Pop-Life: Why Melrose Avenue is a Mecca for Graffiti Writers
Nachos soaked in thick, salty cheese, primed for the late night, were ready to be grabbed. Steam escaped from the taco trucks that lined the block, enclosing the action like a barricade. Clouds of Nag Champa incense serenely bowed to the bitter scent of Krylon spray paint, crawling from the electric mural until it enveloped spectators in a foggy haze. As the pristine, laced-up sneakers glided along the concrete canvas, a photographer perched nearby to capture photos. The artist smiled, motioning to the ground. The photographer quietly grinned, acknowledging the code. Pictures taken of a muralist should be captured from the jeans down. Exposing the identity of a street artist in the media could have fatal consequences, particularly if they're a member of the covert graffiti crews that infiltrate the underground. Street crews are responsible for some of the un-commissioned and therefore illegal murals on Melrose in Los Angeles. While these artists were commissioned for the night, some of the same people art bomb un-commissioned spaces. Spectators huddled in corners to watch the live art unfold at the FAME Festival.
Peppered with jewelers, crafters and emerging artists showcasing and selling their work, the monthly FAME Fest pop-up event occupies two spaces. Artists whose pieces sell for an upwards of $5000 are given space inside of the spiritually themed Ethos Gallery on the strip. Painters and crafters with work starting at $100 set-up shop in the adjacent parking lot facing Fairfax High School. Fairfax is home to the district's only public visual arts magnet program. The venue is also situated near the legendary Canter's Deli, one of oldest 24/7 restaurants and Hollywood hangout in California. Part of "Melrose Nights," a periodic retail event, FAME Fest creator Eddie Donaldson says that the temporary arts festival plays a viable role in the area's social revitalization. While historical L.A. landmarks remain the same, the surrounding culture that showcases, sells and processes art is rapidly changing. "They're all emerging artists, so the energy is high and the stakes even higher, because most of the people here are putting everything they have into what they do. They paint live while they're here. They create art on the spot. It's more of a for yourself and by yourself situation, versus an edited show by a gallery owner that picks what they want to see the best. The public gets to take it raw -- directly from the artist," he explains.