- Friday, 24 January 2014 10:13
If you haven’t been to Downtown L.A. recently, you will be startled by the Renaissance taking place. The restoration of old buildings, resurgence of business, and a rollicking arts scene of new music venues, art galleries, and proliferation of boldly expressive murals adding color and value to the urban landscape.
Keller-Williams commercial real estate agent Rene Garcia, who works at their Downtown office, asserts that “a nicely created mural not only enhances aesthetics, but typically increases the value of the building by 3%-7%, a positive for both resale and insurance purposes.” Potentially it could create additional revenue streams, if the building has a café and/or gift shop to sell the artist’s mural in smaller print form, other works of the artist, and related merchandise.
There is also the hipness factor, generating more people traffic to the property and yielding higher rental income from building tenants because murals are thought to be hip, a bit of a status symbol. It may even become a landmark, as some are on the monthly L.A. Artwalk, where murals ranging in theme from pithy to playful are listed on the walking route.
The business and art communities are working together synergistically to create dynamic partnerships and value for the entire Downtown community. Part of the reason new residents and visitors flock to Downtown is the growing body of public art surrounding them as they peer out the window of their new apartment or simply walk the streets.
Public art recently received a big nod of approval from the city, when a long-standing moratorium was lifted in September of last year. Not that it wasn’t already starting to flourish, due to the clout of powerful developers. “If a wealthy developer wanted a mural on their building’s wall, nobody from the city is going to stop them. But now it is going to explode even further,” says Daniel Lahoda.
Daniel, an artist himself and owner of the LaLa Gallery in the Downtown arts district, is a prime match maker between building owners and street artists in the area. I sat with him to discuss how the marriage of business and art manifests in many forms, and how it serves the community…
TR: What are the typical arrangements made between developers and street artists?
Daniel: It really depends. Everything is negotiable project by project. Sometimes the building owner is commissioning the artist, or the artist approaches the owner and just wants to use the (wall) space in which case there is generally no fee paid. Sometimes artists will come to us who want to turn their vision or artistic piece into a larger than life mural on a building. Other times what I’ll do if I have another patron involved who is supporting the production of the mural, I’ll offer the building owner a “maintenance honorarium,” just to ensure that they take care of the art. This also instills a sense of professionalism, so they know we’re not just off the streets trying to “bomb” their building. There is also a consultation process with people who are in residential buildings, getting their input on how they would feel about a mural for the building. People are almost unanimously enthusiastic, that it makes the place cooler and more hip. It improves their quality of life, for the owner it’s good p.r. and enhances the value of the property, and for the artists it gets their work up publicly in large format.
TR: Murals could take a few months to create. Would the artist be willing to do that just for exposure?
Daniel: Again it depends. I work with a lot of artists where the business model is that I represent the artist and I need to sell their work. So, I work with them to produce their artwork that I can sell in the gallery. When we make money from that, we’ll put some of it into creating a mural and the community benefits from that. More people see the art, which brings some of them into the gallery to buy more of the artist’s work.
TR: What about getting sponsors for the production of murals?
Daniel: We did a project with Congers (billboard advertising), where they gave us the money to produce a mural. At completion, we licensed the artwork to them to use in an ad. But we have to be careful with that; you run into problems with the branding. They may want the artist to compromise their work to suit the brand. I let them know that for example, we’re not going to put their logo on the mural, or do anything that shouts out their brand. In fact, studies show that it doesn’t work as well for them, when the viewer is forced into an “opt-in” advertising situation. And for an artist, if you come to be known as someone who will compromise their artwork for anybody at any price, then it doesn’t have much integrity to it, and you won’t attract the collectors.
TR: Are there any kind of metrics to appraise the added value of murals to a property?
Daniel: American Business Appraisers, who appraise everything from real estate to art, approached me back in September to figure out a way to apply appraisal value to the murals on buildings, even just for insurance purposes. They’ve noticed the national trend of mural mania, and if a mural is damaged by some force of nature or a car running into it, that value reimbursement should include money to repair the mural. So at this moment in time, there is no formal measurement of value, but should be coming in the near future.