Tomokazu Matsuyama: Arts and Culture Commission Discusses Fate of Mural

Omar Reyes-Benítez, Beverly Hills Courier, September 23, 2022


The Arts and Culture Commission met at its regular meeting on Sept. 13 to discuss future events, review the extension of the closure on North Canon Drive and meet new members of the team.


The first presentation to the commission was from Public Works Department Project Manager Christine Chung, who gave an update on the North Canon Drive closure. The closure is a 20-foot-tall wall that was installed in 2019 to alleviate the effects of construction on the Metro Purple (D) Line, intended to help with noise, dust and traffic control. At a Study Session on Sept. 12, City Council agreed that the closure has been successful and approved an extension of the closure to June 2023. However, the commission’s larger concern is with the future of the mural painted directly on the wall. 


Japanese artist Tomokazu Matsuyama designed the mural. Matsuyama was contracted by the city in 2019 under the conditions that it would be a temporary piece and that if the city wishes to preserve, sell or relocate the mural, the city must get approval from the artist. 


At the time of installation, skinning the wall was deemed too costly, with prices reaching up to $120,000, while the artwork itself cost approximately $125,000. With the price of the skinning and standing contractual obligations, it was decided to paint the mural directly onto the wall and destroy it once the North Canon Drive closure is no longer needed. 


Commissioners were disappointed with having no option but to dispose of the art piece. “I just think it’s a shame that this has been an effective piece for us and that we can’t reuse or repurpose it,” said Commissioner Maralee Beck. “We should be thinking about this before we begin to again spend. It was $125,000 to get this painted, that’s a lot of art money.”


Commissioner Deborah Frank referred to the situation as a “teachable moment,” “The gut feeling is if they can save the Berlin Wall, why can’t we take a chunk of this? But we would have to renegotiate the entire contract,” she noted. 


After the closure presentation, the commission was introduced to the new Recreation Supervisor of the Arts and Culture Division Corrina Lesser and Recreation Supervisor of the Recreation and Parks Division Norma Mower. Lesser has a background in publishing and is eager to apply her years of experience in literature programming to create engaging events in Beverly Hills. Mower has worked in the Recreation Department at the city of Glendale for the past 20 years, specializing in youth programs, facilities maintenance and city events.


Director of Community Services Jenny Rogers explained to the commission that the selection process had been a rigorous one. “We know they are going to make incredible contributions, not just to our department but to the high quality of life and the community’s engagement around arts and recreation,” said Rogers. She also introduced the new Community Services Manager Magdalena Davis. 


The commission concluded its business proceedings with an update on the Beverly Hills Fall Art Show happening on Oct. 15 and 16. 


The commission previewed the invitations, with artwork from Community Service’s Graphic Designer Laura Fergusson, and also looked ahead to next year’s Spring Art Show, which will be the 50th anniversary of the show. 


At the upcoming Art Show, guests will have the opportunity to see art from over 230 artists, ranging across 11 different mediums and 14 different states.

of 1339