a feature-length documentary film
  about Simon Rodia and the Watts
    Towers of South Central Los Angeles

by Edward Landler and Brad Byer

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On Tuesday, April 17, members of the Watts Towers Arts Center’s support groups attended the regular monthly meeting of the Watts Towers Arts Center Interdepartmental Task Force to discuss the April 9th unpaid, three-week suspension of the WTAC’s Director, Rosie Lee Hooks, by the Cultural Affairs Dept.  Hooks was suspended for having a mural portrait of the jazz giant Charles Mingus – who grew up in Watts – painted, last September, on the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center, named for him when it was built more than ten years ago.    

Questioned by the support groups, other community members and guests, Assistant General Manager Daniel Tarica of the Department of Cultural Affairs stated that procedures were being properly followed for a personnel matter which he could not discuss.  Mr. Tarica did not address the affront expressed by the Watts community over the arts educator’s suspension, or statements from community members that the Department’s action against Ms. Hooks appears to be an act of vindictive retribution for her strong support of community issues.  He also dismissed fears over the effects the action will have on Hooks’ production of the upcoming Watts Towers Annual Day of the Drum and Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festivals for which Ms. Hooks is the principal producer.   

A representative of the Mayor’s Office would only confirm that Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero had as yet drafted no reply to the letter sent to her two months ago by the support groups questioning the continuing deflections by City agencies at Task Force meetings of major concerns for the Campus expressed by the support groups.  Community members and WTAC staff have, over the years, developed a long-range vision for the campus.  They noted that at previous Task Force meetings they have asked the Mayor’s office and the Department of Cultural Affairs for a statement of their visions for the Campus and Watts but have yet to receive any answers. 

An internationally honored community arts administrator and educator, Rosie Lee Hooks has served twice as interim Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, and was appointed Director in 2002. She was previously Director of Festivals for the City’s Cultural Affairs Department and produced the first Central Avenue Jazz Festival and established the prestigious WTAC Jazz Mentorship Program. 


Ms. Hooks’ union, the Engineers & Architects Association has filed an appeal of the suspension but the hearing will not be held until June. Hooks is now serving the second week of her suspension. After the Task Force meeting, the union affirmed to the support groups, “We remain steadfast in our advocacy for Rosie and offer any assistance the Watts community needs to end the blatant harassment of an adored arts educator.”  


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