November 21st, 2012


There is no better person to start off the Raconteur STORYTELLERS interview series than public art advocate DANIEL LAHODA, owner/founder of LALA Arts and the LA Freewalls Project.

In coming up with the STORYTELLERS series, we strived to choose a title that would encompass the intention and the subject matter behind the individuals we want to hear from.  The word was at once obvious: storytellers, the translation of Raconteur and what we’re all about, figuring out the story behind any subject, person, piece of work, expanding the breadth of inquiry beyond what can initially be seen or understood.

It was the same in choosing a word to describe Daniel and his story: catalyst.  Who is Daniel and what does he do?  It’s impossible to define what he does in a single statement, he doesn’t fit in a little box.  Artist advocate, manager or agent, gallery owner, preparer of walls, community activist, networker.  All of those words describe things he does, actions he takes, but certainly not who he is or why he is doing what he does.  His passion for the art and dedication to the artists he works with is notable – but I think that what sets him apart is his vision for the art form and for the artists he works with, and the hard work he does to make it happen.

Daniel is not a name-dropper, though there are those who would say he has the right, having worked for years now with the artists who have shaped street art to what it is today on some of their most seminal projects – Shepard Fairey, Ron English, JR, RISK, How and Nosm, SEEN, Askew1, Swoon…the list goes on and on.  He is stalwartly behind the scenes, behind his artists, behind their art.

Creating public art is not an easy job.  Over the course of the past six months that we’ve worked with Daniel, we’ve been witness to police harassment, grueling schedules, infighting from thankless individuals.  And we’ve watched the highs – opening a gallery, collaborating with incredible talent and institutions, putting up some of the best public art in the world.

This video is just a tiny portion of a fascinating conversation with Daniel in his gallery, where I got schooled on the background of graffiti and street art and the evolution of the medium from its origins in territorial tagging to seeing today’s transition into a valid contemporary art form.  I also got to hear some fantastical tales about Daniel’s participation in the anarchic side of street art, like freeclimbing fifty feet in broad daylight in Vegas to get up a huge Cathy Cowgirl vinyl for Ron English.

The controversy around street art probably won’t go away anytime soon, nor should it. Public art is by its very nature controversial – it’s meant to be out in the world for we, the people, to look at and comment on and love or hate.  Daniel embraces the controversy, turns it on its head, reflects it back to the participants – and in the end, just continues working to create more art.