Threatened Environments 27 Items

Nitt Witt Ridge Enters the Real Estate Market!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments



The art environment known as Nitt Witt Ridge has entered the real estate market, listed for $425,000 on Trulia. Built by Art Beal (variously known as “Art,” “Dr. Tinkerpaw” and ”Captain Nittwitt”) using only hand tools, Beal worked on this project for over fifty years. He built stone and concrete foundations and topped them with wood-framed structures he adorned with abalone shells, scrap metal, glass, and industrial discards. Beal’s one rule was to pay for nothing except cement. He terraced the hilly property using a pick and shovel, built rock and mortar retaining walls, and designed handrails that also functioned as irrigation pipes and sprinklers. Eventually his site boasted nine levels, with layers of assemblages connected by serpentine walkways.


img6932Nitt Witt Ridge, 2018. Sam Gappmayer.


As he aged, Beal had trouble maintaining the site. To allow him to live on the property for as long as he wished, and to access public funding to protect the site from destruction or developers, volunteers founded the nonprofit Art Beal Foundation in 1975. Six years later the site was awarded California Historical Landmark status. Beal continued to live on the property until 1989, when he moved to a nursing home. He died three years later. In 1999, Michael and Stacy O’Malley bought the site when it had been listed for $42,000 and has been offering tours by appointment as they restore the property. 



img7008Nitt Witt Ridge, 2018. Sam Gappmayer.


View the listing for Nitt Witt Ridge here.

A Letter from Emily Smith, director at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Posted in Preservation News, SPACES News, Threatened Environments

Hi everyone, 


I’m assuming most of you know by now that we lost our bid to historically designate the Painted Bride. There was over three hours of very passionate testimony from both sides and the vote was dramatic: a 5-5 vote then 5-4 for the re-vote. It was a long and shocking afternoon, extra thanks to those of you that attended the meeting. It was intense. I needed a few days of space before reaching back out to all of you. Here’s a link to the WHYY coverage:  


What is frustrating about the outcome is that almost everyone in the room (even the Bride) seemed to agree with the historic criteria and that the building is an icon. Though hardship should have been dismissed for a second meeting, the final call was based on the Bride’s argument that designation would stifle their ability to move forward unencumbered. 


It was a disappointing day and if the building is demolished, I do believe in just a few years the city will be deeply regretting this decision. 


When I woke up on Saturday, I felt so proud of us. I know there was nothing we could have done differently: we were thoughtful, articulate, organized, and full of integrity. Fighting for art and for strange spaces will always be an uphill battle.  Every single person on this email took time from their busy schedules to voice their opinion. Our communities will never understand what these places mean to us unless we continue to push back. Even facing loss, it is so important to try. 


So thank you. Reading your letters of support, getting fired up during phone conversations, the handshakes of respect after we lost- those were invaluable moments. I hope that you will continue to talk about the building and tell this story. Maybe next time it can be different for someone else. 


In terms of next steps, there are not many options. We will not be appealing or suing, it doesn’t make sense in this situation. I think it is time to focus our efforts on encouraging the Bride to find a sympathetic buyer. I’d love any suggestions you may have in terms of rallying the community to petition the Bride in this way. 


Warm hugs from the Gardens, 


Hoffman's The Last Resort in California to Form Non-Profit

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action, Threatened Environments


In an effort to save and maintain The Last Resort, created by David Lee Hoffman in Lagunitas, Marin County, California, a nonprofit organization is being formed.


last-resort-faces-jfh-nov-2016Jo Farb Hernandez, 2016.

The site is at a critical point: the county is threatening to put the property up for auction next year, and the court-appointed receiver is ready to begin demolishing two of the structures.
The creation of the nonprofit will bring together people who will help to meet the challenges facing the survival – as well as, hopefully, to outline positive future plans – for this innovative art environment. Goals of the nonprofit will include fundraising to support financial obligations related to future code upgrade requirements, facilitating local and global interest in the use of ecologically-friendly black water and grey water systems, and creaing a vision for the educational and culture future of the site.


 See more about The Last Resort Lagunitas on SPACES and visit The Last Resort Lagunitas website here.


Read our previous update on The Last Resort:

Update on The Last Resort Lagunitas


UPDATE! Save Nashville artist William Edmondson's homesite!

Posted in Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News, Take Action, Threatened Environments

After hearing about city plans to sell Edgehill Community Memorial Park, concerned members of the community spoke up in support of preserving the beloved communty park and African-American historical site. Nashville’s municipal government has abandoned plans to sell the land on which artist William Edmondson, the first African-American to ever have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art,  lived for decades. The proposal to sell Edgehill Community Memorial Park to the highest bidder — which includes Edmondson’s homesite where he lived and worked in until his death in 1951 — would have likely resulted in that land being bought by private developers. After the community rallied together and raised their voices, the Metro Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously to remove the sale of Edgehill Community Memorial Park, also known as the William Edmondson Homesite park and community gardens, from their budget recommendation.

“Their vote sends an unmistakable message that balancing the budget on the backs of neighborhood parks and civic spaces, done behind closed doors in disrespect to the affected community, is not only poor policy, but terrible process,” stated Mark Schlicher, co-chairman of the Save the Edmondson Homesite Park & Gardens Coalition. “We urge the full council to heed the will of the people and the wisdom of the Budget and Finance Committee, and pass the Sledge amendment as part of the budget tomorrow night.”

The proposal to sell the park to the highest bidder was a shock to artists, historians, and the city’s African American community; it also further obscured the legacy of a figure who is often overlooked in Nashville’s history. “We wouldn’t think about taking a bulldozer to the home of Thomas Edison,” said Tennessee State University professor Lee Williams. “These spaces should not be erased from our memory.” In response that the park would be potentially be sold, the art and academic community wrote an open letter opposing the sale and calling for the site’s preservation.  “For too long, the treasure that is William Edmondson has been taken from Nashville and from Edgehill and allowed to enrich other communities,” the letter reads. “It’s time to bring him home.”

William Edmondson’s work was featured in the recent exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art. Although his home no longer exists on the grounds of Edgehill Community Memorial Park, the surrounding neighborhood was an important part of his artistic career, and it was a neighborhood that has historically brought together Nashville’s black working class and upper-class white citizens.


Save Nashville artist William Edmondson's homesite!

Posted in Preservation News, Take Action, Threatened Environments


CLICK HERE to go straight to the petition and sign! 


Nashville’s Mayor plans to immediately sell a neighborhood park, which includes the former homesite of William Edmondson, Nashville’s most celebrated African American artist, to private developers to help balance the city budget. If this is approved by Metro Council on June 19, 2018, it will take precious parkland away from citizens, wipe away a historic site, accelerate the destruction of a historic middle- and working-class African American neighborhood, and eliminate a community garden that has served neighborhood families for generations. It will destroy a priceless historical and cultural site that should be preserved and enhanced instead. All with ZERO input from the neighborhood, the historical preservation community, or local or national arts and creative community. It also ignores and disrespects any and all previous land use policy conversations with the neighborhood.


Metro Nashville Council votes on its budget, which will authorize selling the land, on June 19. If it passes, we may lose this precious site forever. If we can stop it, we can at least begin a rational discussion as to how to best preserve and develop the property responsibly, as a proper monument to a great artist and as a living legacy that serves all citizens.


The petition is for the following:

1. Immediate halt of the sale of this public land to for private gain, and a commitment by the Mayor engage Nashville citizens in the process of preserving and enhancing it.

2. Transfer to the Parks Department and implement a meaningful master planning process, with civic involvement of all stakeholders of the site; for instance including themed playgrounds, integration with the adjacent branch library, a sculpture garden with landscaping, picnic shelters, and educational interpretive displays to share the stories of William Edmondson and other neighborhood heroes, such as pioneering musician Deford Bailey and early 20th century civil rights activist Callie House.

3. The specific section of the property where William Edmondson’s house and studio stood is forever preserved and developed as a site honoring his art and life.

4. The land next to the homesite, which is now parkland and community garden, should be protected as such, and improved via the master planning process.

5. If any other portion of the site is eventually sold to private interests, it must be done within a strict and binding planning framework, including firm safeguards of appropriate zoning and land use policies, that will enhance the neighborhood, not further threaten it.


Self-taught limestone sculptor William Edmondson was the first African American artist to receive a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. He is celebrated worldwide for his simple, but subtle, limestone garden sculptures, which are prized by collectors and sell for as much as $250,000. His work, and his story of vision, resourcefulness and faith, continue to inspire new generations of artists locally and around the world. Edmondson’s former homesite, where he lived, created his masterpieces, and died, is currently part of a park that includes a playground, basketball courts, picnic area, and a 25 year old community garden that serves children and families with fresh air, fresh fruits and vegetables, and community interaction.


Nashville’s Mayor has suddenly announced plans to rezone and sell this property to private developers “to the highest bidder” to help plug a gap in the city’s 2018-2019 budget. This likely means luxury high-rise condos or similar inappropriate development that will wipe away this treasured land, unless it is stopped.


There has been very little outreach by the city to the to the neighborhood to inform them, much less to invite participation in the future if the park. Nashville is booming. Development is proceeding at a feverish pace. Affordable housing is getting scarce. This area is already under tremendous gentrification pressure and the very survival of this historic neighborhood is at stake. The effect of eliminating the park in favor of incompatible development would be catastrophic. Loss of the park would be be a huge blow to the neighborhood’s vibrancy. Loss of the Edmondson homesite would be an irreversible loss of Nashville’s social, cultural, and artistic history. 


William Edmondson’s carved tombstones and garden sculptures spoke to the themes of faith, community, connection to the land, and remembrance. His own grave is lost, leaving his homesite —where he lived, worked, and died— as the only physical place where he can properly be honored.



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Sign petition to save Justo Gallego's Cathedral!

Posted in Religious, Devotional & Spiritual, Take Action, Threatened Environments


justo-gallego-cathedral-overview-2008-environmentslideenlarge-1024-1024Justo Gallego's Cathedral in 2008, Jo Farb Hernández.

This petition calls for the municipal offices of Mejorada del Campo, where Justo Gallego has been single-handedly constructing a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar, to take whatever steps necessary to support and preserve his work. Recently it seemed that the municipality would accept the responsibility of maintaining and preserving this enormous project – on which 92-year-old Gallego has been working since 1961 – recent troubling developments suggest that they are going back on their word.


For more information, please see our webpage about the site:

Justo Gallego’s Cathedral 



Please sign the petition and help convince the city of Mejorada del Campo to preserve this incredible monument.

View and sign the petition here.


Watts Towers needs our help again!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments

Please join us in demonstrating to official Los Angeles and their Department of Cultural Affairs the depth and breadth of support that the Watts Towers and its Arts Center continues to maintain among supporters worldwide.


On April 9, Arts Center Director Rosie Lee Hooks was put on a three-week work suspension, effective immediately, punishment for the petty infraction of having a mural of jazz great Charles Mingus (raised in Watts) painted on the very building named after him at the Watts Towers Art Center.


The entire Arts Center staff has signed and sent a reasoned and detailed letter to Mayor Garcetti’s office protesting this injustice.


We have also learned that Cultural Affairs plans to contract out the production of the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.


Please help us impress upon the representatives of the Los Angeles City government the importance of open communication with the staff of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the support groups who have worked together over years with the community out of which Rodia’s Towers grew.  We ask you to put your name to the letter we have prepared below and to send it to everyone on the “Mail to:” list beneath the letter. 


Make whatever changes in the letter you feel will best reflect your perspective. Then, send the letter to the first address on the list (Danielle Brazell, General Manager, Department of Cultural Affairs) and cc all the following names.


Please help us to protect the Watts Towers Arts Center, its director and its staff, so they can continue to work for the betterment of the people of Watts and the city of Los Angeles.


Thank you!


On behalf of

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board


Learn more about the Watts Towers here:


Dear Ms. Brazell,


I am writing to express my shock and dismay at the shortsightedness of the Department of Cultural Affairs for putting the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus on an immediate three-week suspension. 


Rosie Lee Hooks is an internationally honored community arts administrator and educator who has served the City of Los Angeles and the Watts community for decades. How is it that she is being punished for approving the painting of a mural portrait of the jazz giant Charles Mingus – who grew up in Watts – on the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center, named for him when it was built more than ten years ago? The department’s action is not only an affront to Ms. Hooks but to the cultural legacy of the community itself.


Ms. Hooks has followed in the tradition of all past directors of the Arts Center to bring attention to the artistic heritage of Watts. They have all initiated the murals and mosaics adorning the buildings of the Campus with community artists. None of them were required to seek department approval for such Campus improvements and none of them ever received even so much as a reprimand. 


The department’s disproportionate reaction in Ms. Hooks’ case also takes her away from the Campus when she has to plan and organize the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival, scheduled for the end of September.  By effectively shortening the time Ms. Hooks has available to present these world famous events at the level of quality she has for almost 20 years, your department will bear the responsibility for undercutting their success. You must also be aware that if the department attempts to contract out the production of the Festival, this will likewise be regarded as a serious affront not only to the Watts community but to the music community that has participated in the Festivals and the Arts Center’s Jazz Mentorship Program over the years.


I stand by Rosie Lee Hooks, the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus staff, and the Watts community support groups. I urge you to reverse Ms. Hooks’ suspension immediately. She must be allowed to work for the betterment of the Campus and the community as she has always done – in the spirit of open communication and mutual cooperation. That is the value of community arts in a healthy society.


I ask as well that you help the Campus obtain the support of the City Councilmember to whose district the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus has brought world-class arts exhibitions, and professional arts and music education for over 50 years.       


Rodia’s Towers, the Watts Towers Arts Center, and the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center inspire all who visit with the spirit of freedom, initiative, and multi-ethnic harmony.  The City of Los Angeles cannot afford to have such powerful symbols of peace and community be lost in these troubled times.


Sincerely yours,



In support of

The Watts Towers Community Action Council

The Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center

The Parents of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus

The Watts Towers Arts Center Youth Board     


Mail to:





Raise your voice in support of Philadelphia's Painted Bride!

Posted in Take Action, Threatened Environments


Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens seeks to protect important mosaic mural.


Postcard for the “Skin of the Bride” exhibition, 9/19/1993. Don Camera, 1993.Postcard for the “Skin of the Bride” exhibition, 9/19/1993. Don Camera, 1993.

OLD CITY, PHILADELPHIA:  When it was announced in December that the Painted Bride Art Center was going up for sale, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) immediately recognized the risk that this posed to the roughly 7,000 square foot mosaic mural on the building’s façade.  PMG’s mission is to preserve, interpret, and provide access to Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic environment and his public murals. Zagar’s mural at the Painted Bride, located at 230-36 Vine Street, is one of his most iconic works.

In the early 1990s Zagar was invited to work on the façade of the Painted Bride building, formerly the Eastern Elevator Co. It provided one of the largest canvases to date for Zagar’s work and was the first time he created a full sidewalk to roof mosaic mural.

The decision to choose Zagar was apt, since both the artist and the Painted Bride began on South Street in the late 1960s and both were artistically, socially, and politically active in the South Street community. Today, their collaboration on the mosaic façade in Old City commemorates their shared history and dedication to the arts in Philadelphia.

In his 1993 article in the Philadelphia Daily News, Ron Avery wrote: “From sidewalk to roof every inch is colorfully painted and decorated in wild, imaginative detail. There are swirls, circles, seashells, Chinese writing and bits and pieces of ceramic birds, butterflies, flowers, human figures, and ceramic feet. ‘Isaiah took a simple industrial building with no character and made it fascinating,’ says Gerry Givnish, executive director of the Painted Bride. Zagar’s weird art has given the Painted Bride near landmark status.”

PMG’s Executive Director Emily Smith remarks, “As community members, I think it’s important to fight for the character of our city. The history and culture of our streets is what makes Philadelphia such a special place to live. What does it mean if we don’t try to keep our art and the history behind it from being destroyed?”

The application for historical designation would protect the outside of the Painted Bride building from being altered or demolished. It will be reviewed at a hearing at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, April 18, at 1515 Arch Street. PMG encourages the public to read the application, and if they support it, voice their opinion and attend the hearing.


Emily Smith | 215-733-0390 ext. 113 |



Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is a nonprofit visionary art environment and community arts center located in Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork.

Spanning half a block on Philadelphia’s famous South Street, the museum includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries. Zagar created the space using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, hand-made tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. The site is enveloped in visual anecdotes and personal narratives that refer to Zagar’s life, family, and community, as well as references from the wider world such as influential art history figures and other visionary artists and environments.

PMG is a unique Philadelphia destination that inspires creativity and community engagement by providing educational opportunities and diverse public programming to thousands of visitors each year. For more information, visit


If you would like to contribute and write a letter of support for the historical designation for the Painted Bride façade , please send to:

Philadelphia Historical Commission
1515 Arch Street, 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102


Isaiah Zager in front of mosaic. Ted Degener, 2014. Isaiah Zagar in front of one of his vibrant mosaics. Ted Degener, 2014.

Update on The Last Resort Lagunitas

Posted in Threatened Environments


The Last Resort Lagunitas, located in Marin County, California, is an art environment and model of ecological sustainability whose mission is “to discover and perfect sustainable environmental solutions for waste management, water reuse, and food security.” Built by David Hoffman over the last 40 years, there are dozens of buildings and sculptures on this site, most created from recycled materials or harvested from his own property. Many of the hand-crafted structures were inspired by Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan art and architecture utilizing masonry, stone, and wood. As a young man in his twenties, Hoffman was inspired as he backpacked throughout Asia and beyond, ultimately visiting over 100 countries. In 1973, after settling in Marin County and developing an innovative sonic cleaning method for fragile and ancient textiles, Hoffman moved on to importing artisanal tea culture to the mainstream United States. His work was so innovative that it was chronicled in the 2007 documentary All in This Tea by noted filmmaker Les Blank.  It was during this time that Hoffman began to construct The Last Resort, in order to demonstrate that one could live on the land sustainably and without pollution. 

last resort exterior david briggs 2012The exterior of the Last Resort Lagunitas. David Briggs, 2012.

The site, with its meandering paths and contemplative corners, features over 30 buildings— some functional, others more spiritual—and also boasts a unique “integrated bio-management system” designed for disposing and recycling waste through vermicomposting: utilizing worms, micro-organisms, and carbon-rich leaves to break down grey water and food scraps, prior to being reutilized in Hoffman’s gardens. This is, however, of primary concern of the Board of Supervisors of Marin County, as is Hoffman’s treatment of human waste, which is also broken down with worm composting (compost toilets are prohibited in Marin County). The County has reprimanded Hoffman about his flouting of county codes, and has levied over $200,000 in fines and penalties for his waste treatment systems, for building without permits, and for running his current tea business, the Phoenix Collection, on the site. The County has also called for demolition of the architectural structures within the compound. “I understand their concerns,” Hoffman has stated, “but my concern for the planet is far greater than my fear of breaking the law.” 

last-resort-boat-jfh-nov-2016Full size Monterey fishing boat over cistern and well. Jo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

On November 17, 2017, a hearing was held to determine whether the site (or how much of it) should be demolished or sold, and whether access restrictions should be imposed. The judge, who had never adjudicated a case of this nature, was impressed by the number of supporters in attendance, as well as the evidence of long-term community support evidenced by petitions and letters to the County in support of David Hoffman and his unique compound. The judge suspended the demolition of any structures or restriction of access until March 2018, when another meeting will be held and the issues at hand will undergo further review. Hoffman and his supporters feel this is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, he has continued to live—and, despite a court mandate, build—on the property. However, as reported by Point Reyes Light, a local news source for Marin County, his fines have continued to mount: he has roughly $350,000 pending on his property tax bill, reflecting the court’s administrative penalties, as well as a $93,000 bank lien on the property to cover the costs of the work of the County-appointed receiver. Mr. Hoffman, who is battling Lyme disease, said the timeline ahead—rearranging his life and work— is daunting. “I always believed that I was working on solutions, not creating a bigger problem. We can’t rely on government and big business to fix the problems in our world; we need people who understand the problem to do our part to make the planet a better place. The laws of nature just conflict with those that politicians make.”

faces at last resort lagunitasJo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

 See more about The Last Resort Lagunitas on SPACES and visit The Last Resort Lagunitas website here.



fullsizeoutput103Gugger Petter, 2012.fullsizeoutput100Jo Farb Hernandez, November 2016.

Add Your Name in Support of Saint Malo’s Famed Seaside Sculptures in France!

Posted in Threatened Environments


Sculpted from the rocky seashore by French priest l’abbé Fouré between 1895 and 1907, the famous Rochers of Rothéneuf have been suffering incremental damage for years, damage that has now reached a critical point where conservation is essential.

Please consider adding your name to a list of those who support including it among official French historical monuments and/or remarkable gardens (either would provide protection and support), as well as naming it a French heritage site. To ADD YOUR NAME, please send your name along with a 1-2 word description of yourself (collector, researcher, professor, photographer, etc.) to, and please copy SPACES Director Jo Farb Hernández as well, at

See the attached letters of support below for more context, and thank you for helping to save this important art environment!

ENGLISH: Letter in Support of Rochers de Rotheneuf (Jo Farb Hernández)


Sculpté du rivage rocheux par le prêtre français l’abbé Fouré entre 1895 et 1907, les Rochers célèbres de Rothéneuf subissent des dégâts supplémentaires pendant des années, des dommages qui ont atteint un point critique où la conservation est essentielle.

S’il vous plaît, envisagez d’ajouter votre nom à une liste de ceux qui l’accompagnent parmi les monuments historiques français officiels et / ou les jardins remarquables (soit fourniraient une protection et un soutien), mais aussi le nommant un site patrimonial français. Pour ajouter votre nom, envoyez votre nom avec une description de 1-2 mots de vous-même (collecteur, chercheur, professeur, photographe, etc.) à et copiez également le directeur de SPACES Jo Farb Hernández , À

Consultez les lettres ci-jointes de soutien ci-dessous pour plus de contexte, et merci d’avoir aidé à sauvegarder cet environnement artistique important!

FRENCH: Letter in Support of Rochers de Rotheneuf (Joelle) / FRANÇAIS: Lettre à l’appui de Rochers de Rotheneuf

Browse Blog Archives by Month

Under Construction: New SPACES website on its way!
Resources, SPACES News

Visit to the Casa de las Ranas [The House of Frogs] and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray Gallery
Field Work, Found Objects

EOA Annual General Assembly 2019

In memory of Silvio Barile, creator of Italian-American Museum
Self-Taught Arts in the News

Coco's Palais Idéal Paintings

SPACES Honors Lyn Kienholz, Trustee Emerita

Chris Vo’s Flower House in Cleveland has been destroyed against his will!

Job Opening at Craft & Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, CA: Manager of Communications and Exhibitions
job opportunities

Nitt Witt Ridge Enters the Real Estate Market!
Take Action, Threatened Environments

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Celebrates 1 Year!
Preservation News, Take Action

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tag #spacesarchives 

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces