Angels Flight - Los Angeles

Roper_Angel's Flight Billboard

Angel's Flight, a funicular and the world's shortest railway was a must-do attraction on Saturdays when my grandmother, my sister Sharon and I would do the shopping at Grand Central Market across the street. That was a good while ago. Who could have guessed that it would lead to A Flight of Angels?

For a period during the mid-80's through early 90's LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) in partnership with Patrick Media Group, Inc., presented outdoor displays (billboards, 20' 6" X 52') as public art. Each year three artists were chosen through a competition, their original artwork reproduced by Patrick Media artists, and the billboards displayed for a minimum of 4 months at several locations throughout the Los Angeles area.

My billboard: A FLIGHT OF ANGELS-CHERUBIM RECLAMATION ASSOC., was exhibited in the first quarter of 1991. The work depicts a zany salvage crew of four angels removing an L.A. landmark. The piece addresses issues facing the population of Los Angeles in the nineties looking towards the twenty-first century. Most specifically it pinpoints actions taken by the Community Redevelopment Agency in its efforts to reshape the city. The graphic speaks directly to the dismantling and promised reassembly of Angel's Flight on Bunker Hill in downtown. Though the shortest railroad in the world, it served not only the downtown residential community but also numerous visitors to the area.

My memories from childhood are of the family going downtown on a Saturday to shop at the Grand Central Market and always taking a ride up and down Angels Flight. More importantly, Angels Flight serves as a symbol for questions relating to the city's redevelopment policies in general. Such as: who is the redevelopment of Los Angeles' central city really serving, the greater populace or large business interests? Is what is perceived as good for big business automatically good for the rest of the city's inhabitants? There is the issue of dislocation. More has been removed in the redevelopment process than some strangely angled railroad cars. Many families are uprooted from their homes and small businesses of appreciable venerability are closed, never to open again. Who has input and is represented when these plans are formulated? If it is not an equitable cross section of the community, how can that representation be increased?

When this piece was exhibited, the reinstallation of Angels Flight was not only far behind schedule, but the CRA was able to give no date as to when it might be returned. The CRA was also front page news because of corruption issues. In fact, it was the news in Los Angeles until the Rodney King beating took over the headlines. Is it any wonder then, that the billboard, though indeed exhibited in Los Angeles County, somehow never made it inside the city limits? Strange, I thought. Today, in 2000, Angel's Flight is back and running.

UPDATE: In 2001, the cable broke, a man was killed and several people injured. The cars have been removed for repair. To be continued...

Angel's Flight links: