the Watts Towers Arts Center


Contact: Rosie Lee Hooks, Director
Phone: 213.847.4646


How One Woman’s Punishment for Putting Up a Mural Has Exposed a Deep, Bitter Divide in the Los Angeles Art Community >> 

Dear Friends,

Once again, I must call upon you to join us in support of the Watts Towers Arts Center and its staff. 

You may already know that the Civil Service Commission has revoked WTAC Campus Director Rosie Lee Hooks’ suspension on charges that were proven false. However, as you will learn in the letter to Mayor Garcetti (below), the Department of Cultural Affairs has refused to apologize for the suspension, leaving in authority over the Campus the official who knowingly presented false testimony under oath!

While providing world-class services to the community and all the visitors to the Watts Towers, Ms. Hooks and her staff remain working for a department that appears intent to remove its director for her advocacy for Watts, instead of giving the site the greater resources it needs and deserves.  


1.      Put your name to the letter below (under “signed”)

2.      Make whatever changes in the letter you feel will best reflect your perspective.  

3.      Copy and paste in the Subject line: “Mr. Mayor, Concern about honesty in your administration”

4.      Copy and paste the Mayor’s email address in the TO line.

5.      Copy and paste all the other email addresses in the CC line

6.      Send!

Please help us protect the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, its director and its staff so they can continue to work for the people of Watts, for the City of Los Angeles and for the true spirit of art embodied in Rodia’s Towers.

Thank you for your support!



Mail To:



Cc to: 

barbara.romero@lacity.org; ashley.stracke@lacity.org; kirkpatrick.tyler@lacity.org; nicole.serrano@lacity.org; edith.vega@lacity.org; mike.n.feuer@lacity.org; controller.galperin@lacity.org; joel.jacinto@lacity.org; mike.davis@lacity.org; joe.buscaino@lacity.org; david.ryu@lacity.org; councilmember.wesson@lacity.org; paul.koretz@lacity.org; councilmember.krekorian@lacity.org; councilmember.blumenfield@lacity.org; councilmember.englander@lacity.org; councilmember.price@lacity.org; councilmember.rodriguez@lacity.org; councilmember.martinez@lacity.org; councilmember.huizar@lacity.org; councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org; councilmember.bonin@lacity.org; councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org; cherie.wetheall@lacity.org; danielle.brazell@lacity.org; daniel.tarica@lacity.org; leslie.a.thomas@lacity.org; kelan10@att.net; markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov; hamilton.cloud@mail.house.gov;

terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov; patricia.camacho@mail.house.gov; francisco.lopez@mail.house.gov; michelle.chambers@asm.ca.gov; holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov; sawoods@parks.ca.gov; leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov; anne.bown.crawford@arts.ca.gov; wattstowerscac@gmail.com   


Subject: Mr. Mayor, Concern about honesty in your administration


Dear Mayor Garcetti,


A few months ago, those who support the Watts Towers Arts Center (WTAC) Campus wrote you to ask if you cared about Watts. Now I write because, at the October 16 meeting of the Mayor’s Office Watts Towers Arts Center Interdepartmental Task Force, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) openly rejected honest engagement with Campus staff and community support groups.


The WTAC Campus and its staff provides exemplary and irreplaceable arts education and exhibitions to the Watts community and to visitors and scholars from all over the world who come to the Watts Towers, the only tourist site in Watts – Sabato Rodia’s “Nuestro Pueblo” – the unique masterwork of architectural sculpture standing as a beacon of freedom and initiative for all of us, no matter what our origin.


Instead of helping to provide the site with much-needed resources, the DCA under General Manager Danielle Brazell has put the Campus staff under unnecessary duress in a three-year effort to bring repeated charges of wrongdoing against Campus Director Rosie Lee Hooks, an internationally renowned and beloved arts educator and administrator. In defending Ms. Hooks against these attempts to diminish her professional and personal reputation, her union – the Engineers and Architects Association (EAA) – has succeeded in overturning all charges in three successful arbitrations, as well as in a recent decision made by the Civil Service Commission.


In response to this decision, Watts community support groups asked Ms. Brazell to apologize for suspending Ms. Hooks in April, 2018, for not following appropriate procedures in having a mural painted of Charles Mingus in 2017 on a Campus building named for the jazz giant. In July, 2018, DCA Director of Community Arts Leslie Thomas knowingly testified falsely at Ms. Hooks’ appeals hearing that she had been informed of public art procedures at a May 5, 2016, meeting. On September 13, 2018, the Civil Service Commission revoked Ms. Hooks’ three-week suspension after being presented with irrefutable documentation that she was in transit to South Africa at the time of that meeting. Further repudiating Mr. Thomas’ trumped up basis for DCA’s case, it was shown that Ms. Hooks had never received formal notice about the new procedures. One commissioner called the entire case “ridiculous and a waste of time” and the EAA has issued a formal complaint to Ms. Brazell.  


On October 16, at the Mayor’s Office WTAC Interdepartmental Task Force meeting – before a City Commissioner, representatives of your office, other city departments and community groups – MS. BRAZELL REFUSED TO APOLOGIZE FOR MS. HOOKS’ SUSPENSION OR TO REMOVE MR. THOMAS FROM HIS SUPERVISORY DUTIES OVER THE WTAC CAMPUS… “IN ACCORDANCE,” she said, “WITH MY OATH TO UPHOLD THE LOS ANGELES CITY CHARTER.” With disrespect to Watts, dismissing community concerns and belying her own understanding of the City Charter, Ms. Brazell refused to even acknowledge the official findings of the Civil Service Commission or the ethical questions DCA’s actions have raised. This is entirely unacceptable.  


I stand with the Friends of the WTAC, the Watts Towers Community Action Council, the Parents of the WTAC Campus, the Watts/Century Latino Organization, the Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative and the Watts Neighborhood Council in demanding that Ms. Brazell recognize her responsibility in suspending Ms. Hooks on the basis of a falsehood, no matter whether through intention, ignorance or incompetence. She must also begin to relieve the undue stress upon WTAC staff by removing Mr. Thomas from all authority over the site.


Mr. Mayor, please ensure your entire constituency that the actions and decisions made by the officials of your administration are performed in accord with the ethical principles of responsible governmental leadership. Dishonesty and disrespect have no place in public policy.




November 2018

Sam (Simon) Rodia, builder of the Watts Towers - a portrait.

I Build the Tower is the true story of the life and work of Sam Rodia, the Italian immigrant who built the world-famous Watts Towers on a residential lot in South Central Los Angeles. Rodia's Watts Towers, designated as a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1990, are now a component site of the California State Parks, managed by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.
Edward Landler got practical production experience with Satyajit Ray in India and Luis Bunuel in France, and worked on independent feature films in the United States. His first film, "Pharaoh's Dream", an experimental short, was shot in Calcutta and Los Angeles.
He is a founder and former president of the Independent Feature Project/Los Angeles (now Film Independent), a non-profit support organization for independent filmmakers and has taught film at California State University, Northridge, Woodbury University, and U.C.L.A. Extension. He is a regular contributor to CineMontage, the magazine of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and is currently completing a cultural history of film.

Ed Landler and Brad Byer, who is the maternal great-nephew of Sam Rodia of the Watts Towers.

Brad Byer is the maternal great-nephew of Sam Rodia, the creator of the Watts Towers. Over 20 years, Landler and Byer collaborated to make I Build the Tower. They started working together to make the film in 1983, when they shot the last filmed interview with R. Buckminster Fuller who provided a structural analysis of the Watts Towers. Since that time, their efforts to produce the definitive work on Rodia's achievement have become part of the history of the towers.
Byer died in 2012. Landler is still strongly involved with the Watts Towers and the Watts Towers Arts Center.
Q&A with director Edward Landler after the screening.

The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BAD West) is a professional organization providing people of African descent working in documentary film, video or other media the opportunity to network professionally, share resources, exchange ideas and meet socially in order to enhance the development, production, promotion and exhibition of documentaries. The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West also advocates the recognition and professional advancement of Black documentary filmmakers.

Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook

www.BADWest.org - Copyright (c) All rights reserved 2000-2010
Contact us: badwestla@gmail.com- (213) 534-6635
Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West 
14431 Ventura Blvd PMB #115
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 

Watts Towers Arts Center & Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center

We are extremely grateful to our Support Groups for generating so much support for our Programs, Exhibitions, Events and on-going operations.

We continue to rely on the support of so many through letters, emails and word of mouth concerning the importance of our work to the Community, for the City of Los Angeles and with our international visitors.


• Huell Howser, 1945-2013 • William T. Cartwright, 1920-2013 • Cecil Fergerson 1931-2013



Sabato Rodia was born in Serino, Italy (AV) in 1879 and arrived in the United States around 1894. He came to Watts in 1921 at age 42 and was commonly known as ‘Simon’, or old ‘Sam’. The Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, his masterpiece and the world’s largest single construction created by one individual, was his obsession for 33 years. He called it, “Nuestro Pueblo” or “Our Town”. It is located in the community of Watts in South Central Los Angeles, California.

The Watts Towers structure consists of seventeen major sculptures of steel, covered with mortar and embellished by decorative finishings of mosaic tiles, glass, clay, shells, and rock. As there is no welded inner armature, Rodia wired rebars together, then wrapped the joints with wire mesh, hand packed them with mortar, and added the mosaic surface. This folk art employs assemblage construction. The property extends 42 meters (138 ft.) along 107th Street on the south, 21 meters (69 ft.) on the west and 47 meters (155 ft.) on the north of this compact 400 square meter site. There are three tall spires, several small towers, two walls, gazebo, patio, ship, and other structures.

When Rodia finished his towers in 1954, he gave them, along with the deed to his triangular shaped land (pointing eastward to Italy) to his neighbor Mr. Louis Sauceda. Mr. Sauceda sold them to Joseph Montoya for $1,000.00 six months later. Mr. Montoya decided to convert the Watts Towers into a commercial venue. But, when he went to get a building permit the City of Los Angeles placed a demolition order on the structure because Simon did not get a permit to build his masterpiece.

Along came Bill Cartwright and Nick King who purchased the Towers from Mr. Montoya for $3,000.00 in 1959. They founded The Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts and saved the Towers from demolition with a “stress” or “load” test, designed by Bud Goldstone. The Towers proved stronger than the test equipment. Therefore, the test was stopped and the Towers were deemed safe, and preservation efforts began. The Watts community considered the Watts Towers part of their heritage and called upon the new owners to also invest in the community. Thus the Watts Towers Arts Center began.

The 52-year old Watts Towers Arts Center is synonymous with the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia. It has been the guardian and curator of the Watts Towers since its inception in 1961 when Lucille Krasne taught the first classes on the foundation of the burned down home of the man himself, Sabato Rodia.

The Watts Towers Arts Center has served as a beacon of light for arts education and a conduit for social change. It continues to support and present master artists and to nurture aspiring young people. This arts education institution, which is currently the only tourist destination in Watts, continues to serve not only our local Southern California Community, but the world at large, as is evidenced by our large number of international visitors. Through its exhibitions, tours, and other programs, the WTAC has been associated with and presented more than 1000 artists in numerous disciplines including visual arts, filmmaking, writing, music, and performing arts in addition to its substantial arts educational programming. We continue in Rodia’s footsteps to re-purpose that which is discarded and set an example of what the possibilities are when we have a dream and willingness to “stick to it”.

We rely on our 92 year history (1921-2013) and world renowned artists, who came through the Watts Towers Arts Center, and continue to cultivate our long practice of cultural leadership and arts education as we preserve and document our proud heritage in Watts, California.

There is still time to see our current exhibition!

January 20, 2013—August 11, 2013 Noah Purifoy and Charles Mingus Galleries

Charles H. Tatum, Sculptor

Charles Tatum Retrospective: 1973-2008

A Look at the Influence of African Art on the

Work of an African American Sculptor

Patricia Soltys & Rosie Lee Hooks, Curators

Collaborations with David Czuba, photographer &

Dutch Schulze, glass artist

Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.

Sunday 12:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.


Through The Eyes of Charles Dickson

August 25, 2013- March 2, 2014

Paul Von Blum and Rosie Lee Hooks, Curators



The Watts Towers Arts Center is the home of International Ethnic Instrument Collection consisting of 144 primarily non-western instruments collected from around the world. This wonderful collection was donated by Dr. Joseph Howard to the Watts Towers Arts Center in 1989.



Often we get so comfortable with those who are our foundation that we forget to single them out and say Thank You.

We take this opportunity to do just that. The Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center are a major source of support to us. Some of their funding contributions make it possible for us to:

  • Produce our Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival

  • Underwrite Receptions for Openings of Exhibitions, Recitals, etc.

  • Provide After School Snack Program

  • Provide Supplies for Classes

  • Offer One on One Tutoring

  • Support Garden Studio AIR Program (Artist in Residence)

  • Graphic Designer for Materials to Publicize and Market our Festivals i.e., Festival Art, Mailers, Study Guides, etc.

  • And Much, Much, More


Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center Museum Store

for one of a kind art pieces

Available now

The Watts Towers 50 Years Inspiring Art Commemorative Program 1959-2009


Heart of Watts Project Watts Towers Project

Limited Edition Post Cards Limited Edition T-shirts


New Computers and Printers

Sculpture of Simon Rodia

String Bass

Photo Archivist

Replacement of lost trees

Sculpture of Charles Mingus

Mural Restoration

Upgraded Sound System

Additional Staff

Rebuild Simon Rodia’s House

Marquis for Watts Towers Arts Center & Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center

Representation of the Watts Towers in the DWP Holiday Lights at Griffith Park

Note: Yamaha C7 Grand Piano donated by Wade & Jerri Childress in honor of their aunt Jari Havlena. Thank You


For holding us up and preserving

The Watts Towers Arts Center

The Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center

And supporting continuing arts education programming

at the Watts Towers Campus


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

City of Los Angeles City Council
The Greater Watts Community
Parents and Students
Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center
Watts Towers Community Action Council
The Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts
Mayor’s Task Force
Staff of the Watts Towers Arts Center & The Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center
Artists and musicians
Local, national and international visitors to the Watts Campus
And to the thousands of others who continue to add their voices to save this essential, 52 year old Arts Education Institution and Community Arts Center!


Watts Towers Arts Center & Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center

We are extremely grateful to our Support Groups for generating so much support for our Programs, Exhibitions, Events and on-going operations.

We continue to rely on the support of so many through letters, emails and word of mouth concerning the importance of our work to the Community, for the City of Los Angeles and with our international visitors.


Nick King, 1933-2012 • Calvin Hicks, 1941-2012 • Willie R. Middlebrook, 1957-2012
Mauricio Vallejo, 1949-2012 • Norman J. “Bud” Goldstone, 1926-2012B
rad Byer, 1954-2012 • Jayne Cortez, 1934-2012 • Huell Howser, 1945-2013



2006-2017 Los Angeles
website by Lucien den Arend sculptor
photography © Lucien den Arend
lucien at denarend dot com

Enter your search terms Submit search form
web wattstowers.us