the Watts Towers Arts Center


Contact: Rosie Lee Hooks, Director
Phone: 213.847.4646


Dear Friends,
Rosie Lee Hooks has served her suspension, but the appeal to have it revoked will be heard in June. We need your help once more… to let the City know we are not diminishing or backing down on our support for Ms. Hooks, the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus and the community of Watts.
Please send the letter immediately below with your name (followed by the extracts from our February 12 letter to Deputy Mayor Romero) to:
and also cc: barbara.romero@lacity.org; danielle.brazell@lacity.org; daniel.tarica@lacity.org; leslie.a.thomas@lacity.org; edgar.garcia@lacity.org; luis.rivera@lacity.org; joel.jacinto@lacity.org; mike.davis@lacity.org; controller.galperin@lacity.org; joe.buscaino@lacity.org; david.ryu@lacity.org; councilmember.wesson@lacity.org; councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org; paul.koretz@lacity.org; councilmember.price@lacity.org; markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov; sawoods@parks.ca.gov; leslie.hartzell@parks.ca.gov; terry.nicholson@mail.house.gov; michelle.chambers@asm.ca.gov; ericfboyd@mail.house.gov; lucy.walker@sen.ca.gov; holly.mitchell@sen.ca.gov; kelan10@att.net; keara.joe@asm.ca.gov; craig.watson@arts.ca.gov; ashley.stracke@lacity.org
With many thanks,
on behalf of
Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center
Watts Towers Community Action Council
Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

Dear Mayor Garcetti,

As a politician with ambitions to higher office, you must know that the recent suspension without pay imposed upon the director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus — for having a mural/portrait of jazz giant Charles Mingus painted last year on a building named for him when it was built more than 10 years ago — is an insult to an internationally-honored community arts educator and an affront to Watts, the historic community of color in which Mingus grew up.

This grievous action, combined with ongoing community concerns about the decade-long lack of full staffing and resources for this world-famous arts education facility, further underscores the city’s neglect of the Watts community over more than 50 years. Now, your administration’s lack of transparency about its long-term plans for the development of Watts as a whole further adds to the community’s distrust of the official city’s intentions. We are aware of the Jordan Downs re-development and we have serious questions about that, as well.

If you have any real concern for the minority populations of Los Angeles and the U.S., read the “considered assessment of the progress of the Mayor’s Watts Towers Arts Center Campus Interdepartmental Task Force” (below) stated by members of three Watts Towers Arts Center Campus community support groups in a letter dated February 12, 2018, to your deputy mayor, Barbara Romero, who oversaw the reinstatement of the Task Force two years ago.

This letter was sent to Deputy Mayor Romero three months ago and, apparently, in keeping with your office’s attitude towards the Watts community, the support groups have not yet received a response from Ms. Romero or from your office’s representative at the monthly Task Force meetings.

We stand with the Watts community, the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus and its community support groups, and its director Rosie Lee Hooks. Your administration’s lack of response to the needs of the Watts community will be noted among all minority communities that seek parity and justice.


From the February 12, 2018 letter to Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero:

“…consistent with the mayor’s vision to increase service and create greater cultural opportunities – the director and her staff have expanded and upgraded programming, arts classes, exhibitions and partnerships, attracting more students and more visitors to this internationally renowned cultural and tourist destination (the only one in Watts). All this was accomplished even though the part-time staff has kept changing over this time due to the low pay scale that has forced many of them to seek other employment, while requested and appropriate position upgrades and reclassifications have not been implemented by the department.

“In response to last year’s requests, the DCA has made little effort – either directly to the community support groups or through the Task Force – to justify with any clarity the reasons for its inability to satisfy our infrastructure needs or to provide comparisons of how other arts centers’ staff positions were being allocated. We have only been apprised of inadequate alternatives irrelevant to our needs.

“In similar fashion, the support groups were allowed no effective participation in the renewal of the City’s conservation contract with LACMA – in contrast with the original contractual process. At that time, we were able to comment on how the contract would affect the immediate community. While we have now been informed of a few very cursory points in the new contract, we have not been provided the fuller overview we previously enjoyed; we never saw a draft, were never asked for input and, to date, have seen no final document.

“Since the Task Force was reinstated, the community support groups have participated in good faith. The support groups fostered the establishment of the original Task Force and the reinstated Task Force in order to give the Watts community fair participation in decisions made about the Watts Towers and their host/guardian, the Watts Towers Arts Center – and we wish to see the Task Force function as it should.”

Chioma Abaghiwe, Watts Towers Community Action Council
Wajeha Bilal, Watts Towers Community Action Council
Wilma Frazier, Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center and Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center
Leona Greenwood, Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center
Edward Landler, Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center and Watts Towers Community Action Council

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.

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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.


We Need Your Help!

Come volunteer your services in our Garden Studio Program!

For further information please contact us at:

Watts Towers Arts Center/ Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center

1727 E. 107th street, Los Angeles, CA 90002 (213) 847- 4646

· Growing vegetables & fruits • Herbs • Visit Our Turtle Pond • See our tiling projects on campus and throughout our neighborhood


Visiting Schools Program—October 2012 to June 2013

Neighborhood Schools Program—Ongoing

Jazz Mentorship Program—Ongoing

Cal Arts Partnership Piano Program—Fall October 3, 2012 to December 15, 2012

Spring January 16, 2013 to April 27, 2013

Cal Arts & Sony Pictures Animation Program— October 10, 2012 to December 15, 2012

January 16, 2013- June 15, 2013

From Where I’m Standing Photography Program— October 8, 2012- December 15, 2012

February 9, 2013- May 11, 2013

Adults Special Needs Classes— Ongoing

Preschool Introduction to Art—TBA*

Summer Arts Camp- July 2, 2013 to July 26, 2013

TBA*—To Be Announced



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

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