Veterans claim bias against vet in Metro’s selection of muralist for new VA station

Art photos Jazz historyAmerica culture of violence and the War corruption.

It was the latter subject—particularly the side-by-side imagery of a US soldier and suicide bomber titled “Hero” and “Hero 2″—that set a target on the Sandow Birk. Commission to create a huge mural on the grounds of West Los Angeles dedicated to the veterans of America’s wars.

Stirred by artistic expression they find disrespectful, veterans’ groups are demanding that Burke be replaced with an artist who served in the military and who will produce a mural on the project’s veteran themes to adorn the under-construction metro station on the Virginia campus.

Rob Reynolds of Amvets Post 2 said. “When people get off the train, they should look up and see a mural that tells the 135-year history of the Soldier’s Home property. It’s very special land. Veterans from every conflict since the Civil War have lived there.”

Known for his richly detailed and vibrant large-scale mosaics of blue and white tiles, Burke was one of 17 artists selected by Metro last spring to create works at four Westside stations along the Violet Line. His work would cover an 11-foot by 156-foot wall at concourse level at Virginia Station. His design previews show a panoramic view of Los Angeles from prehistoric times to the present.

The artist-selecting panel was filled with Westside art institutions such as the UCLA School of Art and Architecture, the Hammer Museum in Westwood, and the Beverly Hills Arts and Culture Commission and includes just one veteran, Artist Michael Amescua.

Veterans groups, which have long fought battles with the VA over use of the 388-acre campus, are calling for Deaf Metro not to consult them about the artist’s choice or vision for such a symbolically charged site.

Veteran Dan Ortiz, speaking at the A.J January 3 special meeting Subpoenaed by the Los Angeles County Veterans Affairs and Military Committee to air complaints.

said Diego Garcia of the named ad hoc alliance The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, The name has long been associated with the land given to the US government in 1887 for use by war veterans.

The committee pushed the issue to its next regular meeting on Wednesday to give Metro a chance to respond.

Officials with the Metro Technical Program said they would make a strong case that they involved veterans in planning the station. They said the artists who were commissioned to do two of the four works met with veterans’ groups, went on field trips and incorporated the work of veterans into their designs.

Mural painter from Los Angeles Eloy Torrescreator of Anthony Quinn’s famous downtown dance mural, has depicted the lives of five war veterans in large canvases on the train platform.

There was little veteran involvement in Burke’s proposal. His required community counseling consisted of an urban sketching tour and an interview with Brentwood Arts Center on Zoom.

In that interview, he outlined his concept for the wall as a panoramic view of Los Angeles from prehistoric times to the present, including dinosaurs, scenes from early farm life, and vintage vehicles, but there are only three references to the veterans’ campus, the historic Wadsworth Chapel, a barbershop, and a base. souvenir.

Noting the need for a military component, he suggested images of ships rather than people—a battleship and a submarine named Los Angeles.

In his application to Metro, Burke submitted his large-scale public art, not gallery work that included the corruption of the War series. But the veterans found it, with just one click on Google, they said. After they spoke, the “Hero 2” title disappeared under the bomber’s photo on Birk’s website.

The ill feeling about the mural was exacerbated by the VA’s history of leasing parts of the land to it Non-seasoned uses Including UCLA baseball stadium and nearby Brentwood High School athletic field. In a 2015 settlement of a lawsuit brought by veterans groups, the VA agreed to build thousands of housing units and ensure that the stadium and athletic field are used primarily for veterans. But new lawsuit pending in federal court alleging that the VA failed to live up to its promises.

“The VA has failed even to consult veterans about plans to build, and recently expand, UCLA’s modern baseball facilities on land where the VA is required to build permanent supportive housing,” the suit said.

Veterans also say the decision to place the station on the Virginia campus, less than a mile west of a station in the heart of Westwood, surprised them when they saw construction begin in 2019.

“Everyone found out at the last minute,” Reynolds said. “Back in 2019. I remember a bunch of VAs cutting down trees. They found out the subway was coming.”

It was exacerbated by Metro’s plan to take out part of a mural by the late Navy Veteran Peter Stewart This is revered as a national memorial for Vietnam Veterans. Although most of the 23,000 square feet of murals, including dozens of unit insignia, will be made available on the Wilshire Boulevard tunnel, portraits of service members will be removed on a sidewalk 115 feet from the street.

To compensate, Metro was assigned LA Art Collection piece by piece To consult with the veterans on the mosaic to be installed on the facing wall.

Even some veterans Consider the station a violation.

NHDVS’ Francisco Juarez told the committee, “We demand that the station not be public and be used only for veterans and their families,” acknowledging that it was too late to prevent its construction. Juarez said he sees the project as another intervention on the use of land to house veterans.

A Los Angeles cyclist nears the Veterans Mural on Wilshire Street and Bonsall Street near Virginia Hospital in West Los Angeles.

A Los Angeles cyclist nears the Veterans Mural on Wilshire Street and Bonsall Street near Virginia Hospital in West Los Angeles on Tuesday.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

But Anthony Allman, the outgoing chairman of the county’s Military and Veterans Commission, said he believes the station will benefit both veterans who travel to use a VA hospital and the growing veteran residents of the community as housing is added in coming years.

“I think having a metro on campus is great,” Allman said in an interview. “It will improve their quality of life. Do you want to go downtown to an event? Take the train.”

Allman is the CEO of the company veterinary defenceInc., a nonprofit organization created to support the redevelopment of the West Los Angeles campus that was ordered at 2011 lawsuit settlement.

Like other veterans, though, Allman believes Metro has misframed the station as Westwood/VA Hospital’s discontinuation. He said that veterans do not consider the campus to be part of Westwood, and the name should include the property’s historic name, Pacific Branch.

In recent history, he said, the Department of Veterans Affairs viewed the campus as the center of health care operations.

“We were trying to restore it as a home for veterans,” he said. “That’s why naming is so important.”

Metro officials said it’s not too late to reformulate the name, which is a placeholder used for planning only. An official name will be chosen later, after six months’ arrival. The final name must meet several criteria, including brevity and suitability for travelers.

“Obviously the name of the station influences the artwork,” Allman said. “By defining the name, we have an opportunity to refocus the art on the history of the property, rather than what it is about.”

Metro officials aren’t so sure. Although the station isn’t scheduled to open until 2027, the artists are “working to get their designs to the point where they’re ready to share them with the public, which we expect to be very soon,” said Claire Hagarty, art department and director of community enrichment for Metro.

Allman said the committee will hear from Metro, then consider whether to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. It will be advisory only, and the moderators cannot dictate the subway.

Allman said he would not vote against Burke, who admires his large-scale Portuguese blue-and-white mosaic.

“I totally dig it,” he said. “This is a beautiful thing.”

He hopes the committee will be revised to require veteran participation, possibly by bringing in veteran interns.

“I don’t think we can just say cancel the artist,” he said. “We can work through this.”

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