exhibit. All were not in favor.
Once it was decided the floors would be part of the SCRATCH exhibit, DEMER shared,
“We just sort of went for it.”
Museum staff didn’t expect that the floor would not hold up to all the foot traffic from exhibit goers. They never expected to have over 9,000 people visit the exhibit during the three days a week ESMoA is open (Fri. – Sun.) and special events.
Museum staff was also pleased and surprised with the diversity of exhibit attendees. Very interesting and exciting since some early responses to SCRATCH appeared to have removed the scab on the debate wound:
“Is graffiti art?”
ESMoA took a chance to house this exhibit. Not to take anything away from showcased art of dead artists, which seems to be the fare of most museums; the SCRATCH exhibit of live artists and their scratchings conjured a dynamic, alive and inviting energy. They built it and people showed up.
Sometimes this examiner wonders,
“If no one sees it, is it really art?”
It’s great to be acknowledged for your talents. The artists scratching graffiti will, no doubt, continue doing so whether anyone else deigns to peep or call their creations art or not. The interest and popularity of the SCRATCH exhibit is surely testament that there are those other than “scratchers” who believe graffiti is art. The Black Book created for this exhibit will become part of the Getty’s permanent collection. Surely further testament that graffiti is being considered, if not art, for sure museum exhibit worthy.
With the exhibit’s end, SCRATCH’s wall and floor panels will be gathered and stored in Getty facilities. So far, there has been no decision made what will be done with the panels. Perhaps they may travel around the country or be sold at auction. Considering the usual temporary nature of most graffiti, the permanence of these items could create countless possibilities for the legacy of the graffiti genre in years to come.
The official closing time for the exhibit was 5 p.m. While standing outside waiting for a photo op to signify the official end of SCRATCH, this exhibit’s impact amplified.
An ESMoA neighbor, pushing a stroller, walked by and joyfully greeted one of the museum’s docents. The neighbor thanked the docent for the exhibit and expressed their sadness for its ending.
The yellow t-shirt clad docent replied that she was probably going to go home, go to bed and cry. The experience meant that much to her. She would miss SCRATCH and it would be her way of mourning its passing.
At 5:28 p.m. with the closing and locking of the glass front doors, and the lowering of the privacy shield at the entrance to ESMoA, the exhibit known as SCRATCH ended.