How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Will 'Blank-sy' contest inspire more immigration-themed art?

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Will an online contest to "fill in" the space left on a Boyle Heights wall after street artist Banksy's version of the running-family migrant freeway sign draw more immigration-themed political art?

The culture blog Remezcla has launched a "Fill in the Blank-sy" art contest asking readers, "What would you put in this spot’s space now that Banksy’s work has been stolen?"

A Multi-American post yesterday explored the brief life of a stencil by the elusive British artist, in town for the Oscars as a best-documentary nominee, which depicted the familiar freeway sign showing a running family of three. Only in this case, the characters against the yellow background were depicted flying a kite.

The stencil at First and Soto Streets in Boyle Heights was defaced and later removed on Friday; at least two nearly identical stencils were documented around town, including one on a Boyle Heights bridge (also gone), although those weren't claimed officially on Banksy's website.

Among the contest rules posted by Remezcla, which will accept entries through the month:

2. The message of the piece can be the same as the original or completely different, but in keeping with Banksy’s political style and overall message.

It would be interesting if the contest produced a new crop of running-family themed political art.

The image has been reinterpreted countless times by artists since several of the signs went up as a warning to motorists along San Diego area freeways in the early 1990s, at a time when smugglers were forcing their charges to run across the lanes to evade immigration authorities, often with fatal results. Artists, souvenir vendors, and activists on both sides of the immigration debate have claimed the sign since, portraying the characters as everything from terrorists to surfers to Pilgrims to cap-and-gown wearing college graduates.

Of course, as Remezcla has made clear, the winner's art won't be installed on the now off-limits wall in Boyle Heights. The hole once occupied by Banksy's piece has been filled in with concrete, in which someone scrawled "Banksy" and other names in a sort of memorial.

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