Lebo's Hollywood Mural Called "Ghetto" by City Officials

The mural completed by Lebo (a.k.a. David Le Batard) for the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project
The mural completed by Lebo (a.k.a. David Le Batard) for the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project

Nearly a year after its completion, the Downtown Hollywood mural of renowned local street artist Lebo (a.k.a. David Le Batard), entitled "Bee-Bop Into Outer Space," is the subject of some controversy after officials at the latest city commission meeting on May 1, expressed their dislike for the jazz-inspired artwork.

"We don't want artsy, edgy graffiti-type murals," Terry Cantrell, president of the nearby Hollywood Lakes Association, told the Miami Herald on Monday.

"Are we Wynwood now?'' said Commissioner Patricia Asseff, referencing the thriving urban arts district in Miami.

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According to Jill Weisberg, curator and project manager of the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, who was also in attendance at the May 1 meeting, the majority of the city commission are actually very happy with the project.

"The conversation was prompted by the Knight Foundation grant we applied for," Weisberg says. "Once it was brought up, there were really only two people who were upset. They were basically saying, 'We didn't get what we paid for.'"

Lebo's Hollywood Mural Called "Ghetto" by City Officials

Lebo, whose works have been commissioned by the likes of Ferrari, Harley-Davidson, and Norwegian Cruise Line for upwards of $20,000, agreed to do the mural in Hollywood for $1,000, supplying the paint, labor, and talent himself. The artist, who is also the brother of Miami Herald sports columnist and ESPN commentator Dan Le Batard, grew up in Hollywood and wanted to do something nice for his hometown.

Apart with some dissatisfaction over the aesthetic quality of the spray-painted mural, which Asseff alluded to being "ghetto," Weisberg believes the main controversy over Lebo's wall is that the finished painting was significantly changed from the original rendering approved by the city. While the original submission comprised of only three colors, clean lines, and a '50s-style aesthetic, Lebo's final work featured multiple colors, owl and jazz musician characters, and a graffiti style the officials say is "inappropriate" for the prominent downtown area.

Weisberg says the issue has been fully resolved, citing an agreement that would require artists to stick more closely to renderings approved by the city, with a small amount of artistic license to make changes.

While the mural in question will be replaced, as originally scheduled, this coming August, Weisberg also expressed disappointment and surprise that Lebo's work -- the first commissioned by the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project -- is receiving all the attention when seven additional murals have been added to the project over the last year. "The new Mona Lisa mural is the bomb!" says Weisberg. "Lebo's mural is great -- I'd love for all my artists to get that attention."

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