Towers73 WTAC - 1999

Coming soon...The Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz and The Day of the Drum Festivals

THE WATTS TOWERS ART CENTER was founded by a number of citizens concerned with the restoration and preservation of the historic Towers of Simon Rodia and the cultural well-being of a community ravaged by the civil unrest of 1965. From its earliest beginnings in 1965, the Center offered free, though informal, art classes.

The first of which were held under a canvas tarp on the original foundation of Simon Rodia's house. The art center then moved into an abandoned house and finally into the building where the art center is housed today. During the early years, Noah Purifoy provided guidence and direction with aid from other artists in the Los Angeles Community.

The present 2,000 sq. ft. facility was dedicated on March 1, 1970. It housed two galleries, an education area, offices and it offered activities ranging from painting and drawing to modern dance. Construction of the facility was funded almost entirely from donations generated by the community.

The campaign that came to be known as "One Square Inch" invited patrons of the developing art center to contribute $1.00 for each square inch of the building. During this period activities at the Center were under the direction of Curtis Tan, a well-respected artist and educator in the community who chaired the Simon Rodia Advisory Committee.

In 1976 Committee turned the Center over to the City of Los Angeles Municipal Arts Department which held its official dedication on June 23rd of that same year.

Mr. John Otterbridge, now a world renoun artist and sculptor, was selected as the first director of the Center and remained at its head for almost two decades until his retirement in 1992.

In 1977, Mr. Otterbridge, with the assistance of Alonzo Davis of the Brockman Gallery organized the first Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival. In 1981, the Day of the Drum Festival began featuring drummers and percussionists from around the world. Both of the annual Festivals run concurrently on the last weedend of the month of September. Both events embrace multi-cultural internationalism and draw crowds from all over the country and the world.

In 1989, Dr. Joseph Howard, one of the leading authorities and collectors of percussion instruments in the world, donated a portion of his extensive collection of percussion instruments to the Center.

Today, with Mark Greenfield as its Center Director, the Center continues its tradition of providing a diverse selection of programs designed for the cultural enrichment of the community of Watts, the City of Los Angeles and the world. Mark has continued to develop programs utilizing both the local artist and Watts community and has successfully maintained excellence in the Center's array of new activities and its traditional programs since taking over in 1994.

Edited Art Center information text excerpted from brochures and handouts courtesy the Watts Towers Art Center.

Want more information call: 213.309.1035

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Revised January 2013