The Legendary Belmont Tunnel

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Special Art show coming up this weekend.

A tribute to the now  gone Belmont Tunnel graffiti yard. This show features art by some of the first generation of Los Angeles graffiti writers. 

The Belmont tunnel was the Toluca substation for the Pacific Electric Railway that ran in and around downtown LA starting in the 1920’s. It was left abandoned around the 1950’s when freeways and more cars started popping up. ( I guess they did not  think we would need such train now huh!) Anyhow it was left alone and abandoned for over 30 year’s until the mid 1980’s when the graffiti/bombing era was coming up. It got noticed by writers as a potential place to do art. The rest is train and graffiti history it still holds a special place to many of these talented artists, and others who hung out and  grew up around the area. The land was bought out and torn a few years back to make way to some boring apartment buildings lol.

Opening reception Saturday June 6, 2009

6 p.m. to 9 p.m

@ Crewest Gallery

110 Winston St

Los Angeles, Ca 90013

Closing Reception

Saturday June 27, 2009

6 p.m to 9 p.m.

Video of a typical afternoon at the Belmont Tunnel graffiti yard, the gente used to enjoy it too playing Aztec ball games, singing making carne asada, and drinking some brews.

Belmont Weekends

Also Check out  old school graffiti writer “Make” on his personal Belmont memories.

Belmont Memories Part 1

19 thoughts on “The Legendary Belmont Tunnel

  1. I lived around it and it was always a sight to behold. Sucks those apartments are there now, but they look like they’re really nice. I wouldn’t mind living there LOL

  2. Great post. will check it out. I went to Belmont HS. My friend wrote on those walls. We were in yearbook class together. And one of the features of the yearbook was to ask students what they like doing on their spare time. They had a picture of my friend with a spray can in the tunnel doing a piece. The caption read that he like to paint murals in his spare time. ha ha. I think that they didn’t look closely. Before it was something that was not accepted. I went to school there 1900-94

  3. El Random, that’s cool guey by where about did you live?

    Art, did you push graff after your younger days? do you still get involved with it now in legal aspects?

    El Ponk, that’s dope because you where around the Belmont in it’s prime time early 90’s. I did not go till the late 90’s early 2000’s, but I am glad I got to experience it. During the time I used to go there where times it was wack to paint because the gangsters would always be trippen talking shit and being hot if you know what I mean. Did anybody remember that?

  4. wow that brings back memories.

    The year was ’92 or ’93(i remember mary j blige song -real love) and I (gay latino dude but straight acting) “tagging” along with my brother and his friends to visit this graffiti yard. A few of them worked quickly and put up some stuff and then took pictures to document it.
    – time sure flies!

  5. doña junta, i remember that… the tension between taggers and gangsters, leading up to the green-lighting of taggers, which lead to some taggers packing, which brought us into the tag-banger era. some taggers got courted into their local gang, while there were some entire crews that simply became gangs. crazy times.

  6. Great Post! My friend who still lives up the street from there once gave me a tour of all his pieces he had up. I heard about all the crazy times at the tunnel.

  7. DJ, I was a writer for over a decade. I began in 3rd grade, the channel 7 eyewitness news special on Chaka, Nacho and Sleaz solidifying my interest on the subject. I began in 3rd grade and ended my graf career when my now wife was pregnant with our first son around 2001-2. Around the tiem I stopped I began my proffessional art career, translating my graf-drawing skills into a positive money maker. I had also tattooed for a bit as a teenager, cholos and loser tagger being my primary canvas.

    I was fortunate to have gotten into graf during the yard culture era, and always was drawn to piecing more than anything else. I mobbed alot as well, and became a stick up kid for a moment; so I kinda treaded the line between tagger and outright criminal. In fact, my major breaks from graffiti occured when I did a few long stints in the juvi justice system which I lost almost 2 of my teenage years to. Me and my homeboys were at the tail end of the 213 era, and grew up under the shadow and jocking the 213-K2S-STN crowd, when the next generation became cholos after Mosco was rolled for killing Ever.

    I really got into graf as tagbanging exploded, and participated in it a bit, but slanging to gangs kind of pushed me out of that scene for political reasons. Through it all i still did collabos with friends, started a few crews and was a devout graff adict. But for the most part i didnt really like too many writers, which also turned me off to the scene.

    I havent picked up a can in a year or so, the last tiem I did something illegal was when i lived inthe bay area about 8 years ago. Our organization is made up of ex writers, and one of our missions is to get kids to use their skills for productive endevours.

    We did a few murals near Garfield HS in the Atlantic alley yards where we got the county dept of public works and sup Molina to agree to create a graffiti sanctuary. it has been going strong for almost 5 years, but these damn kids keep killing each other so our policymakers are losing their patience and attacking graffiti art as well lately.

    I was a project kid from eastlos who was able to translate his graff skills into a art career, usually that is reserved for the middle class kids who do graff.

    how about yourself DJ? i got tons of graf stories.

  8. A few years ago there was this art happening called The October Surprise that took place in Northeast LA. A booklet was put out with a bunch of essays (one by El Chavo, I might add) with a really great one by Frank Sosa of the now defunct 33 1/3 Bookstore (pushed outta Echo Park due to gentrification). His piece was about the Belmont Tunnels and the fight to save them. What I really liked about his perspective and what I thought was very interesting, was the idea of “wild” spaces in the city. Belmont Tunnels was an example of what can happen when people are able to reclaim a piece of land and create what they want on it without the usual authorities meddling in it’s direction or purpose. The community wanted a recreational space. The interests of the community was reflected in the activities: art (graf) and sports (handball games). This was something that should have been embraced, fostered and allowed to develop but in a society like ours, money has the final say.

    Before Los Angeles became the hot, super overdeveloped city it is today, there were a ton of these “wild” spots all over the city. These spots were outlets for creativity and DIY spirit. Unfortunately, property owners, police and all other sorts of joy-killers have limited the access to land and space that all city dwelling people need.

    It’s not unreasonable to fathom wild places in the city. When I was in Europe, I visited a fair amount of squats, collective houses, collective gardens and infoshops (radical bookstores/coffeehouses/meeting spaces) that were created in buildings and spaces that were abandoned and unused. It’s easier to do there because it”s more tolerated and there still exists a tradition of public space. We don’t have that here and the authorities are real quick to crackdown on such endeavors but I still dream for the day when we start taking back empty land and buildings!

  9. Chimatli, my friend told me just the other day when he was in Sweden or something they took him to a place called a squat like you mentioned. He thought it was a typical type of what we think as a squat but it was like this dope art type place where people chilled out made music and art it was nothing like he was imagining.

    I know, I love empty lots lol

  10. Sick. I will go check this out while I am in town. Sometimes I can’t believe Belmont isn’t there anymore..

    This was the article I did for the L.A. Times on the campaign to preserve the site as a historical-cultural monument:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2004/sep/15/local/me-tunnel15

    The one thing I regret is not examining further the interplay between the writers and the immigrants who used the spot as a social space for music and pelota.

    Daniel H.

  11. this was a dud. Basically, canvas print outs of the same image (a spray can) and then various graff artists catching on top of that print. To me this is a good idea for youngsters who are learning to paint, not ol-timers selling their tags for $1850.

  12. I started graff just after I saw the movie Beat Street. I Grew up in Highland Park but frequently passed by the Tunnel as a kid in the 5th grade. I remember begging my Mom to stop so I could look at the art work. At that time I had no Idea that I was witnessing the birth of L.A. Graff and would be forever linked to that area and the life I chose would have it’s foundations there.I chose to put down the can in 89 and pick up other Steel things. I truly wish I would have stayed with a can in hand like so many of my peers from K2STN,OTR,UTI,LOD. So many young impressionable kids found their outlet there and were inspired there , So many went on to do great things. But once again greed prevails over what is right…Just like when they ran out the Cuban immigrant who had a Gas station there to put up oil pumps in the area..even next to the school house and where the new Belmont was being built over asbestos..I guess the City planners and Developers don’t care about inner city kids having a positive artistic outlet….listen to some of the music that came from this area here http://www.webstarts.com/loskaotics

  13. 1986 got my drivers license and drove to the Belmont tunnel every weekend from CARSON to meet other writters and enjoy the scene….dream,mikey 17,CSAWONE…..VERY MISSED DAZE!

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