by Abelardo de la Pena Jr.
In 1932 the city of Los Angeles hired David Alfaro Siqueiros, a Mexican artist who influenced such greats as Jackson Pollock, to design a bucolic scene on a wall overlooking Olvera Street, an alleyway converted to resemble a tourist-friendly Mexican village.
Working at night with donated equipment and supplies, Siqueiros instead created the politically charged “La América Tropical,” showing an indigenous campesino (farm worker) crucified on a double cross capped by an American eagle. Following mounting social pressure, the mural was painted over by local officials and residents within a year. Cut to late summer 2010.
The lengthy effort to rescue the piece jumped a major hurdle with a ceremony announcing the mural’s preservation (partial whitewash, faded paint and all) as well as the construction of a protective shelter, viewing platform and interpretive center. The Getty Foundation and the City are covering the costs — some $8 million — and completion is set for 2012.
But then what? A nonprofit called Amigos de Siqueiros is taking on the task of programming and staffing the facilities once they’re constructed. Their hurdle is fundraising and sponsorship, which is where business comes in. The challenge for brands, when backing historic and/or provocative projects, is to be sensitive to consumers who might find such work divisive while trying to win the admiration of those who find it inspiring.