Barbara Black Smacked with a Graffiti Fine

Ten North Hollywood High students were commissioned to paint a Graffiti Art mural on a homeowner’s private fence. But the City came out and fined her, and is now forcing her to paint over it. You can help.

Save Barbara Black’s North Hollywood Graffiti Art Mural

North Hollywood resident Barbara Black finds herself in the middle of a dispute with the City of Los Angeles over her 90-foot fence that she decided to make into a mural.  Barbara wanted to give upcoming North Hollywood Graffiti artists a canvas to show their art and to help the students feel a sense of pride and dignity for themselves and this art form.  The principal at North Hollywood High School helped her find 10 students who were good Graffiti artists and very enthusiastic about the project. 

For a month these students worked on the mural and were almost finished when Barbara received a citation from the City of Los Angeles for violating Building & Safety’s “advertising signage” codes.  The City considers this mural an advertisement, NOT ART. There is no Coca-Cola ad, no iTunes ad, no Nike ad, no ad whatsoever on this mural. So why then does the City consider this advertising? What, in fact, is it advertising? Isn’t this her property?

Barbara was slapped with a $336 fine and the mural must be removed by March 24 or she will face other penalties up to $1,900 if she tries to appeal and fight to keep the mural up.  The City wants her to paint over the art with white paint prior to March 24 but she will still be forced to pay the $336 fine as punishment for putting up the mural in the first place.

However, Barbara is on a fixed-income and can’t afford to pay the fine much less fight “City Hall.”  For several decades, she was a costume illustrator for film/TV but now lives modestly as an artist.  Barbara is just trying to encourage an art form and, most importantly, to give a few local North Hollywood kids an opportunity to feel good about themselves and their art.

This brings us to the second, much larger issue at hand: Graffiti ART as an art form. Graffiti has been synonymous with vandalism but Graffiti Art is simply a style of art. Not everyone gets it. Not everyone appreciates its aesthetic. The actual practice of Graffiti goes back to the Mayans, but it was not thought of as an art form until the 1970s when the art world saw the work on the New York subways. The Graffiti Art movement produced such famous artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and this street art influenced Bansky, Shepard Fairey and countless others.  If Graffiti Art is not your taste, that’s fine. But, it should not be disqualified as an art style.

So Barbara’s mural was not an act of vandalism but a commissioned piece of Graffiti Art. Across the street from Barbara’s mural you will see another mural that was painted several years ago but was never cited by the City. Guess what, it isn’t Graffiti Art.  Can we believe that this is happening because one neighbor decided he/she didn’t like Graffiti Art and called the City? Why didn’t this same neighbor call the City about the other mural?

While we may not be able to change someone’s mind about Graffiti Art being a legitimate art style, we can at least try to change the outrageous government ordinance that is prohibiting North Hollywood from creating murals to beautify the neighborhood all under the guise of a “City of L.A. signage issue.”

Please stand with Barbara Black and our young, North Hollywood Graffiti artists. Email, Tweet, Facebook, etc. this article and tell North Hollywood Councilman Paul Krekorian:

SAVE Barbara Black’s North Hollywood Graffiti Art Mural

Tweet: @paulkrekorian
Call: (818) 755-7676     
Fax: (818) 755-7862
In Person:
6350 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Ste 201
North Hollywood, CA 91606

Editorial Team


  1. This is unbelievably pathetic. Not only is Barbara Black improving the streets of NoHo with here graffiti art, she’s actually giving back to the community by getting high school students involved in the arts. Come on, LA, I know you’re desperate for funds, but this is cheap.

  2. I defend Barbara Black’s stance wholeheartedly. She did something right by giving 10 students something to do and feel good about. The city should definitely not be stepping in in such a way. After all, this is the NoHo Arts District. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and I hope this helps. If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know.

  3. What?
    What is her mural advertising?
    What murals are fined, only graffiti?
    What kind of ridiculous “ordinance” is this?

    Good for you Ms. Barbara Black.

  4. Is there something that can be done? A collection perhaps to help with the fines? Maybe the group from Save the Hollywood sign can help?

  5. You guys might want to come over to Mayor Sam where we have posted this story and make some comments.

    The usual types are defending the City and saying this isn’t art.

    I’m curious to know what the other mural the City allowed looks like.

    Lots of City officials read my blog so come on over and comment on behalf of Barbara.

  6. She doesn’t live in NoHo. She lives in Valley Village. It is up to each unique neighborhood to decide what they can live with, and VVL decided they didn’t want Graffiti as an artform there. SO, let NoHo pick up the “art” and put it on Lankershim, just don’t force it down our throats.

  7. What? Some people have nothing better to do? And even if someone doesn’t like it, – how can this be called ADVERTISING?

    This whole thing is ridiculous. Barbara should be allowed to have her mural.

    If she painted her house this way, would it still be a problem?

    Shame on you, LA City for wasting so much time and money on a non-issue.

  8. I’d be embarassed to be her neighbor and if I wanted to move, that “art” would lower my property values.

  9. Her wall, her art. Giving youth and adults this opportunity to express themselves can only create a better community, decrease crime and create better neighborhoods, especially in a tight knit artistic community like NoHo!

  10. To many people, graffiti is associated with urban blight and gang activity.
    Most (almost all) graffiti is uncommissioned and technically is vandalism… so the association between graffiti and illegal activity is strong. Those associations are offensive to many.

    The owner of this property obviously knows that this upsets many of her neighbors. Regardless of the legality, I think a person should strive to minimize their negative impact on those around them, no matter where they are, but especially those who live around them… so, with that I think the “art” should be removed.

  11. Hello, I hope this mural stay, even if its not some neighbors favorite style, the mural made in graffiti style has been made with excellent craftsmanship and indeed is beautiful.

    Here is article posted on ARTnews concerning how Graffiti and Art merge,

    it begins with…

    A new generation is making street art that is conceptual, abstract, and even sculptural in nature
    by Carolina A. Miranda

  12. Ever since Keith Haring’s “Grafitti” murals graced the East Side Highway in New york City there is no doubt that this art form is an important contribution to the Art World. Museums have acknowledged its validity as have so many resources of fine art. That this mural is not advertising is absolutely clear. There is no product here other than art. There are comparable murals in some of the largest cities in this country – many of which are larger and certainly in more conspicuous places…


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